Bad Balancing & busted bearings... 3500km trip ahead! Need experienced advice, plz. - Focus Fanatics
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Old 04-14-2013, 08:38 AM   #1
bad_haze
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Bad Balancing & busted bearings... 3500km trip ahead! Need experienced advice, plz.

Hi everyone. Nice to be back here on Focus Fanatics again. I have tried searching the web for a situation similar to mine but I have not come across anything remotely the same. So I came to the only place where I know there are experts about Focuses: FocusFanatics!

Here's my story:

October 6th 2012: Go to Wal-Mart in the city I live in and have my winter tires put on and balancing completed. (note: I only have one set of rims that are used year round).

October 13th 2012: Travel 300 km to Saskatoon and back for a day to do shopping and have lunch with a friend and see a movie. (note: I live in a town of 30'000 people and Saskatoon is the nearest populated urban center with the shopping amenities we occasionally need).

Along the way I noticed the car vibrating quite violently at speeds above 80 km/hr. I am no mechanic so I thought it was the roads, but they had never done this before. By the time I was concerned I had no choice but the keep going to Saskatoon and visit the Wal-Mart there and explain to them that my balancing was very off and my car was vibrating violently at high speeds. The technician said that because it was a Saturday they wouldn't have gotten around to it and I would have to leave my car there until Monday. I decided against that because it would be really expensive and drove back to Prince Albert (my home town) at speeds less than 80 km/hr to minimize any damage being done and maximize safety. Like I might as well of been driving on square blocks my car was shaking so badly. When I got back I avoided highway driving completely.

October 20th 2012: I went to Wal-Mart and was refused a refund by the TLE manager. I visited the store manager who issued me a refund in full for all expenses.

October 26th 2012: Went to the dealership and had my tires properly balanced. The car now ran smooth at highway speeds and I felt better about my safety.

Sometime in January: I began to notice a loud 'humming' noise that was coming from the rear of my car. It sounded like deep tread tires rolling against pavement, and since there was no snow on the highways, I figured the noise was just my winter tires and their deep tread. Plus no major concerning vibrations were occurring.

February 23 2013: Bought new All-season tires at Canadian Tire in preparation for Spring, Summer & Fall.

April 1st 2013: The 'humming' noise had gotten louder and I was a little concerned and had decided to change my winters a little earlier than usual to determine if it was the deep tread or not. Had the new tires installed & balanced at the dealership along with a fuel filter change and oil change. The noise persisted.

April 2nd 2013: Went back to the dealership to diagnose the problem. It turned out to be a failed rear right wheel bearing. As well the mechanic also noticed the front axle support bearing (right portion of axle) had to be replaced. All were replaced by the end of the week. After these repairs, the car ran butter smooth and I felt safe to drive.

April 12th 2013: It is painfully apparent that there is a failed front right wheel bearing now, too. I cannot drive my car faster than 10 km/hr without severe amounts of grinding and vibrating. Rocking the right front wheel with my foot I see an extremely large amount of play & wobbling in the car. I have an appointment at the dealership at 9:45 am on Monday and I will be towing the car there (free because I am a CAA gold member).

I have to drive 3'500 km back home to Montreal on April 25th. I need this car in good shape for the drive and I cannot have bearings fail in the middle of nowhere. I shouldn't even have to worry about this! The car has 98'000 km on it for goodness sake! If the dealership mechanic does indeed confirm that it is the right wheel bearing, that would put 50% of my bearings failing within 6 months of the Wal-Mart balancing disaster. What should I do?

1) Do I buy a new car?
2) Do I get the remaining two replaced?
3) Do I write a letter to Wal-Mart and ask for them to cover these repairs?

I do have the bills for everything, including the refund.


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Old 04-14-2013, 10:17 AM   #2
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Replace the other two bearings too. These things are best done in pairs, like brakes. I don't think that Wal-Mart would give you any money because you don't have any proof that their bad balancing caused the problem. But it couldn't hurt to write a letter, all they can say is no.
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Old 04-14-2013, 11:02 AM   #3
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Sorry, but your decision to drive a considerable distance on the badly vibrating wheels was YOUR decision, even though you knew to some degree it was bad for the car.
Considering that, no jury would award you damages. (other than the refunds for the failure to balance the wheels properly, which you HAVE gotten back.)
And 64,000 miles is a reasonable amount of time to need wheel bearings. Yes they could last longer, but it is no stretch if they go.
I am certain the wheel shake helped them to die, but that is the break of the game.
So I sympathize with you, and Walmart sucks, but you are out of luck on any sort of claim for the damage the bad balancing job cost you.
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Old 04-14-2013, 11:20 AM   #4
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^^^^ - never hurts, for peace of mind.

However, I'm betting the failure of the right front soon after the axle carrier bearing was replaced is related to that issue. If that bearing was REALLY bad, it could have contributed to the later failure. Also, the disassembly & reassembly needed to replace that bearing COULD have contributed (loose axle nut would be an extreme example). It's possible that the axle was "frozen" in the bearing, and driving/pressing it out did damage to the bearing that couldn't be noticed at the time. That situation is a bit of a 'judgement call", would have been replaced right then if damage or wear seemed likely.

Get that one done and you are probably OK. Planning on the other two in the future, such as combining this with brake work when needed might be a good idea.

BTW - you didn't mention if brake work was done in the rear when the bearing was replaced??? And in the front, with the "wobble" you mention, new pads on BOTH sides will prob. be on the list when the bearing is replaced.

Luck!
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Old 04-14-2013, 12:33 PM   #5
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Wow! So much knowledge! It's looking like I should get the remaining bearings replaced because they do fail more often than I thought and because it'll minimize the chances of a breakdown on the way home.
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Old 04-14-2013, 02:13 PM   #6
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One point: Wheel bearings can make a lot of noise and still work fine.
It is when they are making a Hellacious racket.. then you need to worry.
Also if the hub/wheel is getting rather hot to the touch..
I went for years with bad front bearings.. On my SVT Contour.
Just mentioning it.
(in case you are on a trip, and they start to make noise.. You CAN drive 500km on them no issue.. even 2,000km..
just if they are getting extremely hot like the wheel center is too hot to hold)
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Old 04-14-2013, 03:30 PM   #7
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w/ all the Walmart horror stories i've heard (one even including death) i think the best lesson is NEVER get your car serviced at Walmart... i would say get the remaining bearings replaced if you have the money. maybe an alignment check too just to be sure.
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Old 04-15-2013, 01:16 PM   #8
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Well, first off, all thank you all for your input and advice. It has helped me remain safe and sound and I believe ultimately secure on the road.

The car is currently at the dealership and I was made aware that it needs a new front right bearing and CV joint. The grinding was pretty bad, so I guess it failed completely and really screwed things up. Over the next few days I'll be getting the remaining two left side bearings replaced as well.
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Old 04-15-2013, 06:14 PM   #9
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Correction: The axle shaft and wheel bearing had to be replaced.
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Old 04-16-2013, 02:19 PM   #10
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Today they called me and let me know they forgot to install the hubs. Is that bad?

They said they would put them back in tomorrow morning and that it's a 3 hour job.
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