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Discussion Starter #1
2003 Ford Focus LX, 2.3L, 140k miles.

So let me start with the sound - directionally from the front, drivers side. Sounds for the life of me just like a wheel bearing noise - a light growling/whirring sound that varies directly proportional to speed. Faster = louder. If you heard it, you'd say "your front left wheel bearing is going out".

Drop it into neutral at speed, the sound does not change.

I'll move into what it isn't, and then give a brief history of fixes to the car below. It isn't a wheel bearing, front, right, or carrier bearing in the pass side half axle. It isn't a rotor and is not tire related - the sound stays up front left, when I move around tires.

Here's the car's history (since I have owned)

Transmission was rebuilt about 20k miles ago by reputable local tranny shop, tranny has run flawlessly since.

Changed driver and pass side wheel bearings about 18 months ago to fix what I thought was bearing noise (used cheap bearings to replace). Realized afterwards that it was the carrier bearing integral to the pass side half axle, so I swapped that out and the sound went away. Car still had a (pre-existing) wobble over 65 mph - very rarely does it get driven that fast so I ignored it.

After about a year, starting hearing bearing noise again. Pulled the right front, and the bearing was definitively bad - probably the cheap parts. So I replaced both fronts again with mid-price part (Raybestos) and sound went away. During this replacement I also replaced the outer tire rod end on the drivers side, as the nut had stripped around the bolt (no the bolt wasn't turning), so I ground the old nut/bolt off and put on new outer tire rod end.

Around that time, discovered that my "wobble" was from a bent rear rim, so I replaced the rim, wobble went mostly away. That rim had spent time up front (during tire rotations) and I thought it may have contributed to the first bearings wearing out so quickly.

A few months later (recently), "bearing" noise re-appears again - this is the current bearing noise described in my opening, definitively coming from front left. Replaced front left bearing (a third time now) with premium Timken part. Doing so made zero impact on current noise.

I am confident on the work done on the bearings. Am convinced is not a bearing noise now - again, the most recent Timken replacement did not change the sound at all. Rotors (and brakes) were also replaced about 18 months ago, so do not believe they are the issue - they look and perform well currently.

All suspension parts up front look solid, boots, bushings, rods, etc. Don't see anything that could rubbing with wheel rotation.

I am stumped on current noise. A bearing in the tranny? Am taking it to the tranny shop tomorrow to see if they have any thoughts. Anyone else have thoughts?
 

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IDK how long(time frame) you've swapped out the bearings....A bearing thats going out, gets worse over time, but then for you possible= the more you drive it the worse it gets. I really don't think its a carrier bearing....I take it you torqued the axle nut correctly? What do the c/v joints look like? If the axle true? Hows the trans fluid look like? Is it topped off?
 

FUBARCUS
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Have you inspected the hubs and knuckles for damage to be sure they are not part of the issue? Also, are you following the torquing procedure when reinstalling the axle nuts?
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Yes, and torqued to 223 ft/lb exactly.

Most recent wheel bearing swap was just last weekend (to the Timken). Even if somehow that bearing was bad out of the box, or I fouled the installation, I would have heard some kind of change in the sound - a different tenor or some such. But no, sound was precisely the same as before.

Tranny fluid looks clean and to the right level. Hub was swapped with the bearing as part of the kit. Knuckle looks good. Keep in mind there have been points as recently as a month ago where everything was quiet and good.

As a side note, was listening to it this morning, and it is not entirely accurate to say that the noise gets louder the faster you go. It definitely (the noise) gets FASTER, the faster the car travels, but may not actually be increasing in decibels after it starts kicking in around 25-30 mph.

CV Axle looks good and true (though it is probably next on my list to swap just as further process of elimination if the tranny guy doesn't have ideas).
 

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Wow, I had this exact issue on my 2010 SES sedan. Had the trans rebuilt around 115k miles, had the weird whirring noise starting around 145k miles. Replaced the pass front then driver's front wheel bearings (both with OEM parts). Does yours go away briefly if you go over a decent sized lump in the road (as the weight is off the front end of the car (like mid-bounce))?

Had the car in the air a few times, it sounded like it was coming from the transmission area on the passenger-side, but definitely not internal to the transmission. Trans acted completely OK every since the rebuild too. Myself, 3 "car guys", and 2 senior Ford dealer techs couldn't figure it out.

Unfortunately I lost the car 6 months ago at 157k miles because some kid slammed into the back of me while snap-chatting. Never figured it out.

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Discussion Starter #6
I'm honestly not sure if it goes away over a lump - I'll have to try to pay attention to it. I have it at the tranny guy at the moment.

Interesting though - sounds eerily similar.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
You never had any trouble with it until the car was wrecked? Just went on making that noise?
 

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Yeah my symptoms exactly matched yours. Speed sensitive, no change if in neutral when moving, etc.

We pulled the traction control fuse and got it 'up to speed' with the car in the air, and the noise was still there but much quieter than when driving.

But yeah the car was flawless in the roughly 120k miles I owned it, other than the trans being rebuilt like I mentioned above (had a few burnt clutches in one of the clutch packs, RPMs would flair up 2nd-3rd gear change).

When I had the knuckles off, both axles seemed good. Never replaced the passenger side one with the carrier bearing, but there was no play and it was smooth. The sound was louder some days, but was usually there. Went away for a few days on a couple occasions. But yup it was there the last roughly 15k miles til the car got hit (just checked my service record mileage for the first attempt).

