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Is it an Axle (CV Joint), a Wheel Bearing or Tranny issue?

06-15-2007, 09:42 PM
My 2000 3.8l LX has developed a slight vibration but loud groanning sound in what I think is coming from the right front side. It gets louder at around 40 - 60 MPH and its hard to pin point. it actually feels like it's coming from the middle of the vehicle and sounds/feels a lot like a clothes washer machine going on the spin cycle.
When I jack up the tires and rock'em side to side there's no end play (except for some slight link play at the front tires). Rocking the tires top to bottom doesn't produce any end play either, so it leads me to believe that the Wheel Bearings are OK.
Only when I jacked up the front tires and ran the engine in gear was when I could feel the noise and vibration on the right front tire... so what could it be? Is there another test I could do to diagnose the problem better?
I've got about 45K miles on it and did a tranny flush & filter change my self about 7 months ago at @35K miles and it was running great ever since.
I keep thinking it's a wheel bearing but cannot be certain. How about CV Joints? I don't see too many posts here about CV Joint issues, but now, after doing the Isolator Bolts procedure and replacing the Spark Plugs last month the van started to shutter ocassionally when I accelerate (not sure if related this problem). There is no slipage and tranny feels normal. But read on another thread where one poster says:
Lately, (sometimes) my car shutters when I accelerate. There is no slipage and trans feels fine (replaced at 65K). Now have 113 K on 99 Windstar. Anyone know what the problem may be ? Looked at Haynes manual under "Troubleshooting" and it said something about inner CV joints. Also said on 99's they can't be serviced.
so it made me wonder if I have a CV Joint problem. How can I be certain? Do you guys think I may be developing Tranny Issues? If so how can I diagnose for that?
Is it hard to replace a Wheel Bearing or a CV Joint on a Winstar or is it a job better to leave for the well equiped mechanic?
I've done a wheel bearing on a '91 Chevy car and a CV Joint on a 95' Grand Caravan but never done either on a FORD before, so I don't know what I'm up against...

06-15-2007, 10:16 PM

I had a wheel bearing go bad on my 95. I didn't hear any noise but my steering got a lot of play in it. I've also seen wheel bearings go bad by making noise but no play. I've been able to check the bearing while driving by turning the steering wheel slightly to the right or left and listening for a change of the tone of the noise.

As to replacing a wheel bearing on a Ford. On my 95 the wheel bearing is pressed in to the hub which will require a press to replace it.



06-16-2007, 12:43 AM
Yes, thanks LeSabre97mint, appreciate your fast reply.
I've already checked the bearing by turning the wheel slightly to the right or left and listening for a change of the tone of the noise as you said (forgot to mention that fact earlier). And by the way it does sounds louder when I put weight on the right side of the van.
But I think that could also mean a faulty axle aswell, so this test is not a complete diagnose. I need something more specific that would rule out the bearing or CV Joint and pin point the problem acurately.
The boots on the CV Joints look good and there are no signs of grease leakage, but then again when the axle went on my '95 Grand Caravan it didn't show any of those signs either.

As to the wheel bearing being pressed in to the hub I'm not sure if a 2000 will be the same, but I've also heard of Auto parts stores selling a complete hub unit with the bearing already pressed, have not looked into it yet.
Then again I could do the hard part if it's not too complicated and take the hub out and then to a place with a press to replace it... just a thought

06-16-2007, 07:34 AM
I would think a CV axle failure would be indicated by a "throbbing sound" (even a "clicking") sound, not a "groaning sound" at lower speeds. I'd bet on the wheel bearing.

I just finished up both axle replacements on a '83 Escort. Not rocket science. I would expect the Winnie to be easier.

Remove and hang the brake assembly using 1/2" tie wraps. Disconnect tie rod outer. Remove strut assembly ... you won't need spring compressor if you are not going to disassemble. Have a large two-jaw puller available to pull the hub off the axle. Don't use a hammer on nuttin! .... unless you intend to rebuild the knuckle&hub yourself.

If you intend to rebuild the knuckle&hub, buy the bearings and seals from Ford. Aftermarket bearings have gotten really bad lately. I usually knock the bearings out of the knuckle using a hammer ... but I almost never use hammer, just a little tap or two perhaps, when reassembling.

