Jim Grant's Tech Tips
‘97 Nissan Quest, Noisy Wheel
Q: I have this problem that has befuddled two repair shops I thought were good. My ’97 Nissan Quest has a high pitched whine/squeal coming from the front right wheel when I go forward. There is no noise going in reverse. Brake pads are okay, the rotors were replaced and the noise is still there. At crawl speed, it sounds intermittent (like one spot of the wheel hits something, makes the noise, then comes back around the next cycle and repeats). Any suggestions? Greatly appreciate any light you can shed on this.
Maybe it isn’t the brakes making the noise. I had this 4-wheel drive Ford Ranger come into the shop once, that you’d just about swear there was a brake problem. A very distinct rotational type squeak/noise was coming from one of the front wheels. The brakes were removed and inspected, no problem found. The slides and mounting points were all cleaned and lubed. The brake pads were checked for some sort of foreign object imbedded in the friction material, none were found. The brakes were reassembled and the vehicle was test driven. After all of that, the squeak seemed louder. The offending wheel was removed with all the wheels jacked off the floor (4-wheel drive after all). The engine was started and the transmission was placed in gear. The moment the offending wheel started turning, sure enough there was that rotational squeak coming from the brakes. The noise would even change, as the brakes were applied further indicating a brake related problem. Apart it all came again. The brake pads, rotor and even the brake caliper were removed from the vehicle for inspection. As before there was no explanation for the noise. When it comes to seemingly simple problems that should have simple answers it doesn’t take too long for me to lose it. I have much better control when dealing with more complex situations. After a burst of verbal self reflecting, my hell or high water set in. Which led to, why not just leave the brakes off the darn truck! Which was the right answer! Starting the Ranger up and placing it in gear the wheels were allowed to rotate. Wouldn’t you just know, the noise was still there. The problem was not the brakes at all. It turned out that the wheel bearing’s seal was failing or had some sort of dirt/debris in it. A blast of WD-40 to just the right area of the bearing and hub assembly killed the noise. Why did stepping on the brakes stop the noise before? The brakes loaded the bearing in just the right manner to stop the noise. The front wheel bearing/hub assembly are not serviceable in many of today’s vehicles, they’re replaced as an assembly. A Ford Ranger is no different. The fix for the brake noise turned out to be a wheel bearing/hub assembly. They may have been good shops that looked at your front end, I think they just didn’t get mad enough to find the cause for (what might or may not be) a brake noise in your vehicle.