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Old 04-22-2017, 07:44 PM   #1
Rochester
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1995 SL1
Default Noise from rear wheel. Wheel bearings going?

I've heard some noise while driving around, and it sounds (although my hearing is not the greatest) as if it is coming from the right rear wheel well. It sounds like a repetitive clicking or tapping, and its speed is proportional to the speed of the car (makes sense for a wheel noise). I hear it more at low speeds, but that could be because the increased engine or road noise drowns it out at higher speeds. It comes and goes, but it seems to be more common when braking, and each click corresponds (sometimes) to a tiny but noticeable vibration in the brake pedal when I'm braking.

At first, I thought this last feature pointed to the brakes - even though I did a rear brake job a few months ago - so I took the wheel off to inspect it. I couldn't find anything wrong with the brakes. They looked fine - no loose or broken springs, no chunks of brake shoe material rattling around, nothing out of place. Then I took hold of the little wheel that the lug nuts are attached to, and spun it - and I heard the noise again. Click, click, click.

When I put the tire back on, I spun it with moderate force and the rotation completely wore away in a few seconds. I tried raising the left rear tire for comparison, and when I spun it, it kept spinning for three or four times longer with the same force imparted. I could hear the same clicking noise coming from that wheel, although it was quieter.

This makes me think that the brakes are fine but the rear wheel bearings, after 22 years and 270,000 miles, are getting ready to crap out, and the right one has reached the point where it is beginning to resist being turned. The vibration that I'm feeling with each click could simply be mechanically transmitted through the brakes when they are applied, rather than starting there. Does this sound right to you guys? Is there anything else I should test, anything obvious that I've missed?

Replacing them doesn't look too difficult, if I can get the bolts off (haven't tried yet). Are these bolts known for being extremely difficult to remove? None of the auto parts stores in town have them in stock, so it would be at least a week before I can replace them. Can the wheels make it that long (assuming I'm right about the bearings?) If not, I'll be taking the bus! If it was you, would you replace just the right one, or assume that the left one could go bad any day and replace it too?

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Old 04-23-2017, 09:59 AM   #2
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Default Re: Noise from rear wheel. Wheel bearings going?

if you have the original wheel bearings after 270,000 miles you did well. Just jack the rear of the car up and get the wheels off the ground. Leave the wheels on. Try and move the wheel by pulling sideways and up and down. It should not have any play in it. Also, I found when my rear wheel bearings went, the noise was louder when I went around corners above 40 mph as more pressure was placed on them. Just go on youtube and search for "testing rear wheel bearings", there are lots of videos.

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Old 04-23-2017, 10:17 AM   #3
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Default Re: Noise from rear wheel. Wheel bearings going?

The most annoying part of the bolts isn't just that they tend to be rather stuck after 5-10 years on there but that they're nearly impossible to get to and only have a 10mm hex head that despite being better than a grade 8 bolt just isn't big enough for the torque often required. At least the holes are "through & through" so you can soak in your favorite rust penetrate (if you use standard WD-40 you need a head slap...lol) for a while before hand. Also helps having some kind of torch, even a cheap 100% propane torch (~$15) works but it'll take a long while to heat the area enough to do anything.

You'll also probably have to bash the bearing out, if you can save the threads on the lug studs you can pop those out and have 4 on hand in-case of future "oops"

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Old 04-25-2017, 01:28 PM   #4
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Default Re: Noise from rear wheel. Wheel bearings going?

For some reason, the car stopped making the loud clicking noise some time over the last day or so. It's very faint now. I'm still going to do the test this weekend.

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Old 05-09-2017, 03:11 AM   #5
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Default Re: Noise from rear wheel. Wheel bearings going?

I waited for better weather to make the test. Check out this 30-second video...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8ackEU_4I4

Notice how the right wheel's spin wears away faster than the left wheel's, both wheels are making the clicking sound (difficult to hear except in the close up middle section).

I could not detect any play in either wheel, though. If I shook them, the whole car would shake, but not the wheel.

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Old 05-20-2017, 07:11 PM   #6
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Default Re: Noise from rear wheel. Wheel bearings going?

Ok, so I was going to take the bearing off, just to make sure I am capable of taking it off, before spending the money on a new bearing. I was surprised at how easily the bolts came out, a little penetrating oil was all they needed. But now the bearing itself is still stuck in there, and I've been prying on it and beating on it for half an hour, and I haven't budged it the merest fraction of an inch. Beating on it is made harder by the limited swinging room behind it and by that plastic clip on the back that I've been taking care to beat around - knowing my luck, I'd probably smash the clip and then still be unable to remove the bearing.

I'm about ready to take a sledgehammer to it. Is there any better option that's not destructive, just in case I have to continue to use the bearing for another week?

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Old 05-20-2017, 08:31 PM   #7
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Default Re: Noise from rear wheel. Wheel bearings going?

EDIT: Never mind - I got the bearing out, with a little help from my neighbor, but destroyed it in the process. Picking up the new bearing tomorrow.

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Old 05-23-2017, 12:49 AM   #8
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Default Re: Noise from rear wheel. Wheel bearings going?

All done! I put the new bearing on Sunday and drove to work and back today and the wheel didn't fall off, and I didn't hear the noises nor feel the vibrations, so I'm calling it good! And now I know what to do if/when the left one goes.

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