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post #1 of (permalink) Old 12-04-2018, 03:08 PM Thread Starter
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Stop Whining! A case study of front-end bearing noise.

So for something new, I have decided to try and crowdsource my next diagnostic adventure. In the never ending quest to keep my old mk.1 wagon, not just alive but thriving, I have a new challenge.

Chief Complaint (CC): A high pitched sound coming from the front end that I can hear on the highway when driving on a section of 1st word tarmac. It sounds like a bearing.

Subjective (S): when driving at speeds higher than 55mph on a section of smooth new road there is a very faint whine coming from the front end. The sound is significantly louder if I drive faster 70-80mph.
The sound intensity increases if I accelerate and immediately reduces (does not completely go away) when lifting throttle. There is no change in sound intensity between "off-throttle" and "neutral" when at speed. It should be noted that the car will also slightly pull to the right when accelerating (5th gear) and then pull to the left when coasting.
If I manually shift to 4th gear the sound will be louder (no change in pitch) when accelerating than it was in 5th gear (at the same speed). The pulling effect seems unchanged.

I have not noticed any shaking or vibration connected with the sound.

There is no change with engine RPM, only road speed.

I also have been noticing a sharp (rarely) metal-to-metal type sound when driving over a sharp road obstacle (pothole, curb cut) with the wheel turned (even slightly). This happens infrequently, (once randomly during every other drive or so) but enough to make me consider it nearly every drive

A newer symptom (noted last week) was a "catching" or "tactile clunking" in the drive line when turning to lock to the left when the right (passenger) front wheel is loaded/compressed (as on an incline like a curb cut slope when turning around in the road)

I can feel slight play in my steering column splines (need new lube) but that is unrelated IMO as I can identify a distinct difference in feel and sound.

Past Medical History (PMH): (All procedures conducted within last 10,000mi)
Front Suspension
Replaced control arms (6 total) including bushings and ball-joints
Replaced sway bar bushings and end-links
Replaced springs and strut tops
Replaced inner and outer tie-rod ends

Trans fluid was drained and refilled 3x at 125,000mi. Drain and refill 1x every 30,000mi since
Motor and transmission mounts replaced with OEM
Both drive belt and water pump belt and associated idler/tension bearings replaced
New tires all around
Recent alignment

Objective (O):
Checked torque on all suspension mounting points, sub-frame, steering rack, and wheel attachments, all within normal limits (WNL)
Appearance WNL, no leaks, no damage detected on external casing
Trans fluid (warm) WNL and red , smell WNL,
Passenger outer CV boot split (only noticed when separating each boot billow) no grease slinging detected.
No hand play noted in CV outer shaft detected (passenger and driver)
Passenger Inner "half-shaft" play not checked.

Wheel play (vertical with hands at 12 and 6 o'clock), none-detected (weighted and un-weighted)
Steering rack inner play detected when pivoting the front wheels (hands at 3 and 9 o'clock) quickly (Left & right) by hand with engine off. [ Youtube link with sound:]

Slight rotational play noted in telescoping splines of steering column with rotation.

Assessment (A):

[Please insert comments here or see poll]

Plan (P):

[Please insert comments here]

Okay, if you made it to the bottom I sincerely thank you. This (presented in a manner that is easy for me) is what I know/can remember to this point.
I have a plan on what I will likely do next but I will leave that out for know as I hope to glean some of the communities unbiased wisdom.

I am also adding a poll (multiple choices permitted if you think there is more than one problem) with the most likely culprits (from my opinion) that you all can submit if you like.

TL;DR Recent high-pitched whining sound from vehicle front end that is heard on quiet road at 55+mph and gets louder when accelerating. No change in pitch with varying engine RPM. What do you think it is?

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2004 6s Wagon 3.0, 5-speed ATX, Performance White (A2N)

Last edited by DrFeelGood; 12-05-2018 at 07:53 PM. Reason: added youtube link with sound
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