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Rumbling, groaning sound from front of car

Discussion in 'Neon' started by AllanC, Sep 21, 2013.

  1. AllanC

    AllanC Well-Known Member

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    I have a 2003 Dodge Neon SE 4 door sedan with 2.0 liter 4 cylinder engine and 40TE automatic transaxle (4 speed). Odometer is showing about 233, 800 miles. I have started to notice a rumbling and groaning sound from the front of the car. It is most noticeable at speeds under 15 mph and when making turns and accelerating. Also if you are driving straight and go through a significant dip or mound that makes the front suspension move up or down the groaning sound is present. I have had squeaks in the front suspension for years and I believe that is attributable to age and wear and dirt in the rubber like front suspension bushings. I can push the front end of the car up and down and flex the front suspension but I do not get a groaning sound. But this latest sound is new and different.

    I checked the power steering system and added 2 ounces of fluid as it was slightly low but that did not eliminate the groaning. I placed the vehicle on ramps and tried to wiggle each front drive shaft (left and right) at the wheel end and at the transmission end and I noticed no undue movement. With each front wheel suspended off the ground I turned each front wheel slowly and I did not hear any scraping, grinding or groaning sounds.

    I looked at the engine mounts and the rubber inserts do not appear to be torn. I can drive at 70 mph on a smooth highway and if the front suspension is not moving up and down I experience no vibration in the steering wheel or vehicle.

    So I am somewhat stumped. I replaced the left and right front axle bearings 1 year ago at 202,000 miles so I do not think it is a problem with the front wheel bearings. The drive shafts are original to the car and the boots are intact and not ripped. But 200,000 + miles on a front wheel driveshaft might be pushing it though I drove a 1989 Plymouth Acclaim to 240,000 miles before replacing the front axle shafts as preventative maintenance.

    Thoughts???
     
  2. ImperialCrown

    Level III Supporter

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    Control arm bushings can make noises over bumps and cause a loose feeling in the steering. Look for an arm resting on the crossmember bracket like this: Drivers-ControlBushing1_zps976e02c0.jpg
    If the rumbling is a driving noise, it could be wheel bearings or possibly a sawtooth treadwear pattern? The next time the car is on a lift, have them start it and put it in gear and accelerate to 15 mph to see if they can duplicate the noise. If the noise is present, try to locate it.
     
  3. AllanC

    AllanC Well-Known Member

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    I like this idea. With no load on the front tires the suspension will be in a lower position and the angles at the driveshaft joints will be more severe. If there is a problem with the drive shafts, this might help to pinpoint. I raised each front wheel separately and turned the wheel slowly but maybe a little higher rotation speed is in order. Thanks.
     
  4. ImperialCrown

    Level III Supporter

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    Allan, you can also do this on jackstands on a level and firm driveway with the rear wheels chocked and the parking brake on. Remember safety first. Listen for the 'rumble' at each front wheel hub.
    Inner axle joints usually cause a 'shake' or 'shudder' while driving. The right inner joint is only a couple of inches from the hot catalyst and the grease does cook and harden after a few years.
    Outer axle joints usually 'clatter' or 'click' on turns, especially under acceleration loads when they are articulated left or right in lower-speed parking lot-type situations.
     
  5. AllanC

    AllanC Well-Known Member

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    I had thought about raising the front end and placing the transmission in gear and then letting the wheels spin and see if the noise occurs. I am a little apprehensive of raising and blocking the front with drive wheels free, putting the vehicle in gear and then exiting the cabin with front wheels spinning to listen for a noise. As you said one has to be careful and do this safely. If I can get a helper to sit in the vehicle with foot poised to press the brake pedal immediately if needed then I might try this test.

    I had not thought about the close proximity of the right inner joint to the catalytic converter. Cooked axle grease can really harden and NOT provide lubrication. I would tend to think that the inner tripod type joint would have a tendency to fail with the needle and/or ball bearings in each one of the pod rollers. Something definitely worth checking.
     
  6. ImperialCrown

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    Yes, a helper is useful here.
     
  7. rapidtrans

    rapidtrans Well-Known Member

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    I've given up chasing down all the noises my Neon's front suspension makes. Mine's a 2002 SXT 2.0 with 122k.
    I have experienced an intermittent binding or groaning sound, similar to yours, that goes away after an alignment.
    You don't mention the age of the front struts. As long as everything is fairly tight meaning safe, i'll live with the noises
    as it's a second car.

    A shoulder shrug and "hey, it's a Neon" are the most common responses from mechs that have worked on the vehicle.
     
  8. ImperialCrown

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    Neon suspension/steering should be quiet. If you can make it make the noise, then the noise can be found with the assistance of a helper. Finding it is sometimes 90% of the repair.
    Left/right? Floor level/Dash level?
    Tight should be quiet, Binding can be noisy. You shouldn't have to 'live with it' if you desire not to.
     
  9. pdqneon

    pdqneon New Member

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    AllanC,
    Did you figure this out?
     
  10. AllanC

    AllanC Well-Known Member

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    I replaced the engine / transmission support on driver's side of car. That helped just a little bit on the noise. I replaced the torque strut bushing on the upper and lower torque struts near the crankshaft pulley. That made no difference in the noise. I decided to live with the noise until the time approached in year 2014 to replace the timing belt. When replacing the timing belt you must remove the right (passenger) side engine bracket. With that removed you have access to the right engine support mounted on the frame rail. I replaced that mount and the noise disappeared.
     
  11. pdqneon

    pdqneon New Member

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    Good deal. I'll take a look.
     

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