Put the bearings in a zip-loc bag and place in freezer overnight. Clean the knuckle of all grease and place on outdoor grill. Get the hub hot enough so that water dropped on it will spatter into steam. Remove knuckle from grill and cool to the point that the water spatter is almost nil. With a brush, apply some grease to the knuckle bearing journal area, the grease should almost run/smoke ... but not quite. At this point the (cold/shrunken) bearing outer races (or assemblies, what ever is used on the Winnier) will "fall" into the hot/expanded knuckle ... no press needed. If the knuckle is too hot, the grease will start coming out of the bearing assembly ... have some wet shop rags ready to cool down the knuckle quickly.

Have a socket, or something round, slightly less diameter than the bearing ready for assisting/tapping bearing into place if needed.

.... Oh, be sure to have some leather gloves in case you want to handle the knuckle!

06-16-2007, 08:59 AM
Yes, thanks LeSabre97mint, appreciate your fast reply.
I've already checked the bearing by turning the wheel slightly to the right or left and listening for a change of the tone of the noise as you said (forgot to mention that fact earlier). And by the way it does sounds louder when I put weight on the right side of the van.
But I think that could also mean a faulty axle aswell, so this test is not a complete diagnose. I need something more specific that would rule out the bearing or CV Joint and pin point the problem acurately.
The boots on the CV Joints look good and there are no signs of grease leakage, but then again when the axle went on my '95 Grand Caravan it didn't show any of those signs either.

As to the wheel bearing being pressed in to the hub I'm not sure if a 2000 will be the same, but I've also heard of Auto parts stores selling a complete hub unit with the bearing already pressed, have not looked into it yet.
Then again I could do the hard part if it's not too complicated and take the hub out and then to a place with a press to replace it... just a thought

I agree with 12ounce and with you saying that the sound changes with turning the wheel that you have a wheel bearing going out.

12ounce, thanks for the tip on replacing the wheel bearingI was aware of the heat/chill methoud but hadn't thought of using it for this. I stole the hub off of my 98 for my 95 because I didn't want to pay for a shop to press a new bearing in.


06-16-2007, 10:27 AM
I used to use a press for this task. Well, not a REAL press ... just a long threaded rod, nuts, washers, and all my 3/4" and 1/2" sockets ... you get the drill. A bit clumsy, but it worked.

And then I tried the thermal-difference method just as an experiment ... have been using it ever since.

06-16-2007, 12:23 PM
OK, thanks for the info. I'm 90% convinced it's a wheel bearing aswell... BUT, the wheel did have a "throbbing sound" as you describe it, but only when I jacked up and ran the wheel in the air, so that 10% that makes me think of maybe having a bad Axle assembly still haunts me.
With the wheels on the ground while driving at low speed (15-30MPH) the vibration feels like if I had those big knobi/chunky off road truck tires and then above that it feels like a washer machine on spin cycle. I think you guyts are right about the wheel bearing.
I do have a couple of questions...
Will I need an alligment afterwards?
How much for the large two-jaw puller to pull the hub off the axle. At times like these I hate not having an AutoZone store near by to lend the tool from them...
Whats the size of the bearing hub/axle nut? I have a 30mm and a 32mm from the previous repairs on the Chevy & Dodge! But I don't know the size on a FORD, hopefully one of this two will fit the nut.

The FORD Repair CD tells me I need a new:

A new wheel hub retainer must be installed, if it is loosened or removed. Failure to install a new retainer after removal can result in loss of the front wheel or damage to the wheel hub and bearing assembly.

The front axle wheel hub retainer must be tightened to specification immediately during installation. If the retainer is not tightened immediately, the nylon lock will set incorrectly, leading to incorrect torque readings and bearing failure. Any front wheel hub retainer that is not immediately tightened to specification or is loosened must be removed and a new retainer installed.

The Windstar uses a wheel hub and bearing assembly and is not repaired separately.

Remove and discard the wheel hub retainer.
Remove and discard the tie-rod end cotter pin and the castellated nut.
Remove and discard the front stabilizer bar link nut and separate the front stabilizer bar link (5K483).
Remove and discard the ball joint pinch bolt and nut.
The wheel hub is a slip-fit design and should not require a puller to remove. Remove and discard the three wheel hub retaining bolts and remove the wheel hub.

