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Thomas A
09-04-2009, 12:11 AM
After doing some reading and giving it some thought, I am fairly certain that my 1996 Thunderbird (171k) is due for some new front wheel bearings. I was hoping to get a second opinion before buying any parts and tearing into it.

HISTORY:
I have had a slight shake develop in the steering wheel over the past month or so. I installed some used tires with good tread that were balanced, and the shake became much worse. Tire shop said they were perfectly balanced, but the tires had run out. While the tires have 80% tread, they are 9 years old! Didn't realize that till I installed them. The only reason I mention this is because I think the shaking has added extra stress to the front end components.

Also, I replaced all the rotors/pads on the car last week. The caliper pins were in bad shape (had to replace one as it was completely siezed), so I cleaned and greased all of them. The car stops great, and doesn't pull at all, and the brakes are not sticking like they had when I first installed them before correcting the pin issue. However, the passenger side brakes did get pretty hot before I got the issue resolved. I mention this as I am sure the extra heat shortened the life of the wheel bearing significantly, and the noise showed up after this.

SYMPTOMS:
Here is the actual issue, that has me thinking wheel bearing problems. After the car has been driven a few miles(5+ or so), the car develops a loud, high pitched squeaking noise from the front. It is in time with the rotation of the wheel, increasing in frequency the faster the car is moving. (Think "Squeak..........Squeak......Squeak.....Squeak...Sq ueak..Squeak.Squeak.Squeak")

As soon as I apply the brakes at all, the noise goes away, and promptly returns when the brakes are released. The noise goes away when turning, or even if I turn the wheel back and forth going down the street. As soon as the car is heading straight again, the noise is there. I'm thinking that braking or turning shifts the load from the wheels, thus reducing the stress and reliving the noise??

CLIFF NOTES:
Loud rotational Squeaking Noise from front.
Goes away when braking or turning.
Only appears after driving 5+ miles

So, any thoughts? I feel fairly confident the front wheel bearings need to be replaced, but want to be sure. I suppose it could be a brake issue considering the recent history of brake work and the noise showing up shortly after that.

Thomas

XR7 Dave
09-04-2009, 07:59 AM
Jack it up and check the front wheels for free play. A bad bearing will have play in it. Also rotate the tire as fast as you can with your hands. Better yet, take the caliper off and put the tire back on and spin it. You'll feel and hear a bad bearing.

Generally squeaking is not actually the bearing making noise but the fact that the noise changes when you "do" something is a function of the rotor shifting in relation to the brake pads. Typically it's the brake pads that are squeaking, not the bearings.

S_Mazza
09-04-2009, 10:13 AM
Thomas, I am 99.44% sure that you have hit it on the head. Bad wheel bearing. Either the bearing wore out and let the pads shift and drag until the brakes were bad, or the pad dragged and overheated the bearing, or both. Dave's post is right on. It's very easy to check. You don't even need to take the tire off. If you can make the wheel "clunk" by twisting the tire, then it's probably the bearing. Double-check that there is no movement at the ball joints or tie rods, however.

You may or may not have seen the post, but I just went through the exact same symptoms with the right rear wheel on my Thunderbird. Squeak, squeak, squeak. :mad: I swapped out the hub, bearing and pads and managed to save the rotor. :)

ricardoa1
09-04-2009, 10:53 AM
As mentioned Jack it up, I had a instant failure yesterday. Made all the cool noises, then I jacked it up last night and confirmed the play. 50 bux for a mustang hub I think the bird hubs are more like 70bux. I have mine on order coming from NY.

Fronts are somewhat easy rears you need a press to get the hub on the bearing.

S_Mazza
09-04-2009, 11:21 AM
I checked it out on Rockauto ... the prices are from $55 to $72 for front hubs. Even from Ford, they're not too expensive.

Thomas A
09-08-2009, 11:15 PM
Thanks for the responses. I meant to reply to this sooner, but forgot about it until tonight. I checked the wheels for play when I was working on the brakes, and again this weekend. The feel tight. I turned the wheels over by hand and discovered the passenger side brakes are still dragging slightly. I am now thinking it is more of a brake related issue. I'm just going to drive it a bit to see if the brake drag will cure itself after the pads wear a bit. :rolleyes:

Thomas

decipha
09-09-2009, 12:16 AM
ignoring a problem and thinking it will cure itself is often a recipe for sadness

Thomas A
09-09-2009, 08:07 AM
I'll be keeping an eye on it to see if it gets any worse. When I get a chance I'll pull the calipers to inspect them, and re-seat the pads. I don't think I'm in any immediate danger, so it should be alright. But yes, I do agree. ;)

Thomas

XR7 Dave
09-09-2009, 08:07 AM
ignoring a problem and thinking it will cure itself is often a recipe for sadness

Awesome quote. :D

S_Mazza
09-09-2009, 09:40 AM
Did you see the thread where I mentioned that some of the brake pads I have gotten lately are too long and bind in the brackets? You might want to check on that and file them to fit if necessary.

Thomas A
09-09-2009, 07:50 PM
I missed that actually. I will have to take a look at it. Thanks for the heads up.

Thomas

dode
09-11-2009, 02:13 PM
I just did this last week for basically the same symptoms, only mine was probably a little louder than yours.

Do yourself a favor though and order them from rockauto or somewhere and get timkens. I got one from the local parts store and when I pulled it out of the box to put it on, it scared me it was such a ~~~. I had an old one that I pulled off of a car at the pick n pull a few years ago and I used it instead. It felt much better than the new one for sure.

John

Thomas A
09-11-2009, 08:32 PM
Yeah, I was planning to buy them from Rock Auto, or I might even use a set of used ones from my Cougar that seemed to be in pretty decent shape. I'll have to wait and see what I end up doing.

Thomas

bigpoppa822
09-16-2009, 08:57 AM
I checked it out on Rockauto ... the prices are from $55 to $72 for front hubs. Even from Ford, they're not too expensive.

I just looked myself (on Rockauto) and it says they're $130, where did you find your price? I need one myself and would much rather pay $55 than $130.

S_Mazza
09-16-2009, 09:57 AM
If you are looking for your 1990, that would explain the price difference. The 89-90 wheel hubs and brake rotors are slightly different from the 91-97 ones. The center hole is a slightly different diameter (I forget if it is larger or smaller). It's completely okay to swap to the later hubs; however, you would need to swap rotors also to allow the rotors to center on the hub as designed. I swapped over a few years ago because of the price difference. I think the relative rarity of the 89-90 version means the later ones are much cheaper because of economies of scale.

Actually, this reminds me ... I need to leave a note to remind myself that I don't have 1990 hubs and rotors for the next time I have to buy them. :)