squeaking (mattress spring like squeaking) axle?

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Aug 5, 2002
Silicon Valley
95 Corolla, 200k miles. Recently the front left side of the car started developing a spring mattress/furniture like squeak every rev at low speed, down to as slow as driving around in parking lot, and as soon as it reaches city traffic speed (say, 25-45mph), the wall reflection of the sound turns into ticking. It is not a high pitch scraping noise like a worn brake pad (the pads still have 2/3 left). I've verified by jacking only one side of the front and take off the wheel, then let that corner free wheeling in mid air at reverse / drive in idle. This sounds seems to be from the outer CV joint. When I do the same on the other front wheel, I hear a clunk / tick like sound instead. I'm not sure if it is because the rotor is rattling in the hub or is it because of the CV joint going bad too. Overall the car do vibrate a lot at high way speed (65mph or higher). I'm wondering if I should throw in a pair of new axles and wheel bearings due to the age, or should I just bring it to a shop and replace only the worn part. I understand many people say the original part from the factory is better than even OEM replacement, but I do feel that replacing them just in case at this age is probably going to save the diagnostic / additional alignment down the road. I am planning to keep this car for mom since she is so used to driving it and another car would make it difficult to adjust, especially a bigger car in a major city. Any suggestion?
If it were mine one of the first things I would do is swap wheels front to back / back to front, keeping them on the same side. Sometimes the clearance of the hub is soooooo close that something can start to touch.
Originally Posted By: JimPghPA
If it were mine one of the first things I would do is swap wheels front to back / back to front, keeping them on the same side. Sometimes the clearance of the hub is soooooo close that something can start to touch.
I already tested with the wheel OFF, and the sound remains on the same hub.
YouTube shows checking with the car up on a rack and engine running in gear. Use a mechanics stethoscope to find the noisy part. You might have someone stay in the vehicle to turn the wheel, and run throttle, and trany selection. Of course you will have to find a shop that will run a car when it is up on a rack, and leaving a person in it might be a concern. After seeing the YouTube about using the stethoscope to find the noisy part while the wheels turn under power when up on a rack, I mentioned it to my mechanic. He said that that is the way he was taught to do it when he went to school. Note, if it does not make the noise, you might have to provide compression on the suspension to get the angles the same as when the tires are on the ground. Check out the YouTube videos on checking CV and other front end parts while the vehicle is up on a rack.
Also check your ball joints. Sometimes they act normally, yet become noisy, other times they fail and make no noise. Lift your car up and pry between the control arm and spindle. If there is vertical or lateral motion, the ball joint is no good, and was probably making noise. NEVER buy cheap ball joints, you will quickly be doing the job over, plus you might only save $15 per ball joint on a car like that. Replacing the entire control arm may make more sense. Pry on the control arm bushings. They must not move more than about 1/4 inch. If they are no good, replace the entire control arm. Typically a whole new control arm has new ball joints in it. While the car is in the air, put a prybar under the tire and lift up. Listen for a noise in the upper strut mount. If there is a noise, buy a quick strut.
Spend an afternoon trying to hunt down the problem with my dad, and to sum up we did the following exercises: 1) Lift both wheels up in the air, tighten the brake rotor with 2 nuts so they don't rattle. There is no noise, squeak anymore. They are gone. Nothing scrape the axles or suspensions either. The wheels' inside has no scraping marks either. 2) With the wheels up in the air, remove the brake calipers and check for the pad thickness, rotor to dust shield clearance, caliper to rotor clearance, etc. Nothing is touching anything and there's at least 5-10mm clearance everywhere. The pads are still 50% left and at least 4mm away from the wear indicator. 3) Put the wheel back on and test drive. Added some lube to the brake hardware so the springs can separate the pads away from the rotor by itself to prevent scraping. The noise come back once in a while and more common at a) braking, b) turning, c) going down hill. It also now sounds more like a metal scraping (low frequency, very mild and vehicle speed specific). There are 2 frequencies of the scraping, sounds something like once per rev and twice per rev. 4) In an indoor parking lot, I got out of the car and let my dad drives in circle (and I run to follow the car). Nothing can be reproduced and the car sounds normal with no scraping. I'm very confused as the symptom comes and go, will probably just leave it alone for now until it gets worse.
I would try replacing all of the hardware to see if it solves the problem. The parts may be old and weak.
1st mechanic: it's the brake because the noise comes from the steering knuckle / hub - no it is not. The new brake pads, hardware, rotors do nothing, same noise. $20 diagnose 2nd mechanic: it's the transmission, and it is such an old car it is not worth fixing - no it is not, it is from the steering knuckle and goes away if you put that corner on the ground and spin the wheel on the opposite side. $20 diagnose 3rd mechanic: it's the bearing, and it is going to cost you $100 parts and $220 labor. Yup, but you end up adding an alignment with no warranty for $60 more when I only ask you if it is necessary and whether it is necessary to change the bearing at the opposite side or whether it is necessary to change the axle at the same time.
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