Do these parts come with the new hub or bearing assembly or do I need to go get them separately? Thats a lot of remove & discard stuff if you ask me!
How much should I expect to pay a mechanic to get'er done if I decide to go that route?

06-16-2007, 05:06 PM
OK, I got out my '99 Winnie shop manual. Things have been redesigned from the old days .... and most of what I posted above is bogus. Sorry! It may apply to earlier models (now that I went back and made some corrections) ... but it won't work for the '99 and later models very much at all.

I gotta get the semantics right!

The front "hub" is what you mount the wheel on. It has studs for mounting the wheel and brake discs. The axle runs thru it ... they are fitted together with splines and a nut & washer or a nut/washer ("front wheel hub retainer"). [Back in the earlier designs, when you attached the axle to the front hub ... you also were assembling the inner sleeve of the hub, thru the bearings, to the steering "knuckle".] The "knuckle is the thing that the strut slides into, that the control arm(s) fasten to, that the tie rod outer joint fastens to ... etc, etc.

In the newer design, the hub is a cartridge affair that carries the bearings totally integral to it ... the bearings are no longer directly mounted to knuckle. The inner race of the hub bearing is "splined" for connecting to the axle. Separating the axle from the hub will still require a puller (unless you're one of those hammer guys). I think that comment in the manual about not requiring a puller is a bit misleading ... but what's new! Once the axle is pushed out of the hub (bearing), then the hub can easily be separated from the knuckle with three bolt removal.

In the old Escort design, the nut on the splined axle required 190 ftlbs. On the '99 Winnie the "front wheel hub retainer" requires 180 ftlbs. Guess some things haven't changed that much after all.

06-16-2007, 06:01 PM
Thanks 12Ounce...
I did a little bit of shopping and it seems that the Bearing doesn't sell as one piece, instead it's sold as a whole piece Hub Assembly as I've heard before. At least I won't have to worry about fighting with pressing the parts together. (,14600894//shopping/partTypeResultSet.htm) has a Timken / Wheel Bearing/Hub Assembly-Front #513156 w/ 1YR Warranty for $129.99
and my favorite FORD guys at ( have a Description-Front hub, windstar | Year-99-03 | MSRP Price-$93.03 | Your Price-$68.38
Well that's a no brainer, only problem is that the site is really hard to navigate their catalogs and I cannot find all the little hardware (hub retainer, hub bolts & nuts, cotter pins, axle nut, etc.) that goes with it. will have to call Monday to place the order. Just for fun I'll call my local FORD dealer to see what they offer...

06-16-2007, 10:33 PM
Yeah, I could have written that a bit clearer ... the hub and the bearing are sold together as one piece ...not to be serviced, except that the studs are replaceable if ever needed.

Sometimes the Ford dealership has better pricing than expected.

07-09-2007, 10:50 PM
Well I did the hub replacement today and I'm sad to report that the noise and vibration are still going strong and exactly the same way as before. So, $120 shorter and 4:30 hours on a hot muggy afternoon just wasted... Im so dissapointed!
So I'm thinking the tranny might be the culprit. It's a shame at only 45.5K miles on it. I'm thinking about getting rid of it before it becomes worse or it breaks down on me.
At days like today is when I miss my father the most...!

07-11-2007, 11:27 AM

Are you going to replace the cv's now? My situation is exactly like yours with the symptoms. Even makes a louder sound/vibe when weight is on right side. (e.g. on a crowned road, the situation is worse when I am in the right hand side). I guess it is a shame you didn't throw in the cv when you had it apart.

My van has 149K on it now. trans replaced around 92kish.

I plan on driving mine till failure if I can determine whatever issue(s) is/are not a safety problem(s).

