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Discussion Starter #1
I have a 2001 Ford Focus, 155k Miles, automatic 4 cylinder

The issue: there is a front end vibration/ wobble/ warbling sound that begins at 50 mph and gets progressively worse at higher speeds. Very pronounced at 75mph and unbearable any speed at and over that.

So far I have new brakes rotors and drums front and back. Wheels rotated and balanced (this took away the vibration but then 3 days later it was back and has been progressively worse). Engine mounts are relatively new. Oil is good and recently drained and refilled transmission with 4 qts of fresh fluid.

I suspect the front wheel bearing, or the axles, or the front control arms.

Any ideas or input would be appreciated?
 

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Either you have something that rotates that is out of balance or you have something that is loose. The larger the diameter of rotation the more of an issue it causes. In other words a small out of balence on a wheel/tire will cause much more vibration than an out of balace or worn bearing/axle. Maybe after they balanced the wheels/tires a balance weight came off?

Paul
 

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Discussion Starter #3
When they balanced the wheels they also did an alignment and that came back good. The vibration went away but then it came back a week later. The wobble and sound has stayed even after the balance.
 

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My vote is a wheel weight that came off given your description.
Also check torque/retorque on wheels.
 

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If the tires are out of round then no balancing can fix that. If swapped around they can at first drive fine until tires settle into the new position and then begin to do it again when the new position wears them in. Meaning older tires which you do NOT balance, waste of time. New tires.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Tires have 7k miles on them and were placed on a year ago. Excellent tread and no cupping/ bulging. Could they be out of round given mileage and age?
 

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I'm voting that a wheel weight came off. Generally most vibration at highway speed, felt through the steering wheel, is caused by the FRONT wheel being out of balance. With that being said, a simple way to troubleshoot it is to simply rotate the front wheels to the back. If the vibrations are reduced, you know what it most likely is.

Also, the axle and control arm would only cause the vibration if you were recently in a wreck. Wheel bearings would make an awful metal on metal grinding noise and vibration wouldn't be unbearable.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Just had it spun and balance checked. Came back good, meaning the tires are in good shape, not out of round, and are correctly balanced. LCA reported to be tight, and advisor suggested that I would have symptoms even at lower speeds upon acceleration.

Any ideas?
 

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Do you have stock wheels or aftermarket?
Do you have wheel spacers?
Did you have your wheels checked to see if they are bent? (You can have a bent wheel and it can still be balanced, and lazy tire installers may not notice it to advise)
 

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At your mileage I am still convinced it is the drive axles. The passenger side axle has a carrier bearing which can go bad and get noisy.On my 06 ZX5, my bad axle initially presented itself as a mid frequency vibration in the floorplan. Mileage was around 135,000. Had the tires rotated and it seemed better for a few weeks. Eventually I replaced both axles at 150,000 and it stopped. By then I had replaced the all of the suspension components and wheel.bearings and the vibration persisted. The old axles had significant wear on the inner tripod running surfaces.
 

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X2, the inner bearing can do it as can tripod wear. The tripod usually rattles but not always.

When the techs balance tires by spinning they lower a cover on the tire per safety requirements and then they don't see the tire out of round condition. I say AGAIN, for those hard of hearing, you CANNOT balance an out of round tire out to not shake by balance alone. The out of round stays even with the wheel/tire in balance as it is burned into the tire carcass itself.

You guys have me chuckling, I have 3 cars running around now with zero balance weights on them at all and the cars drive perfect at 70+ mph. Haven't balanced in years now.
 

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An out of round tire can definitely cause issues. I am advocating an examination of the axles especially the passenger side due to the warbling sound he is experiencing. AMC what is your theory on the sound?
 

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A warbling noise is also the mark of out of round tires. But can be axle too, the noises are different, axle is more of metal to metal clank or clunk and the tire is a loud then not so loud noise as the load on tire changes based on the rising and falling high spot. A failing axle pass side bearing could sound close to a tire noise.

So, they both 'warble', and not a good choice of word there as a result. Warble means a noise that, well, look at the somewhat vague as used here definition.......a noise 'with a succession of constantly changing notes'.

On tires it will change in intensity as in 'rrRRrrRRrrRRrrRR in rapid succession, and matched to tire speed. You can visually see it by getting tire to rotate and watch it, it will be visibly be out of round. It comes from running tire on back of car, the front has enough engine weight to hold the tire down but the back has no big rear end any longer and the tire then begins to oscillate lightly as it finds the speed it is in harmonic with and then the tire wears more on one half of the OD when the oscillation adds to the frequency effect. The spring on back strut is what does it. Bad struts worn out on back let it get much worse. Hitting bumps to lighten tire patch to ground are what begin the oscillation. There is no rear weight to damp that out on FWD, they all do it in varying amounts.

Most people that rotate a lot never see the issue as the tires die earlier since they come back on front to somewhat even the out of round back up but tire then dies faster from having more than one wear pattern on it. Why so many argue with me about it; they cannot see it. But the tires last longer putting them on front to last until the backs wear out from out of round and the fronts go on back and new again go on front. I never rotate other than that. Why I do it that way. Way at the last of a set I have to put up with tire noise for a month or so but the car on average drives much better for a longer distance because the front determines so much of your driving sureness on FWD. Why I never need to align cars ever, simply retire the front when rears are dead and car is instantly back to driving perfectly, I've done it so many times now I cannot count. I only buy tires in pairs ever and they last to the rated mileage always. I haven't bought all 4 tires at once in 40+ years, no need.
 

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I use to buy Goodyear RSA Tires in 15" for my 2003 MK1 with stock premium wheels. With over 6 different tires across 4 years, the tires went out of round when 1/2 worn and would vibrate at various speeds, each tire was different as far as which speed it was (55mph, 62, 65, 72). I finally complained to Goodyear and they sent me to 2 different shops for a balance job and they would rotate the tires around. The vibration would go away and then come back after a week. The shops blamed it on my brakes, bearings, alignment, shocks and wanted to sell me everything to fix it. At the original shop I bought them from before my complaint, I saw the tire rotate on the balancer and the tech took a straight edge and I can see the tire wobble up and down. All the shops told me the tires were fine, and it was my car.

I finally realized it was the tires, and that something would cause them to go out of round. Perhaps the belts inside snapped apart. I concluded that Goodyear doesn't care about 15" tires anymore, because the market has shifted to larger diameter wheels and settled my claim with Goodyear, in which they gave me a set of brand new Dunlop DZ102 in 17". So I bought Ford Racing Rally Wheels and haven't had the problem since.

You can't fix an out of round tire and if you have one, you should file a claim with the manufacture.
 

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As I have said it is NOT really the tire's fault although one might lend toward the issue easier than another. It is the tire/wheel assembly in reaction to the spring rate on the back, there is no weight to damp that out and why the problem increased with FWD. Anything sprung has a return rate and if that gets in harmonic with speed and bumping then the tire oscillates at bumps and then it begins to wear and the difference in tire weight side to side of the rollout then begins to add to the wear. Balance cannot help that.

I've measured them at one half inch difference before as the radius changes around the OD. Balancing will not restore the difference in missing OD there, half the tire is acting like it is the next lower size.
 

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The wider the tire gets the worse the issue should be, we used to argue about the custom truck wheels and tires they used to put on trucks by special order back in the '90s and why the tires wore out unevenly like that. Most trucks have the lighter weight rear ends not being full ton and the lesser weight helps the problem to begin too. I saw it all the time on pickups back then even if the wheels were properly sized to the tire size used. Centrifugal force adds to it, the tire balloons out the center of tire when it is not in contact with pavement.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
I will be changing both front axles this weekend. I am hoping this is the primary cause. I was told that it could be the tie rods as well. How likely is that? I will be inspecting them before I do the axles. As far as the tires go, I will try to contact les Schwab and ask them to replace them as the tires are only 7k old.
 

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I will be changing both front axles this weekend. I am hoping this is the primary cause. I was told that it could be the tie rods as well. How likely is that? I will be inspecting them before I do the axles. As far as the tires go, I will try to contact les Schwab and ask them to replace them as the tires are only 7k old.
You can easily check if the inner or outer tie rods are loose/worn - with the front wheel off the ground grasp the tire at the 3 and 9 o'clock positions and try to wiggle the entire assembly. Look at how Brian is checking here:


Good luck
Paul
 

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The ties can do it and BTDT. The axles pull toward the front under power and braking pulls them to the back, if ties are loose then harder power will not shake but if you roll off it to neutral or brake then the tires fall back in tie slack and shake their -ss off. The power on and brake on both fight to get the tie slack and bang the wheel back and forth doing it. .

Quick test is to get on an exit that is straight and then with nobody behind you enter it fast enough to be shaking and then suddenly back off power and drag the brake hard enough to quick decel but not lock up. If the shaking stops during that the ties are loose. Getting wheel up in air to check slack at 3 and 9 o'clock will show it too.
 
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