Whirring sound from front area of engine - ford focus 2003


I am hoping someone can help and has heard the sound that I have coming from the power steering pump area. There is a link to listen to it on youtube below.

I have taken it to a mechanic twice but the first time I drove into the garage and it just stopped, tried stopping and starting the car but the noise wouldn’t come back so I drove it home and a few minutes later it started again. The second time I took it I left it running whilst we opened the bonnet and after a minute whilst we were trying to figure it out it stopped gain! Thing is once it has started it can be quite loud or sometimes a bit of a whisper, I don’t think it is a belt noise and it is coming from the front maybe to do with power steering pump or something nearby. I tried putting something on the pump with the other end next to my ear but i couldn’t really hear anything from it that resembled the noise or was in time with the noise to really make me convinced it was power steering pump. What I can say though is it is a replacement from a breakers yard and it was put in place a couple of years ago so always a possibility it has had its day.

It is possibly worse when cold because after half an hour it can stop just by itself but the car is up to temp way before then, to be honest I have no idea what stops it, there doesn’t appear to be anything loose either.

I hope the video is enough, you can at least tell as I move it towards to back that it is quieter and at the front louder.

If you recognise the sound please help.

Thanks very much

Here is the link so you can hear it

Youtube link to hear the noise


That sounds like a small bearing going bad. Since the pitch is so high, I’ll say that an idler pulley or tensioner pulley bearing is going bad. It may also be an alternator bearing or brush whine. I don’t think it is anything in the power steering at all.

The way you find out which bearing, remove the serpentine belt and feel for roughness in everything you can turn by hand. Anything that feel rough, replace it. I’d replace the idler and tensioner pulleys and the belt as a matter of course.


Thanks for the info. The alternator is only a couple of years old so I really hope it isn’t that but what you say about it being high pitch and therefore probably a small bearing does make sense. In fact now I think of it I have been getting a squealing belt noise on startup and, although I only noticed that when it was wet weather, I think I have been noticing it dry weather now also. The belt is good, that is fairly new but the pulleys will be as old as the car probably!
Thanks for your help.

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It turned out to be the water pump. Which, I should add was less than a year old.

I changed the idler puller and tensioner first and it still made the noise but that turned out to be a good move as the tensioner had no spring left in it which explains some belt squeek in the mildewy mornings.

Took it to another garage I hadn’t been to in a few years and they figured it out in 30 seconds or less with their stethoscope tool. I think everyone previous had discounted it as a potential cause because it was so new, I also notice I didn’t even mention it myself in my original post as it never occurred to me either.

Now to take the old one back and get a refund!!

Hope it helps someone else one day if they get a similar noise, it feels so great not to have to listen to it anymore :slight_smile: