1998 Ford Windstar Whirring noise inside car

Tiny
MYTHEDGE
  • MEMBER
  • 1998 FORD WINDSTAR
  • 3.7L
  • 6 CYL
  • FWD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 166,000 MILES
I have a 1998 Ford Windstar with 166k miles on it. I have recently replaced the power steering pump, the tension pulley, the serpentine belt, the idler pulley, brakes and rotors and radiator thermometer. I have a whirring noise that can be heard when driving with windows up. I have stood outside and had a friend drive the vehicle up and down the street and you can't hear it outside the car. I have been chasing this sound for awhile and it is why I have replaced so many parts.

At first I thought it would be (and might still be) the wheel bearings. If I turn the wheel to the right, the noise goes away. Depending on speed tho, I have to turn it farther. At lower speeds I almost have to turn right to get the car to stop making the sound. At highway speeds I can change lanes and it will stop until centered. I presume it could be the front left wheel bearing. I removed the tires, brake caliper, rotors and the hub assembly didn't move to much. Just a very slight movement. I know that the bearings are sealed and unable to be checked visually but I thought the assembly would rock a little bit if the bearings did start to go. This was / is my primary suspect but I thought bearings started to make noise when the car was put up past around 30 mph. If I idle down the street from a stop with no gas you can hear the noise after a few seconds.

My second option is the pressure line on the power steering pump. Even if this isn't the sound I'm hearing it still drives me crazy. With the hood up you can hear it making a noise. This is what caused me to change the original power steering pump. After flushing it still made noise when turning and the sound was there. I have replaced the power steering pump itself 3 times in the past month thinking that I was getting a bad part but even tho it doesn't make noise when turning the pressure line still makes noise.

If I take a screwdriver and place it on the metal pressure line you can hear the vibration / sound. It also sounds like it is coming from inside the power steering pump if I place the screwdriver on the back of the pump near the fittings. I'm very sure it has something to do with the pump or fittings at the pump. The farther away from the pump I listen at, the fainter the sound. I have flushed my power steering lines a few times and replaced the fluid with Mercon V as stated by Ford. The vibration noise won't go away tho. I don't have to replace fluid and can't see any leakage of steering fluid. I have also lifted the front end and turned wheels lock to lock to try to get air, if any, out. No bubbles or froth are in the fluid. I have no issues turning and the wheel does float, it turns and responds quickly.

I mention the thermometer only because I had to disconnect the IAC and throttle body. When putting back together I did not replace the gasket on the throttle body itself but I did clean the gunk off of the inside. I know this is a quick / cheap fix and will be doing it later this week when I have some free time but could it just be air getting sucked in and causing it to groan? Would air leak at this point even cause an issue in the pressure line for power steering? Either way I am going to replace the seal but it doesn't make sense.

I am also going to try rotating the tires to see if it causes any changes in the noise.

More details:
It doesn't make a sound when the car isn't moving.
It usually kicks in when car hits about 10-15mph
It gets louder as car picks up speed but once I hit about 50mph it stops getting louder. Even if I push car up to 90 it won't get louder.
It sounds like I have an exhaust tip on when I get up to speed.
If I let go of the gas it still makes the sound, flooring the pedal also causes no change. It is a separate sound from the engine.
If I let the engine slow me down instead of using the brakes, it sounds louder than if I slowed with brakes. It almost feels like something is rubbing but I can't see anything touching tires, rods, brakes etc. Everything is free moving.
Turning on the A/C doesn't change the sound.

I can't think of anything else that might help with a diagnosis.
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Saturday, June 28th, 2014 AT 12:16 PM

6 Replies

Tiny
HMAC300
  • EXPERT
Go to an empty parking lot an drive in a cirle lh then rh. Dependingon which way you drive will make the sound increase. In other words if you drive lh the rh side is the one making the noise which in this case it sounds like.
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Sunday, June 29th, 2014 AT 8:13 AM
Tiny
MYTHEDGE
  • MEMBER
Yes, it does make noise when turning left. So I should go with the right front bearing then? Should I just pay to have it done or is it within reason to change the bearing and the hub assembly myself? Is there a way to press the bearing in myself or will I need a machine shop to do the press? Thank you for your quick response also.
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Sunday, June 29th, 2014 AT 9:28 AM
Tiny
HMAC300
  • EXPERT
Because this bearing has to be pressed into steering knuckle it is best to have a pro do this.
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Sunday, June 29th, 2014 AT 11:05 AM
Tiny
MYTHEDGE
  • MEMBER
The bearing press yes, but what about the actual installation and removal? I was going to get the hub assembly and bearing, have a machine shop do the press then go home and remove the tire and complete the work. Is that not a valid assumption?
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Monday, June 30th, 2014 AT 6:58 AM
Tiny
HMAC300
  • EXPERT
You can if you want but the whole steering knuckle on that side as well as brakes need to be removed then the wheel bearing has to be pressed out and back in again. See pic.
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Monday, June 30th, 2014 AT 7:03 AM
Tiny
MYTHEDGE
  • MEMBER
Ok. I finally found a video showing how to do the pressed in bearings. I was having a hard time imaginging it because all the videos I was looking at initially was showing a hub assembly instead of a pressed in bearing.

So remove tire, brake rotors and calipers. Remove all sensors. Remove lower ball bearing joint and steering knuckle. Bring parts to shop to press and put everything back together. Thank you for your time in this matter.
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Monday, June 30th, 2014 AT 8:03 AM

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