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Old 08-06-2012, 01:13 PM   #1
trizzuth
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Help me diagnose this WA-WA-WA noise..(SOLVED!)

Here's the deal, started hearing a noise goes "waaa-waaa-waaa-waaa" almost like there is a bubble in one of my tires and ever revolution it hits the pavement and makes subtle noise. Items of note:

Frequency of WAA-WAA-WAA gets faster with speed, but not with engine speed.

Just removed all four 18's from my car one by one and replaced them with my 17's. noise still there, although not as loud due to the thicker sidewalls on the 17's. (no idea why that matters here).

So it's not a tire or wheel issue.

I thought it may be a wheel bearing, but I watched a bunch of vids of bad wheel bearing noises and I do not get any of those. With the car jacked up, I can spin the wheels freely and the only sound I get is the occasional rotor scraping pad noise.

I do not get any feedback into the steering wheel from this noise. Stepping on the brakes does not make it worse, nor does it make it go away. Pads and rotors and brakes are 100% fine, all suspension is 100% tight up front.

Noise seems like it may be coming from the front right passenger side.

I am thinking possibly Guibo, so I will check that, but I checked that last year when re-fitting my exhaust and it looked great.

What the heck is this mystery noise and where is it coming from? It is not loud enough for me to record on video, so don't ask...

Starts to become audible around 30-40mph, gets increasingly faster as I go faster, and once I am on the highway I can't really hear it anymore. All windows must be up and radio off to hear this wierd vibrating noise.

WTF! it was not there before.. any ideas?
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Old 08-06-2012, 01:32 PM   #2
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Sounds like you are describing a wheel bearing. What I've experienced myself is that you can attenuate a bearing sound by taking a sweeping turn at speed...if it's rt. side bearing gone bad, a left hand sweep would make the waa-waa louder.

The bearing is built into the front hub, so the repair is easier than doing a rear wheel bearing.

You might want to bring along a passenger to listen on that side...and maybe confirm it's the front. It's not always easy to tell front from rear when driving.
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Old 08-06-2012, 01:32 PM   #3
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Edited because dmax beat me to the punch.
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Old 08-06-2012, 01:34 PM   #4
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Can you reproduce the noise while stopped in your driveway just by revving the engine? I know you mention it starts at speed, but, just trying to troubleshoot here...
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Old 08-06-2012, 01:40 PM   #5
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Sorry...I'll try to type slower next time!

Trizz, also, you can't always hear wheel bearings by just spinning them...there's not much load on them then.

BTW, when I started to hear mine go bad...been brewing for a few months maybe...I called it a whoop whooping.

When I saw the race of the bearing, it was scored only imperceptibly...maybe 1 mm wide, .1 mm deep, and 5 mm long. I was actually quite surprised that the defect in bearing was so slight.

Also, I wonder if at speed, the grease loosens up enough inside to quiet things down...just like when our pulleys go bad...they begin to be bad only when cold, but eventually they make noise all the time.
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Old 08-06-2012, 01:50 PM   #6
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Can you reproduce the noise while stopped in your driveway just by revving the engine? I know you mention it starts at speed, but, just trying to troubleshoot here...
cannot reproduce sound with car in driveway and revving engine..

Quote:
Originally Posted by dmax View Post
Sorry...I'll try to type slower next time!

Trizz, also, you can't always hear wheel bearings by just spinning them...there's not much load on them then.

BTW, when I started to hear mine go bad...been brewing for a few months maybe...I called it a whoop whooping.

When I saw the race of the bearing, it was scored only imperceptibly...maybe 1 mm wide, .1 mm deep, and 5 mm long. I was actually quite surprised that the defect in bearing was so slight.

Also, I wonder if at speed, the grease loosens up enough inside to quiet things down...just like when our pulleys go bad...they begin to be bad only when cold, but eventually they make noise all the time.
good point about the bearing needing to be under load to hear the noise.. car is at 160K and I've driven her hard around the corners and already replaced the suspension twice, so it does make sense.. Also I thought that once you get to a higher speed, the rpm's of the wheel get so high and it's spinning so fast that the subtle noise may just go away due to the speed of the wheel bearing.. wierd thing is that it doesn't really matter if it's cold or warm (not that it's been even remotely cold lately though, UG).

Just checked Guibo and all rear drive shafts/diff and everything looks great and is tight.

Next up, i will try the Dmax method of a hard sweeping left hand turn and listen to see if the noise gets louder. Then I will repeat with a hard sweeping right hand turn and listen for the same things... thanks for the advice!
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Old 08-06-2012, 02:26 PM   #7
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Wheel bearings are famous for noise in these cars along with drive shaft center support bearings and guibo. Also make sure the exhaust hangers are not compressed and the exhaust touching anything under the car.

You need to spend about $15 for one of these -

http://www.amazon.com/Lisle-52500-Me.../dp/B0002SQYSM

You can easily compare side to side and most likely isolate your problem easily with a mechanics stethoscope. Wheel bearing are best tested under load, but with a stethoscope, usually under no load you can hear the coffee grinder noise when spinning the wheel while probing the hub with the end of the stethoscope.
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Old 08-06-2012, 02:30 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by jfoj View Post
Wheel bearings are famous for noise in these cars along with drive shaft center support bearings and guibo. Also make sure the exhaust hangers are not compressed and the exhaust touching anything under the car.