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The tires themselves can make a very similar noise but usually never on the front, back only. The front engine weight precludes them making noise up there. If you do not rotate then the backs go out of round due to no damping rear end weight, commonly that tire rotated up front doesn't make noise but not impossible.

Why I never rotate, I change fronts only in pairs for max driveability and the old fronts go to back to stay there then they wear completely out going out of round while doing it. Haven't changed all 4 tires at once in 30 years.

Not rotating lets the car go much longer with excellent overall driving, the backs going to front once they wear out of round then handle funky even not making noise they make on the back. Every FWD car I've ever owned does that but nobody seems to know about it at all. Too busy rotating tires to make car handle worse I guess.

The trans if ATX will past a point make a whirring noise when the 3 gear train begins to wear out of plane due to bearing preload dropping with wear, but that sounds like a gear noise. Those parts generally get passed on at rebuilds as they involve too much trouble to get set back up right. Could be a diff carrier bearing maybe.
 

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Not rotating lets the car go much longer with excellent overall driving, the backs going to front once they wear out of round then handle funky even not making noise they make on the back. Every FWD car I've ever owned does that but nobody seems to know about it at all. Too busy rotating tires to make car handle worse I guess.
Says nobody who's been on a track. Everybody that I've seen on the track rotates tires if they can to get the most life out of it, especially the grassroots and amateur racers. Not rotating tires lets the alignment eat up the tires, especially the aggressive alignments with front tires.
 

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LOL, somebody comes along to explain how to get max life out of track tires. Like it's even applicable to street use. And admitting to alignments that wear them out faster.

Tire life and car handling over long periods of time vs. tracking are two different things. If you rotate you HAVE averaged out the wear on all 4 but then the latter half of tire life on all 4 eats you alive due to NONE of them being at optimum. I have driven cars like that and they do NOT handle as well as the other way I describe, because two tires are almost always still new and on the front where most handling comes from at legal street speeds anyway.. FWD physics are such that the front produces most of the handling with the rear simply retracking straight after corners like a trailer. The backs don't have to be at optimum except maybe in snow or ice. Or at speeds high enough to be about to lose it on the rear, and not what I was talking about.

I have driven way too many setups now like I talk about. And used to do the other way too.

I align all my own cars like I used to the drag cars at 150-200 mph. No machine. Don't need one.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
An update after having the transmission guy look and listen. He says its not a wheel bearing (which I knew) and not the differential bearing (which I didn't). He's chalking the sound up to tires.

I'm still not convinced on that front, since the front tires are different than the rear (and very different wear levels) and the sound doesn't change to my ear when I rotate the front driver tire with the rear one. On the other hand, he claims he thinks the sound is coming from both the front and the rear (I'm not sure I agree). Also, I did put new fronts on about a month ago. The sound did NOT appear right after mounting the new front tires, but not too long after, so maybe not impossible? But, like I said, I don't hear it moving when I move tires.

In any case, damn loud sound if they are tires. Kumho Solus TA11's for the record.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Further update for anyone interested.

Did full rotation on the tires, does not change the sound at all. Scratch tires off the list.

Also listened to the sounds from different seats in the car (with someone else driving). Definitely up front, not in the rear. Though, isn't as specifically driver side from other "vantage" points. Just generally front.

Back to a prior poster's comment - I'll be damned if it doesn't in fact seem like when it goes over a pothole, or momentarily release weight, that the sound momentarily pauses, just like you described.

Still stumped.
 

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If done make sure the axles are neutral (jack up under the control arm) to be pretty straight or you could easily get false noise due to axle running way out of the normal range, a good way to tear one up too.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
RESOLVED.

It was the "carrier" bearing that it is integral and mid-shaft in the passenger cv axle. You know, the one that I had replaced 6 months ago because the old one was screaming. The "new" bearing made a different tone of sound on its fail, but swapping out that axle (with the bearing) on a whim this weekend did the trick.

For the record, the one I put in 6 months ago (that failed) was one of the Suntrack brands bought off Rock Auto. This time I went with a new Cardone Select from Rock Auto.
 

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You yourself weeded it out earlier, and insisting the noise was driver side. Or that bearing would have been brought up, by me at least.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
You yourself weeded it out earlier, and insisting the noise was driver side. Or that bearing would have been brought up, by me at least.
True enough, though I posted afterwards that after listening from various spots in the car that I thought the sound was more generally front (as opposed to just driver's) but definitely front.

Ultimately, it is frustrating to have a new part fail.
 

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Same issue, two different focus鈥. Turned out to be the alignment. Didn鈥檛 have major wear to the tires. Might have someone throw it on a rack and check that out. All 3 focus I鈥檝e owned had alignment issues.

Another thing I鈥檝e noticed. On these cars the driver front sound is usually actually coming from the passenger rear of the car. And vice versa on the other side.

Hope this helps.


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You need a hearing check.

I ran loud hundred foot long printing presses for 35+ years and using no ear plugs through all of it to suffer a great deal of hearing loss and plenty of super loud standing right next to drag car noise as well but I still have no trouble telling what corner of the car noise is coming from. I absolutely 100% disagree with that noise coming from the opposite corner thing in its' entirety.

It can be hard to tell left rear from right rear but take enough care and that becomes clear as well. The rear has the advantage of simply jacking up to freewheel the tires to compare the two sides. Compare both bearing noise as fast as you can spin the tire and look at how out of round the rear tires are as well and you should be able to come up with a 100% solid conclusion there.

I have two Foci and zero alignment issues ever just like with every other car I've ever had but then I don't use alignment machines at all, doing the cars myself.
 
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