07-11-2007, 12:38 PM
I can't be certain it's the axle. From the beginig I felt like the noise and vibration came from the middle of the van (Tranny area). What made me decide on replacing the right front Wheel Hub was when I jacked up the van and let it run on gear it only vibrated on the right side, plus it definetly sounded and felt like a bad bearing.
Yesterday I jacked up the van again and had the wife do the engine running on gear and brake while I looked under the van. I saw the axle spin as it's supposed to... no wobbling, no vibration, it all looked normal. This makes me think there's something wrong inside the tranny (maybe a bearing inside of it) giving me the same simptoms of a wheel bearing gone bad.
The engine doesn't tremmble as much when looking from the outside either, but the steering wheel and column feels like it's gonna fall off.

07-11-2007, 03:13 PM

So you think the vibration is getting transmitted through the half shafts to the wheels? I can feel the vibe through the wheel when de-accel or when weight is shifted to one side on a crowned road. The de-accel feels like the old days when I had a bad drive shaft. the vibe on weight shift feels like the old days with bad bearings.

How is the rest of your front end?

07-11-2007, 05:19 PM
Ed, I'm just now reading the comment about vibration in the steering wheel and column. ??? Under what situations does this happen? Is it possible the coupling between the column and steering rack is loose?

07-11-2007, 11:17 PM
Well, to clarify... the steering wheel & column vibration only happens when the right front tire is off the ground and the engine running on gear at between 45-60mph and it gets worse (louder & more violent) at between 50-55mph. It also does it when shifting the tranny to Neutral and with or without O/D after reaching those same speeds.
-This does not happen when the left front tire is off the ground under the same conditions by the way.

With the wheels on the pavement and driving, there's no shaking on the steering wheel and column. It just makes a sound like a clothes washer on spin cycle coming from the front end and the vibration is something more like a pickup truck on big chunky off-road tires.
I guess that's the best way I can explain it. I never had such a hard time trying to diagnose a problem before.

PS. Rack & Pinion, Struts and linkage where replaced at a FORD dealer at about 20K miles before I owned it. There was a clunking noise the dealer wasn't able to correct or diagnose, so they elected to replace everything to fix the issue. Problem has never come back ever since!

07-12-2007, 08:46 AM
Well, I guess I either have a different problem, or my problem is more advanced. My steering wheel shakes with the problem.

Your front end is in much better shape than mine. Mine is all original except for the tie rods, so it all has 149k miles on it. So maybe your front end is absorbing all of this and doesn't transmit it to the steering wheel.

07-12-2007, 08:51 AM
Have you guys rotated the wheels front-to-rear to see what impact, if any, is detected?

07-12-2007, 11:37 AM
I haven't tried that because it doesn't shake on a flat road with steady or increasing throttle.

07-12-2007, 09:26 PM
Have you guys rotated the wheels front-to-rear to see what impact, if any, is detected?
Yep! I did rotated the tires about a month ago in the hopes that maybe that would cure the problem when I put new front brakes on it... It didn't help. The van had brand new tires put on at about 30K miles before I took ownership of it.

I took it for a half hour trip on the highway today and after I take the van over 60mph it quiets down quite considerably but, while reaching 70mph it gives me a high pitch loud noise, like when you have a big jet plane at low RPM taxing on a runway (like a big nasty harmonic hummm). If I go faster passing the 70mph mark it quiets down on the noise again! Also vibration is almost non-existent at those speeds.

07-14-2007, 09:25 PM
I ordered the Right Front Axle and it'll be getting it in 3-5 days. Just hope it cures the problem as my wife depends on this vehicle everyday. We'll see what happens when I get it!

07-17-2007, 02:18 PM

Is that the 1/2 shaft with CV?

09-19-2007, 10:38 PM
Well I got it done today...! I brazed again for a hot, steamy, muggy afternoon in the sun to replace the Right Front Axle on my van. After about 5 hours and a lot of sweat I took it for a drive and everything is the same way as before. Same noise and everything else as it used to, big dissapointment.

Worst part is, I have to put the old Axle back on because the new one I got at the Auto Parts store has a slightly different exciter ring on it and it causes the ABS to go crazy at low speed not allowing the van to be stopped, very scary! The teeth on the exciter ring have a little less space in between them.

So it seems I've wasted more money and more time again!
When I removed the Axle, I stuck my finger inside the tranny to get a feel of the pinion inside the tranny were the inner CV Joint of the Axle meets the diferential gears and there seems to be quite a bit of end play in the. I wonder if this could be the problem or if this is a normal operating condition for this part? Does anyone know or care to comment?

