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Front Drivetrain noise/rubbing noise

SBV45

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09 Explorer EB 4X4
I have a 2009 Explorer 4x4 with 65,000 miles, so it is out of warranty. The front wheel bearings were making a lot of noise and vibration. So I replaced both wheel bearings. The noise and vibration is greatly reduced but there is still a very noticeable inconsistent vibration or rubbing noise that can be felt in the steering wheel at almost any speed. The noise does not increase with speed.

I did a visual inspection of the CV joints on both sides. The rubber boots are intact. I don't detect any abnormal wheel movement. I don't see any signs of rubbing.

Any ideas?
 


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Town

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Your symptom of an intermittant noise/vibration in the steering wheel is very hard to diagnose. Some questions for you:

1. So the noise/vibration is not present with the engine idling in Park?
2. When the transmission is put into drive does the noise/vibration start?
3. Do you have to be travelling at a minimum speed of x mph for the noise/vibration to start and then the noise/vibration stays at that level regardless of an increase in vehicle speed?
4. Does the noise/vibration stop while the vehicle is moving?
5. Does the noise/vibration change when the brakes are applied?
6. Did the noise/vibration occur while the bearings were noisy and rough or did this happen only after the bearings were replaced?
 




SBV45

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Your symptom of an intermittant noise/vibration in the steering wheel is very hard to diagnose. Some questions for you:

1. So the noise/vibration is not present with the engine idling in Park? No
2. When the transmission is put into drive does the noise/vibration start? No
3. Do you have to be travelling at a minimum speed of 10 mph for the noise/vibration to start and then the noise/vibration stays at that level regardless of an increase in vehicle speed? It increases with speed.
4. Does the noise/vibration stop while the vehicle is moving? No
5. Does the noise/vibration change when the brakes are applied? No
6. Did the noise/vibration occur while the bearings were noisy and rough or did this happen only after the bearings were replaced? I believe the vibration was there before the bearings were replaced but it was somewhat masked by the wheel bearing vibration/noise.
 




Town

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Sounds like the tires are out of balance, but 10 mph is a bit low, so perhaps excess runout in the wheel or tire. Have you checked the tires for a bulge or softspot. To eliminate the front wheels/tires having a problem, can you swap the rear tires to the front?

A worn universal joint on the front drive shaft would cause vibration and noise and may affect the steering wheel. Also a worn pinion bearing will make a noise/vibration at low speed. You can usually diagnose these by locking the transfer case and alternating forward and reverse to check for a clunk sound in the drive train. To confirm the source you need to jack up the front end and forcefully move the driveshaft with all the load taken off it (so it moves easily by hand). Any movement in the joint means replacement. Any movement in the pinion shaft (when moving the pinion shaft up and down) means replacing the pinion bearing.

The half shafts have constant velocity joints that can wear and produce noise and vibration. The usual check is to turn the vehicle at full lock from side to side (vehicle describes a figure 8) and look for clunks at startoff and at full lock. Check the joint boots for tears and any looseness when the half shaft is held inboard of the joints.

Differential itself can be noisy from low speed with a host of issues, besides the pinion bearing. Check for proper oil level and no moisture in the oil. Check the differential mounting since this can affect the half shafts operation. The differential internals would need inspection for worn side bearings, damaged crownwheel or pinion with surface damage or damaged teeth.

Good luck.
 




SBV45

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Replaced the U-joint at diff. Put the Exp up on a rack. Turned each front wheel by hand. Can feel rub/grind at steering wheel. The CV joints and boots appear ok.

I took it to a local mechanic. They say it is front diff that needs overhaul. They checked tires, half shafts, drive shaft and checked for play in wheels.

The only thing left is half shafts and diff. Wheel bearings have been replaced with Ford parts. Wheels and tires checked and front drive shaft U-joint replaced.

I'll probably bite the bullet and pull the front diff and have it overhauled at Inland Truck Parts in Austin.
 




SBV45

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The front diff has been identified as the culprit. Initial estimates are $1500 to $2000. Since the vehicle is so new, they are saying all the parts will have to come from Ford.

The dealer I bought it from said it was fine when they inspected it. I don't think so.
 




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