Suspect bad wheel bearing. 2003 Dodge Ram 1500 4x4. 4.7L 106,000

Boomer

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Make
Dodge
Model
Ram 1500
Year
2003
Miles
106,000
Engine
4.7
Took the truck for a test drive today. The sound doesn't appear until 50-55 mph. It's a pretty loud rumble though. When I turn the wheel slightly right while driving at 55, the noise goes away. If I turn the wheel left, there is no change. I was told by a mechanic years ago that indicated which side the bad bearing was on. I can't remember if that indicates front right or left?

I jacked it up and didn't notice extreme play in either front wheel. I forgot to do the spin test though. The tires are all in good shape.

My questions are, do you agree with the wheel bearing diagnosis? Did the disappearing sound nail down which side it's on? Should I even attempt to change just the bearing or bite the bullet and change the whole hub assembly?
 

billr

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I tried to go into <charm.li> for info on this beast, but could not get in. will try again tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, I urge you to raise the wheels off the ground and spin them with the engine. Besides the bearings, there are also CV joints and such that can change sound when turning L/R.

I don't think the noise change, turning L/R, is reliable for telling just what the noise is from or even from which side.

If you don't find anything obvious by spinning the wheels, I would swap them front/rear and see what that does. Tires can look just fine, but have internal damage/defects that result in odd noises...
 

billr

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Charm came up OK this morning. It looks like there are two different versions of that assembly, either three or four screws holding the hub to the knuckle. Changing the whole hub looks fairly easy for either. I saw no info on doing just the bearings alone. If you can afford the down-time, I suggest trying to disassemble the hub (remove bearings and seals) before buying parts. If it turns out to tricky to do, then buy a whole hub.

Both versions require pretty fierce torque on the axle nut. The 3-screw hub is 185 ft-lb, and the 4-screw is 263 ft-lb.

Again, I would check some more to try verifying which component is noisy.
 

Boomer

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Charm came up OK this morning. It looks like there are two different versions of that assembly, either three or four screws holding the hub to the knuckle. Changing the whole hub looks fairly easy for either. I saw no info on doing just the bearings alone. If you can afford the down-time, I suggest trying to disassemble the hub (remove bearings and seals) before buying parts. If it turns out to tricky to do, then buy a whole hub.

Both versions require pretty fierce torque on the axle nut. The 3-screw hub is 185 ft-lb, and the 4-screw is 263 ft-lb.

Again, I would check some more to try verifying which component is noisy.
Thank you very much, Bill. I reckon it is a good idea to troubleshoot more. I can rotate the tires (meaning front to back and criss cross the fronts) since that is a recommended procedure anyway. While I have the wheels off, I should be able to rotate the hubs and listen for noise beyond just the noise the pads make. I can also rotate each tire by hand before taking the wheel off and listen.
 

Boomer

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Load makes the bearing talk.
So I’m imagining that turning the wheel slightly right loads the right side more than the left. Since the noise went away when moving the wheel right, that indicates the problem is likely front left. Do I have that right?
 

billr

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I don't think you can tell, with much confidence, which side is causing the noise from whether the wheels are turned L or R when the noise happens. I started to write a long explanation of my reasoning, but it is far too complicated for me to bother. Either accept my opinion as having some merit, and do more investigation, or take the gamble. Relying on that "L/R" bit should give you a 50-100% chance of being correct, no matter whether I am right or wrong.

Rotate the hubs/shafts with the wheels on and lug-nuts tight. That will ensure the rotors are positioned normally and the hub flange is distorted normally. These are probably minor effects, but why add them to the mix? It is not only easy to do, but allows you to rotate things faster since the tire OD is a much better handle for manually rotating. Of course, far better would be driving the wheels with the engine. I doubt you can get the wheels over 5 mph trying by hand.

Keep in mind that with weight off the wheels the suspension geometry is not normal, so loads and noises may not be the same as when driving.

Does this have coil springs? Hold your finger lightly on one of the spring coils when rotating things. Often, a harmonic vibration in the spring can be felt if there is roughness in the bearings/axle that the spring is connected to.
 

Boomer

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I don't think you can tell, with much confidence, which side is causing the noise from whether the wheels are turned L or R when the noise happens. I started to write a long explanation of my reasoning, but it is far too complicated for me to bother. Either accept my opinion as having some merit, and do more investigation, or take the gamble. Relying on that "L/R" bit should give you a 50-100% chance of being correct, no matter whether I am right or wrong.

Rotate the hubs/shafts with the wheels on and lug-nuts tight. That will ensure the rotors are positioned normally and the hub flange is distorted normally. These are probably minor effects, but why add them to the mix? It is not only easy to do, but allows you to rotate things faster since the tire OD is a much better handle for manually rotating. Of course, far better would be driving the wheels with the engine. I doubt you can get the wheels over 5 mph trying by hand.

Keep in mind that with weight off the wheels the suspension geometry is not normal, so loads and noises may not be the same as when driving.

Does this have coil springs? Hold your finger lightly on one of the spring coils when rotating things. Often, a harmonic vibration in the spring can be felt if there is roughness in the bearings/axle that the spring is connected to.
Thanks Bill. I will check these things out before getting parts. I’m hoping to do some checking this weekend
 

Boomer

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I was able to check the truck out on Sunday. I jacked it up and put it in 4WD so I could get the wheels spinning fast. I used my mechanics stethoscope and listened to the steering knuckle. The passenger side sounded fairly quiet. The driver side however was howling loudly. I'm confident that it's the wheel bearing. I'm just going to replace the entire hub assembly. I feel like it will be easier. I'll pay the extra money. The axle nut is 35mm if anyone is wondering. I also noticed the lower ball joint boot is in bad shape. I am going to replace that too while I am at it.
 

Boomer

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Well I worked on the truck today. I changed the lower ball joint and the hub bearing assembly on the drivers (left) side. What a bear. That hub was seized into the aluminum steering knuckle so hard. It took forever to get out. The lower ball joint also came out hard. Fortunately I had stopped last night at Autozone and rented the ball joint press. It was definitely needed. It wasn't quite big enough to press the new one in. I thought putting the new one in would be easy but, no such luck. Instead of using one of attachments on the tool, I had a thick piece of steel laying around in the garage. It was thinner than tool part so I had enough room to use that to screw down on while pulling the new joint up in there. It was tough the whole way but, I got it.

It wasn't a fun job at all but, after road testing I can happily report that it is :fixed: Thanks for the help as always!
 
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