11-25-2007, 07:50 AM
if when you turn to the right noise goes away, then your left wheel bearing is bad, just the oposite, when youturn left noise goes away, its your right bearing, go to a tool supply store , buy a stesiscope(cant spell)the thing doctors use to listen to your heart, raise car up, get wheels turning apply scope to the iside area where the bearing is located, see if the is a difference in the right sound as opposed to the left, loud noise would indicate bad bearing, not a wheel issue if noise goes away when turning wheel, if axle issue turn wheel all the way left or right slowly roll forward, you will hear a clicking sound, sounds to me like you changed the wrong wheel bearing, hope this helps, mark

11-25-2007, 06:20 PM
if you turn the wheel to the right while driving and the noise get quieter, its the left wheel bearing and if it gets quieter turning left, its the right wheel bearing.its not a tire issue because it would make a constant noise no matter if you turned the wheel or not, if it were an axle, you would stop the car, turn the steering wheel all the way left or right, drive slowly, you will here a clicking noise. in my opinion, you changed the wrong bearing. anothe thing you can do, if you can raise the car off the ground spin the wheel at about 25/30 mph(get help with this test)go to tool store buy a stethoscope lay under the car, put the scope where the bearing is in side the wheel, check difference in right and left, the bad one will make much more noise, hope this helps, any more questions about this, email me at

11-26-2007, 01:44 AM
That sure makes me think it's your half shaft. Sometimes the half shaft stub that goes into the trans can get sloppy. Have your tried yanking on the suspected half shaft? Rotate it against the trans and against the tire trying to see if there is much play or noise. Try turning the center section while holding the other side of each of the joints to determine if there is play within the joint. Observing the shaft rotate like you did can be an allusion when rotating at high rpm and appear just fine. Was there any noise from your previous test? Were you able to isolate any noise? Going under the car while the tires are spining is dicey if you can't safely support it and keep it from moving. Perhaps you can use a long enough hose or bent tube to listen for any noises and their location. I am currently trying to decide if I have a bad front bearing. I too ran the tire at high speed jacked up to test it. I had the tire turned hard to its side so that I could put a long "listening" bar on the steering knuckle. You could try using the hose, pipe or bar to listen to various places. If you are suspicious of the trans, start on the drivers side, as it's the easiest to get to and work your way to the right side. Unfortunately, a noisey cvj can trasmit its sound to the trans. The listening devices should be able to narrow it down. Good luck

11-03-2008, 04:42 PM

Well I hate to resurrect old threads, but this one wasn't solved and too many poeple tried to help and I feel I owe something back.

Today I went to get new tires put on our van...
I'm on a budget so went to Sams Club and opted for the BF Goodrich Touring T/A Pro Series 215/70 R15 97T and I can't belive what a difference in the vans performance, it rides so much smoother and better than ever before.

Best thing is that all the groaning, noise and vibration complaints are gone...! So after replacing a Wheel Bearing, CV Joint, Suspension componets and all the time and money put into solving this, it turned out to be some Firestone tires gone bad!
We were actually grasping with the fact that the tranny was about to expire and was the cause of trouble after all the other possible culprits mentioned above were fixed, and what a relief to find out it was a false alarm.

I just wish I could figure out how tires could casue such problem specially when diagnosing off the ground were theres no surface contact. Other than uneven wear there were no i visible imperfections on the tires.
When the tires were replaced the guys working on the van installed all the wheels back on their original place so I don't think it was a rim issue. First time that ever happens to me and man what a noodle scratcher!

12-01-2008, 01:12 AM
I have a similar vibration with my 2000 windstar. Vibration seems to come from center of engine compartment, no play in tires, no variation in noise/vibration turning left or right, had tires rotated and balanced. Went so far as to put the spare on both sides front wheels. Sounds like a bad wheel bearing but no symtom points to that. What I have found is there is alot of play up/down on the left side inner shaft where it enters into the transmission. Both sides seem to have play. Left front tire seems to have some resistance compared to right side when tires is off the ground and rotated in neutral. The noise/vibration has gotten progressively worse. Use to be between 40 and 60 mph but starts around 25 and gets quite noisy by the time I reach 40 mph. Is it possible there is a bearing on the output shaft of the transmission that is bad? Anyone have any ideas? I have about 107,000 miles with the 3.8l engine. Thanks

12-01-2008, 05:09 PM
My suggestion would be that if you know someone with a Ford, Kincoln or mecury vehicle that has the same wheels (rims and tires) as your van, then try and swap with their tires and test drive and see if you noise changes or moves to the other vehicle!