You need to spend about $15 for one of these -

http://www.amazon.com/Lisle-52500-Me.../dp/B0002SQYSM

You can easily compare side to sit and most likely isolate your problem easily with a mechanics stethoscope. Wheel bearing are best tested under load, but with a stethoscope, usually under no load you can hear the coffee grinder noise when spinning the wheel.
always wanted one of those, but that one looks like there is no way i could be in the cabin, with that thing out the window, pointed near the bearing whilst the wheel is spinning, so it doesn't get all sorts of tangled up, and actually put it in my ears to listen to..

no coffee grinder noise with no load from what I can tell, however since the pads slightly tough the rotors, i'd have to remove the calipers to really get a good listen to the bearings. Maybe that is what I will try next.. Or the sweeping turns as Doug mentioned.
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Old 08-06-2012, 03:28 PM   #9
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... however since the pads slightly tough the rotors...
This?
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Old 08-06-2012, 03:39 PM   #10
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Even though you vote not tires, I still vote tires. Only other thing could be the wheel bearing. Though both would happen gradually over time and not suddenly. Just pop the wheels and spin the rotor by hand. does it sound metal on metal-y?
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Old 08-06-2012, 07:37 PM   #11
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Not tires, already swapped them all and noise is still there. My best bet is to remove both front calipers and then rotate the rotor to see if I hear any grinding inside the wheel bearing.. That will eliminate any of the pad/rotor rubbing that I was hearing.

Do not think it has to do with pads or rotors because it should be more noticeable when I step on the brake slightly and I should feel it through the steering wheel a little bit, and I get neither..
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Old 08-06-2012, 07:42 PM   #12
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Sounds like dub step
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Old 08-06-2012, 07:46 PM   #13
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heres what you do to determine if its a wheel bearing (most of the time this works): jack up the car until the suspect wheel is about an inch off the ground then put a prybar between the wheel and the ground and pry the tire up towards the sky (carefully). if it moves at all or seems loose in any way you need a wheel bearing. if not keep hunting, hope this helps.
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Old 08-06-2012, 07:47 PM   #14
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sounds like dub step
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Old 08-06-2012, 07:52 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by trizzuth View Post
I can spin the wheels freely and the only sound I get is the occasional rotor scraping pad noise... any ideas?
That occasional pad/rotor scraping sound could explain your waa-waa noise. so could a kid in your back seat.

Edit: new to bmw, but most cars you can grease your front wheel bearings, and adjust preload. Can you do this on bmw? Your occasional rotor scraping could be due to slightly loose wheel bearings. Or rust on the rotors.

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Old 08-06-2012, 08:30 PM   #16
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All E46/E39 and most other BMW wheel bearings are sealed units that do not have pre-load. They are caged units.

Brake noise likely to go away with light brake pedal application.

Could be exhaust touching part of the body or a cross member.

If the exhaust was modified and resonator removed, it could be exhaust drone.
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Old 08-07-2012, 11:53 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by jfoj View Post
All E46/E39 and most other BMW wheel bearings are sealed units that do not have pre-load. They are caged units.

Brake noise likely to go away with light brake pedal application.

Could be exhaust touching part of the body or a cross member.

If the exhaust was modified and resonator removed, it could be exhaust drone.
mmmmmmmmm UUC TSE3 no drone

still think it might be the bearing, too f'n hot outside now to even want to go remove that caliper.
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Old 08-09-2012, 09:51 AM   #18
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I am having the exact noise problem you are describing. Mine appears to be coming from the rear. Was told tire(s) at first and since the tires were getting close to the end of their time, I replaced those. Noise still there and has gotten a little louder recently. My local repair guys are now telling me its either one or both of the rear wheel bearings, but they cannot be sure which. Mine also makes no noise spinning freely on the lift. Makes sense that the noise would only be under load. Suggestion for me is to drive some more till it gets louder and they can be sure which side to replace.....or I could fork out the cash and do both sides. The stethescope idea is an interesting one.
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Old 08-09-2012, 09:53 AM   #19
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I am having the exact noise problem you are describing. Mine appears to be coming from the rear. Was told tire(s) at first and since the tires were getting close to the end of their time, I replaced those. Noise still there and has gotten a little louder recently. My local repair guys are now telling me its either one or both of the rear wheel bearings, but they cannot be sure which. Mine also makes no noise spinning freely on the lift. Makes sense that the noise would only be under load. Suggestion for me is to drive some more till it gets louder and they can be sure which side to replace.....or I could fork out the cash and do both sides. The stethescope idea is an interesting one.
yeah, stethoscope would probably help you identify which one it is before it gets worse..

I wonder if the stethoscope my parents gave my kids for their birthday would work? It is a legit MD steth.. but does not have the long probing rod, just has the normal steth bottom with the flat black circular diaphragm..
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Old 08-09-2012, 10:45 AM   #20
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Add a section of hose to the end of stethoscope. I still love my 1" diameter flexible electrician's conduit...and being 5' long, allows me to get to places I otherwise couldn't.

Almost always with bearings, they go in pairs within a close period of time...unless you took a hard hit on one side or the other...in which case you'd have a bent wheel rim to show for it...and probably the same in the front.
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