We are a team of ASE certified mechanics that have created this guide to help
you save money while doing the job yourself, or at least see what you are paying
for when having the job done at a shop. As some road noise is normal when
driving, a distinctive whirring sound is not. This sound is trying to tell you a
problem is occurring which will get worse and if not addressed and corrected can
cause a breakdown. Fortunately there are only a handful of things that can cause
whirring sounds which may increase or decrease with the speed of the vehicle.
What Goes Wrong?
The first thing in determining how to fix the problem is to find out where the
noise is coming from and what conditions affect the noise such as; Is the car hot
or cold? Are you driving at higher speeds or turning a corner? This will narrow
the problem down and help us get the repair done.
What's the Cost?
Costs on the repair will all depend on the problem. If the problem is a simple
tire rotation then a local garage can do the job for between $28.00 and $42.00 (US)
and some will even do the job for free with the intent to check your brakes and
possibly get an additional repair out of it. In other cases like an axle bearing
hub replacement the cost will run between $50.00 and $100.00 (US) for the parts.
A shop or dealer will charge between 1.2 and 1.5 hours depending on the manufacturer.
If exact labor times or procedures are needed you can ask
our experts to supply you with the information (free), but this guide will be
sufficient in most cases.
Let's Jump In!
When a tire becomes scalloped or cupped the tread pattern is uneven which
at speeds over 30 mph can cause a whirring sensation in either the front or
the rear of the car. To check for this problem pass your hand over the tire's
tread during the inspection, it should be relatively smooth. If extreme high
and low points exist, the tire is cupped and needs to be rotated from front
to back or replaced depending on the severity. Causes for this tire problem
include bad alignment, tires out of balance,
shock replacement or
Axle bearings or bearing hubs are responsible for allowing the vehicle to
roll smoothly upon the wheels of the vehicle. When these bearings fail the metal
from the roller will get caught within a race of the bearing and create a whirring
noise that generally shows up over 30 mph. If the noise is being generated from
the front of the car, a bearing hub failure can be confirmed by turning the
wheel slightly from right to left. If the noise changes or goes away in one
direction but returns or gets louder in the opposite direction, one of the front
bearing hubs is bad. A quick way of checking for a failed bearing hub is to
safely lift the vehicle
so there is no weight on the suspected bearing and wheel. Grasp the tire with
both hands and shake it back and forth, and top to bottom. If the wheel seems
loose the wheel bearing hub needs
replacement, on older cars the
bearings will need replacing.
Power steering fluid is used inside the steering system to help assist the
driver to steer the front wheels. When this fluid becomes low or when it needs
to be flushed it will create a whirring noise while the engine is running. For
this problem it doesn't matter how fast the car is being driven because the
pump pressure is maintained by using a pressure regulator inside the pump housing.
This whirring noise will change as the steering wheel is moved in either direction.
To check this problem remove the steering pump fluid reservoir lid and inspect
the fluid level and color. If the level is low, add fluid to the full line and
check the system for leaks. If the fluid is full but it looks and smells burnt,
a power steering fluid flush
When a power steering pump fails it can do so by allowing air to enter the
steering fluid when the engine is running. This air causes a whirring sound
which is present when the fluid is full and when the fluid is in good shape.
To check for this condition, start the engine and allow it to run for 2 minutes.
Then remove the reservoir cap, using a flashlight, check to see if the fluid
has small air bubbles signaling the
steering pump has gone
bad and needs replacement.
If a whirring noise is coming from the center of the vehicle (rear wheel
drive) or in the front near the transmission (front wheel drive) with an automatic
transmission it could have a clogged transmission filter. The noise may change
with engine speed and will be generated with the car moving or not. When this
filter clogs up the transmission pump scavenges for fluid causing the whirring
noise, this problem can be fixed by
servicing the transmission
When the rear or front differential oil level is low whirring sounds can
be generated as the metal of the differential is lacking lubrication. To check
for this problem jack the
car up using jack stands and
check the fluid level.
If the fluid level and axle bearings are okay then the gear set could have worn
out which will be indicated by metal shavings in the oil. This problem typically
happens on high mileage cars and trucks and can only be fixed by replacing the
ring and pinion gear or complete differential unit.