I wish I would've doen that first as I threw a lot of parts, time and money thinking it was something mechanical wrong with the drivetrain and it turned out to be the tires all along. Also, the noises I was experiencing led me to believe it was mechanical just like you as it even made the same noise with the tires off the ground in a lift.
Do that first and post back with the results

12-01-2008, 07:12 PM
I removed both front wheels and replaced them with the spare tire, no change in the noise and vibration. Also, with the tire rotation I would think if it was a tire that the noise would have followed the tire?

12-02-2008, 01:21 PM
So did I so when I rotated the tires, but the noise didn't follow the tires, so I figured it had to be mechanical (tranny, CV Joint or wheel bearing).

Then after putting new inner and outer tie rods the noise actually got louder and vibrated more as the van was standing a little taller than before. Finally when I replaced the tires the noise was eliminated completely. So ride hight might also play some part into this dillema...

12-03-2008, 01:16 AM
I put new tires on last February. I think they're bridgstone tires. I had brought the tires back in because I could feel a slight vibration at highway speeds. They rebalanced and rotated the tires but it didn't help. About the june time frame while on a trip to CT from VT I started to hear the low pitched hum and from that point on it gradually got to the point where it is now. I would really like it to be the tires since they are under warranty. I just dont have access to other tires to test. There were vibration issues prior to the tire change. What brand tires were you using? Why wouldn't this vibration be picked up while balancing? I don't get it!

12-03-2008, 08:53 AM
Tires have many subtle ways to make noise other than being out of balance. Several times I have been unhappy with many brands, both foreign and domestic, that were "supposed" to be fantastic ... and had all the rave reviews from know-nothing writers who just needed to fill up a page in some auto rag.

For a good ride on the street, I have settled on two brands and will buy nothing else hereafter: Continental and Michelin. Paying a little extra up front money for the best product always seems to work... and usually saves in overall costs.

Toasted master
06-21-2009, 09:29 PM
I seem to have a very similar type of problem on my Taurus with 152K km.
There is a hummming vibration that starts about 40 kph and gets worse as velocity increases. In my case noise/vibration seems to come slightly to left of vehicle center. With weight on the wheels I find almost 1/8th inch vertical play near ourside bearing on right and left transaxel. As with another here I can detect looseness at point where transaxels enter tranny.

Reading down the above threads from the top I was thinking problem must be in the tranny. But very interested see that even something like tire design may be the driving force behind the shaking.

I plan to replace both transaxels but will also look at hubs and tires. Will post shortly if solution/cause is interesting.

06-22-2009, 02:00 AM
I didn't quite follow. Is the vertical play in the bearings inside the transaxle where the axles enter it? I had similar play there but it was mostly the splines off the axle that had become worn and sloppy. I had enough vibration issues and play in the CV joints that I replaced it. It helped some, but I also had an out of round tire that caused vibration problems. I verified the tightness of the wheel hub bearings as not part of the problem. This I did by jacking the tires off the ground only one at a time. Then grasping the tire at it's top and bottom and rock it. You may need a second person to do this to be sure any looseness is not from a bad lower ball joint or the tie rod ends, though the tie rod ends are usually only detected loose when rocking side to side, not top to bottom. I put my hands on the components or between the parts and a known solid part to verify its looseness. For the wheel bearing, I put my finger between the CV joint and/or the ABS exciter ring and the body of the steering knuckle assembly. There will be some looseness with the bearing as would be expected at the age of your car, but verifying if it is bearing wear and its not too much, rotate the tire and recheck for looseness. It tends to go away when you rotate the tire, but will return with enough wiggling. You'd think rotating it by hand would be noisy or rough if the bearings are bad, but I think because it is unloaded when you spin it, the symptoms aren't apparent as many have found.

