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When driving I can sometimes hear a metal noise coming from the tire. It can be intermittent or continuous, like a brake part or a bad bearing. It doesn't sound like road noise or something stuck in the tire.

I'm having trouble identifying which part specifically, and have limited access to tools or a shop. What ways can I inspect my wheel in my driveway while moving?

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All of these methods involve raising a car into the air. You should be familiar with the safety requirements of working near a lifted vehicle. Have appropriate jacks and jack stands, and someone to check in on you on a regular basis to make sure you are ok.

Very slow speed (0-5 MPH/KPH)

If the noise is apparent at very slow speed (1 - 2 MPH/KPH) then you can rotate the tire by hand to try and mimic the motion.

  1. Park the car on level ground.
  2. Chock the wheel diagonal to the problem wheel.
  3. Jack up the problem wheel.
  4. Place a jack stand under an appropriate structural element.
  5. Lower the vehicle onto the jack stand.

Now you need to determine how to make the wheel spin freely.

  • If the wheel is not a drive wheel it might already spin freely. Do so, and try to determine the source of your noise. If it doesn't spin release the parking brake.
  • Front-wheel drive vehicles should have the parking brake set. Shift the vehicle into neutral and the wheel should spin. If it still fails to spin, you might have found your mechanical problem.
  • Rear-wheel drive vehicles should have the parking brake released and be shifted into neutral.
  • All wheel drive vehicles might require lifting all four wheels to spin freely.

Slow speed (5-15 MPH/5-25 KPH)

There is a procedure you can perform in your own driveway with a spare tire jack to get a better idea of what is going on. This is not a safe procedure, you should do this with someone to help operate the vehicle, and with slow and methodical movements.

Requirements:

  • Person to operate the car/make sure you don't get hurt.
  • Two wheel drive car, where the problem wheel is one of the driven wheels.
  • Non-limited slip differential. Drive wheels should be capable of freely spinning independently of one another.
  • Parking brake which only activates the rear wheel brakes.
  • Bad tire is a drive wheel.

If your vehicle does not meet these requirements this procedure is not for you. See if you can replicate the noise with the very slow speed steps, or defer to a mechanic.

If your vehicle fits these requirements you can perform the following steps to get a closer look at the noise while the car is stationary.

Here are these instructions in video form.

  1. Park the car on level ground.
  2. Apply the parking brake if it's FWD.
  3. Chock the tire diagonal to the problem tire. If it is RWD, chock both front tires.
  4. Jack up the problem tire.
  5. Place a jack stand underneath an appropriate structural element.
  6. Lower the vehicle onto the jack stand.

Your vehicle should now have the problem tire in the air. Have your operator slowly and carefully enter the vehicle and follow these steps.

  1. Start the vehicle.
  2. If equipped, disable traction control on your vehicle.
  3. Apply the brake. Do not release the parking brake.
  4. Place the vehicle in drive (or first, if a manual).
  5. Very slowly let off the brake and allow the wheel in the air to spin. Do not apply gas unless you need a small amount of additional speed, it will spin plenty on its own.
  6. Inspect the tire for obvious sources of noise. It will be spinning with some speed. Have the operator slowly apply the brake if you need it to spin slower. Do not touch the tire.
  7. Shift into neutral.
  8. Slowly apply the brake.
  9. Shift into park, turn off the car.

Higher speeds

At this point you need to appropriately secure the vehicle to stationary objects and lift the vehicle with better equipment than simple jack stands. Jack stands are not built for large lateral forces.

In the event the vehicle falls to the ground, drive wheels could propel the vehicle into an object, vastly increasing the problems with your car. This is where you talk to a mechanic and pay for the diagnostic fee.

  • If your car has traction control, your slow speed test should be avoided. – HandyHowie Oct 22 '15 at 10:28
  • Note that some noises might not be reproducible without the full weight and momentum of the car, but this is a good first step. – JPhi1618 Oct 22 '15 at 14:31
  • HandyHowie Added step for traction control. All of my vehicles pre-date the concept. @JPhi1618 This is true, but overall this procedure has helped me figure out differences between brake noises and bearing noises several times. – MrDoom Oct 22 '15 at 14:34

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