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My 05 Honda Civic steering wheel started vibrating and making loud noises from the front driver side wheel. The noise and the vibrations do increase as the vehicle gets to higher speeds. My first thoughts were that it was a regular wheel bearing that needs to replaced. I lifted the driver side of the vehicle just to be sure and put the vehicle in gear while listening for the noise. The noise seemed to be coming more from the transmission side than it was from the wheel. The axle also seemed to vibrate a lot. When trying to shake the wheel with my hands I did not find any extra play that would pinpoint to a wheel bearing

I am still unsure if it is a C.V that needs to be replaced because as far as I know C.V axles usually only make noises when turning or accelerating but the noise happens even during straight line driving. So can C.V axles be the cause of this kind of noise and vibrations? or is it a bearing issue that is just pronouncing its effects on the C.V axle too?

One last thing I want to add is the previous owner had the wrong tire size on the rear driver side. Unknownst to me, I have driven the vehicle like this for the past 5000 miles before getting my tires replaced. If that was part of the issue could that help identify which part is bad?

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I would use a "listening stick" - long screwdrivers work or a stethoscope...

Both of which I have used with success, but identifying noise and isolating exactly which is responsible is an arcane art and mistakes are still possible...

  • It certainly is a bit of an art. A piece of tube works well as a stethoscope – GdD Jul 1 at 7:29
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    Although I don't know how you'd use a solid listening stick on a rotational part. – Huesmann Jul 3 at 13:48
  • @Huesmann many rotational parts are fitted into parts that don't rotate... That tends to be the whole point... – Solar Mike Jul 3 at 13:56
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Differentiating between wheel bearing noise and CV joint noise is difficult. Several times, I have replaced wheel bearings at the owner's direction, only to find later that the problem was the CV joint.

With the wheel up, I would see if there is ANY play in the wheel horizontally or vertically. If not, my experience would say that it is more probable that the problem is a CV joint. But that is not a given, and I have seen no statistics from any studies or papers on the topic.

I assume that you have side loaded the wheels by observing the noise in turns, and if possible on sloped roadways.

Passive IR thermometer might be better at flagging the heat from a failing bearing, if you can stop the vehicle without brakes for testing. A stethoscope is problematic in that the bearing and the CV joint are tightly coupled through the hub, and take makes differentiating the source...either the bearing on the outside of the hub, or the CV joint on the inside of the hub, all tightly held together by a big nut with a splined shaft, all torqued tightly together.

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@mongo offered a very good answer on how to do it in the most proper way. But when I drove my car after it being parked for a while I could tell immediately that it was the wheal bearing (which has been replaced since and fixed the problem). I guess I could say I experienced some sort of sensory adaptation that made me unable to recognize the noise of a typical wheel bearing. If anyone is searching this question for future reference I would honestly recommend you to just try to figure out what type of noises each make because in my experience they are very distinctive (hypocritical since I am asking this question but genuinely do not know how I missed it while being so obvious)

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