Toasted master
06-24-2009, 06:48 PM
I dont have any looseness in the actual joints. Splines where axels enter the transmission are in perfect shape.

Turns out my drive axels were both okay. The vertical play is normal. I upgraded to a pair of newer certified axel shafts but noise is still the same. I also tried driving with a different set of michelin winter tires on alloy winter rims. The sound is identical.

Unless I am missing something I think only the tranny is left. I heard elsewhere that near the end of its life the differential can become noisy. I have noticed that when the differential is active like in curves the noise changes. For example, during a long gradual curve to the right at 50 km/hr the noise was much less.

Tomorrow I will ask a garage I trust to tell me what they think it is.

06-25-2009, 12:55 AM
Have you tried switching to neutral to see if the noise loudness/intensity changes?

I would drive it on a level straight road to were the noise is at it's peak, and then switch the tranny to neutral, let off the gas pedal and let it coast and see if the noise changes. Also a bad differential will change noise pitch when it's pulling (on the gas) and when dragging (off the gas) something to consider when doing this test!

To tell you the truth, if your old axles were fine, I doubt that your differential is damaged...

When you had the axles out did you check/spin the wheel bearings to check for proper clearance play and noise? In your case it seems you have a bearing issue!

06-25-2009, 03:26 AM
Ditto on everything Ed said. You may be able to get the wheel bearings to complain by turning left and right on a quite, no gravel, parking lot. Have you checked for noise or looseness in the wheel bearings? What I meant by the axle splines is I could take the axle at the trans and wobble it side to side, up and down. I believe it allowed and contributed to the vibration I was getting. The new one is much tighter. To help narrow down a vibration and noise I had, I put the front of the car up with the tires off the ground VERY securely, chocked and blocked everything, and had someone run the drive many different ways including taking it out of D into N to see if the trans was involved. I used different listening devices to the trans, the steering knuckle next to the wheel bearings, etc., to help pinpoint the noise, vibration, ie. very long screwdriver or pry bar, mechanics stethoscope, long piece of hose.

06-25-2009, 11:30 AM
Also make sure all the motor and tranny mounts are in good shape... a bad motor mount could throw the engine out of allignment with the body and causing it to act up aswell!

As a side note:
when I put my van off the ground and ran the engine/tranny the noise/vibration stayed the same, which to me seemed to indicate I had a mechanical part failure (either tranny, axle or wheel bearing), but at the end turned out to be the tires... I'm still scratching my head about it and cannot explain it, even my mechanic an ex-Ford tech put it on a lift and thought it was the tranny going, so just be carefull and certain on your analysis.

06-25-2009, 06:42 PM
Reading the generic wheel bearing check process on AlldataDIY, have the front tires set to point straight ahead, raise front end so that the tires are off the ground.
See if the wheels rotate freely (no brake drag) (I am guessing that the transmission is in neutral at this point).

Spin wheel and feel for any signs of roughness.
Grasp the tire at the top with one hand and the bottom with the other hand.....and while lifting slightly to remove the weight of the tire from the wheel bearing, push inward and pull outward to check for excess play.....

If the wheel is loose on the hub, does not spin freely, or has a roughness when spun....then the wheel bearing is suspect.

Repair process for front wheel bearing on the windstar (sealed) is to replace the hub assembly.

Toasted master
06-26-2009, 08:52 AM
Wheel bearings are very nice solid spin well no shake or roughness.

I have tried shifting into neutral at various conditions sound remains roughly the same. Leads me to think its the differential and not one of the gears.

I drained the transmission fluid and it was pretty dirty. Somehow this was neglected for over 70000 km because the fluid always looked very clean on the dip stick.

This is the first thing I have done which has helped the noise. It still feels like there is a vibration and humming especially 45 to 60 km/hr. But it goes away at higher speeds and now it is only noticable when windows are closed and airconditioning fan is off.

I am wondering if changing fluid again -- draining only takes half the dirty fluid away -- in about 15,000 km will help.

I will take the car to a garage I trust and see how serious they think it is.

Toasted master
06-26-2009, 02:54 PM
I took it to a garage that I trust.

After a short test drive the mechanic said "Your wheel bearing is bad."

