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What a worn wheel bearing sounds like...
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chinarider
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2003 3:08 pm    Post subject: What a worn wheel bearing sounds like... Reply with quote

Had a rather scary experience over the weekend in my 73 Thing. My wife and I were driving up to Saratoga Springs, NY, to catch The Dead. I just got the Thing back from the shop earlier that morning. I had a faulty valve spring replaced, and wanted the shop owner to see if he could find the source of a metal-on-metal grinding noise I had heard randomly twice before. He couldn't get it to make the noise during a 20 mile test drive. Figures. Doesn't it always go down that way?

Anyway, off I went. BTW, starting out, I could feel a slight vibration coming through the brake pedal when I broke hard. Since I had just gotten new tires, I figured they were just adjusting to their positions on the car. Of course, that wasn't the case. About an hour into our trip, we heard an odd sound for just a split second. It sounded like touching a piece of metal to a spinning grinding wheel. It also sounded like wind coming through a slightly open window, so I thought it may have been a wind shift affecting the soft top. I should mention that I started to feel a slight shake about this point too. It wasn't shaking steadily - only every now and then, and at higher speeds (60-65).

About a half-hour later, we heard the same noise. Then again once more about 15 mins later. I needed gas, so I pulled off the highway. After gassing her up, I looked around and underneath the car to see if anything was obviously wrong. Now, to both my wife and I, it sounded like the noise was coming from the back of the car, so that's where I spent my time looking. Couldn't find anything obvious, and she seemed fine in the gas station lot, so off we went again.

Right after getting on the highway, the noise started again - this time in earnest. Every time a truck would pass, I'd have to compensate a little bit because of the wind they create. When I did this, I turned the wheel slightly to the left, and each time this happened, the noise would come on. It got progressively worse, and i could now feel a slight drag to the left everytime I heard it. Keeping the steering wheel straight and getting off the highway were my top concerns.

As I approached a toll both, we decided to take her off the highway, and look for a VW shop (fortunately, we were just entering Albany, and there were a bunch of shops nearby). As I slowed down approaching the tolls, the car lurched a bit towards the left, and made some horrible knocking/grinding sounds - this was getting bad. We pulled off at the first parking lot, and I had another look. Again, nothing obvious, and all the wheels felt normal (not hot, wobbly, etc.). Knowing something was way wrong I decided to take it real slow and look for an open shop. The noise was constant now - like a grinding that would clunk every now and then. Everytime it clunked, the steering would shift a bit, and I could feel some drag - like a brake jamming on one side.

As we were approaching a Mercury dealership, it was so bad that I decided to pull into their lot. Now, you know it's bad if I'm taking my Thing to dealer shop, and a Mercury one at that! As I slowed down to turn into their driveway - SCREEEEEEECH - one of my tires locked up! I was still sticking into the road a bit, so I put it in first and powered out - stuck wheel and all - and the wheel freed itself.

The dealership mechanics were actually very cool, and probably agreed to at least take a look simply for the novelty of looking at a Thing. Two of the guys had worked with VWs before - one in Germany. After getting it on the lift, they called me over to show me what was wrong. The front wheel was so loose that I thought they had loosened it up in order to take it off. Not the case - it was actually spinning loosely - the bearings completely fried. They had to cut the remains of the bearings off the spindle. They patched me up, got me on the road, and charged me surprisingly little - again, I think because they liked the Thing and felt sorry for us.

We made it to the shows, and then made it home without any problems. The rain was another story - vacuumed out at least an inch of standing water from inside the car after I got her home. Removed the battery and dried under there, then sprayed the entire pan with WD-40, just to be safe.

I'm now going to replace the entire driver's side steering knuckle, brakes, plates, etc. I think. Might do the passenger side too, if needed. Don't want to be in that situation again!
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 24, 2003 11:09 am    Post subject: What a worn wheel bearing sounds like... Reply with quote

i understand your pain, but i post a further question if anyone will reply. My 71 here in mexico blows out wheel bearing about once every three months. the roads arnt that bad, and i only use my thing intown. never carrying a bunch of wieght either. mostly it is the back drivers side wheel, anything you can think of that would cause this problem.?
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bljones
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 24, 2003 12:10 pm    Post subject: What a worn wheel bearing sounds like... Reply with quote

lack of lubrication, or a bad stub axle.
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chinarider
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 24, 2003 12:34 pm    Post subject: What a worn wheel bearing sounds like... Reply with quote

Mine might have been either a bad stub axle or insufficient lubrication. I say this because those same bearings were replaced about 400-500 miles ago! When they came off, there wasn't much greese remaining in there, but the heat may have cooked a lot of it off, The bearings were pretty much fused to my stub.
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 24, 2003 3:04 pm    Post subject: What a worn wheel bearing sounds like... Reply with quote

well if they blow again, i will have to look for a new stub axle becuase that has to be the issue. i replaced both bearings and the seals a week ago with plenty of lubrication. i am really happy right now though because i just lucked apon a working wiper motor for 15 dollars....benn looking for one for a year. you gotta love mexico.
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chinarider
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 25, 2003 8:11 am    Post subject: What a worn wheel bearing sounds like... Reply with quote

Wow, that's a great deal on a wiper motor!

Something else with these bearings - if they're not adjusted properly, the excess (or possibly insufficient) play can wear them down pretty quickly too. Muir describes how to adjust them pretty accurately.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 25, 2003 8:13 pm    Post subject: What a worn wheel bearing sounds like... Reply with quote

yeah found it in a tainges(flea market), looks used as heck but it works pretty well. the guy who had it didnt even know what it was for. going to sand it clean it up and hit it with some spray paint next week. i will try adjusting the bearings better before i buy a new stub axel. one of the great things about living in mexico is the fact that a lot of parts arnt super rare i have a great mechanic down here that all he works on is things and drives a great one himself. they will also fabricate anything for you at the drop of a hat. but it looks like i might be driving her home to the states shortly because i am thinking of tranfering. time to have fun importing her at the border.
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