How do YOU diagnose a bad front wheel bearing on a 4x4?

Discussion in 'General Chevy & GM Tech Questions' started by Pikey, Nov 15, 2012.

  1. Pikey

    Pikey Moderator Staff Member 5+ Years ROTM Winner 5000 Posts

    I am getting a vibration in my front right tire on my 05 yukon xl 4x4. I had the tires rotated and balanced, the vibration is still there. It only happens at 65mph or above. IF I take the truck up to 90mph, I get a loud howl from the right front. Not at 89mph, it must be at 90. I jacked it up and attempted to wiggle the tire and get nothing. I have also loosened the axle nut while it was lifted and attempted to move the tire, still nothing. I have seen really bad wheel bearings not move with the nut tight, but as soon as you loosen it then it wiggles all over. It could be the CV shaft. I am not sure. How do YOU diagnose a bad wheel bearing? I hope that some of the guys like @RayVoy have some tricks for this. Do you have any other ideas what my vibration may be? I would rather not just throw a CV shaft on and find out that it is the bearing or vise versa. Thanks Guys!
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2012
  2. RayVoy

    RayVoy Epic Member 5+ Years 5000 Posts

    Hey Pikey, thanks for the vote of confidence. Over the years, I have found that front wheel bearings usually get noisy around 40 mph and usually, only when turning. There was a time, when it would be the outside wheel (in a turn) that had the bad bearing, because the weight had transferred to the outside wheels; but in the Envoy, the inside wheel was the one that needed the bearing, and your right, it can usually be felt when moving the wheel from side to side.

    A CV joint should make a louder noise when you turn figure eights, noisy when on the inside.

    If your getting the noise in a straight line (and, no louder when turning), I'd suspect a bad tire.

    Could it be wind noise? Maybe something being vibrated by the wind.
  3. Pikey

    Pikey Moderator Staff Member 5+ Years ROTM Winner 5000 Posts

    I thought it was a bad tire at first. The tires that came on it were a set of Michelin but they were pretty worn. I put a new set of Michelin on it and the noise continued. I rotated the tires and the noise is still in the same spot. The front diff was replaced with one from a truck with 50k miles on it. The noise is when I am driving straight. I am not getting any noise when I turn in parking lots. I guess that it could be wind noise. But, I would figure that it would happen with wind then also. We had a few weeks when we had sustained winds of 20 mph and gusts of 45-50mph. I would figure that me driving 70 mph straight into a 20 mph wind would equal 90mph of wind speed going into my front end. That is not including the gusts that pushed my truck all over the place like it was a billboard not bolted to anything! I have crawled under there and checked everything out already. But maybe I will check it out again. Thanks for the suggestion.
  4. Sierraowner5.3

    Sierraowner5.3 Epic Member 5+ Years 1000 Posts

    might be something else loose thats just vibrating at certain rpms for some reason.

    this is a stumper.

  5. RayVoy

    RayVoy Epic Member 5+ Years 5000 Posts

    Years ago, tire shops had a rolling wheel spinner. Rather than take off the wheels to look for one that might be out of balance, the mechanic would lift the front and push this spinner up against the tire and run up the rpm (any tire that vibrated would then come off to be balanced).

    I haven't seen one in years, but if you could find one it might help to narrow it down.

    Your tire swaps would also eliminate a bent wheel. I wonder if the rotor could be catching some wind and acting like a whistle.

    BTW, what are you doing driving 90 mph, and giving us these headaches, hahaha

    Just thinking, the 4x4 trucks have a front passenger side axle disconnect to keep the diff and front driveshaft from turning while in 2wd, This assembly is (and I know you know how this works, just for someone reading this later) composed of 2 half axles, sometimes called a drive axle and a stub axle, I wonder if there might be a bad bearing in this area.
  6. Pikey

    Pikey Moderator Staff Member 5+ Years ROTM Winner 5000 Posts

    It could a bearing in the disconnect as you stated. But, it made the exact same noise before and after I had the front diff swapped out. They swapped the entire diff, just left the CV shafts. So, unless my diff with 140,000 miles and the diff with 50,000 miles have the same issue I hope that I have ruled out a diff issue. I would love to find one of those machines. I will have to look around. I took the truck up to 90 about 3 weeks after buying it. It was because I felt a vibration and wanted to see if I could make it worse, so I could diagnose it. After that I had not driven that fast until about 2 weeks ago. My wife had a doctors appt at 11:30, I had to pick our son up at 11:15, figured that if anything happened I could get to her doctors office in 15 minutes. Well, they got her in early and decided to do an ultrasound. I did not want to miss the first ultrasound with this child so I hauled @$$ to get there in time. That is what reignited my interest in finding the cause of the noise
  7. Bigg G

    Bigg G Member

    My 2001 Silverado Z-71 started making a continous howl noise while making slight left & left hand turns (truck leans right) and eventually starting howling all the time while driving 40mph - faster . After doing some researching online and having my buddy check it out we knew immediatly the right side bearings were toasted. I bought a pair of knew hub assemblies and had him install the right side and she rides quieter than a Caddy Fleetwood. My buddy's a full time certified GM Mechanic and the parts plus the fix cost me a little less than $140.00.
  8. Pikey

    Pikey Moderator Staff Member 5+ Years ROTM Winner 5000 Posts

    What you are describing is a classic wheel bearing noise. Mine could be going out, it just makes the noise at 90. It will eventually get worse and I will fix it. I was hoping to get it diagnosed and fixed asap as my warranty ends in 3000 miles and it would be covered under the warranty

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