CV joint noise? | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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CV joint noise?


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November 18, 2011
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New member here. I've got an '08 Explorer with about 40K miles on it. It has started to grind in the front end when 4WD is engaged and making turns (as in backing out of the driveway, or at a stop sign). Worse when making left turns. Seems OK going straight. Doesn't do it in 2WD.

Took it to the dealer and they compared to another '08 that was in for service. It made the same noise, but probably worse, as I was in the vehicle for the test drive. Their conclusion was it's normal. My conclusion was they have 2 vehicles that need to be repaired with the same problem.

I crawled under the front end today and checked for play in the CV joints. Both front axles have some slop when I twist the inner CV at the transfer case connection. Enough play to click when I rock it back and forth.

Can anyone tell me if this is normal wear, or should they be solid and not move at all? When I tried twisting the drive shaft, there seems to be no movement at the outer CV. That's why I'm suspecting the inners are wearing and causing the noise that I'm hearing.


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The transfer case will make a noise if you are in 4WD mode on a dry pavement. I hear it on mine, 2006 with 125k miles, it's normal on all 4WD vehicles (not AWD).

I kind of expect that the road noise rumble is more noticable in 4WD mode. With the additional load on the front axles, the pitch of everything changes. But my concern is the loud sudden grind the front end makes when making turns. Doesn't seem to do it all the time, but the sharper the turn then the more likely the front end will sing out. Do they all do that?

I bought the car new in '09 and with that recent freak Halloween snowstorm we had here in NJ, used 4WD for the first time since March and heard the noise for the first time when backing out and turning out of the driveway. It's been doing it ever since. Not all the time but the sharper the turn then the more likely the front end sing out. It didn't used to do this the last 2 winter seasons. But if it is normal, then I'll get used to it. (Not much choice, is there?) But curious to what other owners are experiencing with their vehicles.

Hi -

first, you should not be driving the car in 4wd on dry pavement, especialy in 4LO. The grinding should be very quiet when driving straight, the worst when making sharp turn. That is because you have the most wheel speed difference between all 4 wheels when turning. When going straight all wheels have the same linear and rotational speed so no "differential" action is needed. To me it seems normal.

Everything is while in 4X4 HIGH. I do get a slight rumble driving straight, and I'm OK with that. It's the really loud grinding that occurs while turning.

It happened while in 4X4 HI. Noise started while driving in the snow storm we had here Halloween weekend. Had about 8" of heavy, wet snow on the roads. At first I thought I might just have snow packed in the wheel wells causing the noise, but checked it out and no packed snow as far as I could tell. So, I tried it the next day when the roads were clear but wet, and got the same noise. So, not a snow pack issue. Tried it again when the roads were dry, same noise. Drove it with the dealer, and same noise. All while in 4X4 HI.

My last couple 4WD vehicles were Chevy's (S10 Blazer and Trailblazer) and they never sounded this crappy. I had other issues (like constant leaky transfer case seals), but figured not all 4WD's make this crunching sound since that hasn't been my experience.

I bought this vehicle for the V8 and vehicle size as I tow a 5800lb. boat/tralier, and didn't want to have to upgrade to a larger and more expensive vehicle. So my needs are less about having 4WD capability. But if this is normal, than for me Ford's 4WD implementation stinks (even though they all use the same or similar design CV joint front axles and transfer case) and this will be my first and last Ford. I'll go back to a GM vehicle. But that's just me.

Thanks for the follow up, though. I'll just live with it for the time being. Figure if I drive it long enough, something will either fail all together if something is going wrong, or it will be time to trade it.

My '08 makes this grinding noise in 4x4 also. I agree, it sounds terrible, like something is wrong. It's even worse in 4x4 low. However, I've done a fair amount of driving in 4x4, and it keeps working like nothing is wrong. I'm not very happy about it, but it seems to be in the "range of normal" for this vehicle, and I've had bad experiences trying to get mystery noises fixed, so I won't try to do anything about it until something really breaks.

I suspect it's the clutch pack in the transfer case, but I really don't know for sure. It's the only part of the drivetrain I can think of that is not engaged in "4x4 Auto" mode, where it doesn't make the noise. Also, I imagine slipping clutch plates would make that kind of grinding, squeaking noise.

Despite the very awkward noise it makes, I've never been stuck with this vehicle, and I have never seen a front or AWD vehicle this size with such a tight turn radius (it's tighter than my civic!), so you've got to give Ford some credit for that.

Thanks for the followup. Nice to know I'm not alone. You'd think Ford would do something about this (maybe a TSB?) other than just have the dealers tell the customer "that's normal, they all do it". I can't help but think that when the 60K mile powertrain warranty runs out and if I took it in for service, they'd find something not quite right. But bad experiences with bad dealerships over the years make me ultra-cautious when using them.

This is the only rub I have with this vehicle. As a tow vehicle, I'm very pleased with it. Having the 4WD quiet like it used to be would be even better, but it is what it is. It didn't always make this noise, even as recently as last winter. At less than 40K miles, I'm kind of surprised it's doing it now. At 140K, that's a different story.

But like you, I'll just drive it as it is. It will be time for tires and front end alignment in a few months, so I'll probably have my front end shop check it out to let me know what they think might be going on.

That is normal for any 4 wd vehicle, I always disengage when backing up or slow speed turns when possible.