I was skeptical because I had spun them with the transaxels out and the the wheels off and they seemed solid and smooth. (I know several of you above said you can't tell buy hand.) I also ran the wheels with the car jacked up but my set up did not feel secure enough to go at the speed that the noise is present.

Anyway, the mechanic ran the following test: Jacked one drive wheel up with the other wheel fixed on the ground. Then accelerated to 40 km/h (ie wheel that is up goes twice this speed). With left wheel up no noise. When repeated with right wheel up instead the loud buzzing sound was there.

I guess this proves that the differential is fine and the right wheel bearing is the problem.

I guess I was just fooling myself myself when I thought sound was less when I changed the transmission fluid.:banghead:

Thanks for all your help. Especially those of you who said to check the wheel bearings on the car.

06-27-2009, 04:55 AM
Hmm, I'll have to try to remember again what your mechanic did, because I knew about what he did but didn't remember it to tell you about it. Did you get to hear it yourself at the wheel?

On your trans, if you still are concerned about it, there are additives like by Lucas that will thicken and who knows what else to help with the noise, etc. There is a method for removing and flushing all of the old trans fluid that can be found with a search of this or the Taurus forum. Basically it involves disconnecting the trans cooling return line from the radiator (the bottom line) from which you will catch all of the trans fluid by using the trans pump to pump itself out, turning the engine off immediately when the fluid stops coming out. Drop the pan to get the last of it, then put it back on. Then fill up the trans with new fluid, I'm thinking 12 qts., then start the engine again and pump out the fluid again watching for the new fluid to come out. At that point, turn it off. You may want to add fluid at the same rate as it's pumped out so not to go too low. I think turning on and off the engine could accomplish this if you're by yourself, without interfering with getting all of the old fluid out and not wasting too much of the new.

Toasted master
06-27-2009, 07:49 PM
I was in the passenger seat and I could hear the noise easily.
The garage owner was at the wheel while the mechanic who inspected the car jacked up one front wheel then the other.

Now that I think about it I had a lower knuckle replaced on same side about 6 months ago. Maybe the bad wheel bearing also damaged the knuckle.

Thanks for the method of draining the transmission fully.

06-27-2009, 08:52 PM
Actually the reverse is probably what happened. The rattling lower ball joint would have been like taking a hammer to the wheel bearings tapping them every time you went over any roughness in the road as they are solidly connected to each other through the knuckle assembly. This action would cause imperfections or tiny little indentations in the inner and outer races and the ball or roller bearings inbetween, which would then cause the bearings to start to over heat and eventually drying up all the grease resulting in a noisy and failing, dry bearing.

For flushing, try this site. Even though it's for the Taurus, they have nearly an exact setup.
How to Flush your transmission at home - Taurus Car Club Maintenance and Modification Wiki (

07-14-2009, 03:27 AM
Old dead thread, but I too had this problem (loud roaring, sounds like I have 33" Super Swamper tires mounted on my front rh rim) Changed my bearing, 2.5 hours. Noise is GONE. Wasted $241.00 on new set of front tires. Bought wheel bearing for $160.00 (price to pay for living in middle of ocean). re-installed everything except new cotter pin for tie-rod (41 lbs/ft). I even had to re-use retainer (spindle nut, just added lock tight - 185 lbs/ft) because parts store gave me wrong one. I'm going to dealer for that tomorrow.
I narrowed problem down by using the one-tire-up/one-tire-down method (just like Toasted master's mechanic did) Don't forget to use lock-tight (blue) on three hub assy bolts (85 lbs/ft). I even used it on my caliper mounting bolts.
I was going to tap the three rotor mounting holes since my new hub had standard thread, my original screws are metric, but decided against it. The 3 aluminum counter-sunk screws aide in assembly. Installed new LH rotor 20k ago that didn't even have holes for screws. Make sure you torque tire properly.

rusting relics
12-18-2014, 05:48 PM
This thread may be old, but it's not dead. Great info here, very helpful. I was experiencing the same harmonic vibrations. I did the one wheel up at a time test, along with driving in a circle, first right, then left to isolate the noise location. It was the right front wheel bearing hub assembly. Easy fix! Thanks for all the helpful info.:smile:

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