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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
[EDIT: Since posting this thread, the issue has been resolved. What was once thought to be a possibly bad wheel bearing has turned out to just be a worn brake pad manifesting its sound in a weird way. If you have sounds similar to the below, make sure to check your bake pads before getting too worried it's something truly bad.]


In the last few weeks, I've been hearing a worrisome noise coming out of my beloved Insight while driving around. The sound is something like a grinding screeching noise. I have difficulty describing it: something along the lines of the sound you would hear from a spinning disk of metal if you were to apply another rod of metal against it while it spins. That description might make it seem worse than it is---I do not think the sound is in the "IMMINENT DANGER" kind of category, more of the "Deal with this in the next month" category.

The really weird thing is, the sound is extremely irregular. It often shows up after ten or twenty minutes of driving, hangs around for 1-5 minutes, then suddenly disappears for the rest of the drive. The sound has become more common over these past few weeks, but it's still far from regular.


While I know a little bit about cars, my father knows far more, so I've asked him about it. Going over the symptoms with him, he thinks it's probably a bad wheel bearing, although he can't be sure. I'm inclined to agree: the sound definitely fits my sense for a bad bearing.

Has anyone on the forum had a similar experience? Anyone had a bearing go bad on them that they had to replace? I searched the forums pretty extensively, but couldn't find much info on wheel bearings. I'd love to hear from anyone that can weigh in on the issue. Thanks very much.



Here's an extremely detailed run-down of the car and symptoms to assist diagnosis for anyone interested in helping.

History:
  • Car is a 2001, manual Insight.
  • Car has a little over 138,500 miles on it.
  • I purchased the car used in 2011. Previous owner took good care of it and gave it regular maintenance. Have continued to keep up regular maintenance and car is still in very good shape.
  • Car was originally purchased in Maryland, where it spent first ~4 years of life and ~40k miles [these figures are estimates from CARFAX report I got when purchasing]. Car then moved to Southern California where it has lived since. Considering its primary location, it is unlikely that salt/ice damage would be involved in anything.

Symptoms:
  • Metal grinding/buzzing sound. Difficult to describe. Sounds like the sound you would get from a quickly rotating disk of metal if you pushed another piece of metal against it.
  • Sound is loud, but not screechingly so. With the windows up, and music on at a reasonable volume, you can vaguely hear a high-pitched noise in the background. With the windows down, the sound becomes much more noticeable, but not to the point where it would drown out music or conversation, just very strongly present.
  • I am fairly sure that the sound is coming from the front, left (US driver's side) of the car. More sure about the left. [I've paid close attention to how the sound changes while passing reflective surfaces (like cars and walls) on both sides of the car.]
  • Sound appears sporadically while driving. Almost never present when first driving. It can take anywhere from 5-20 minutes of driving before noise will appear.
  • Sound does not last for remainder of drive. In every occurrence, the sound goes away after some point. The amount of time it can last varies, but never more than 5 minutes, usually closer to 2 or 3 minutes.
  • While present, sound is very consistent. If driving a constant speed, the sound stays the same, until suddenly disappearing. (Note that there is no sound associated with it disappearing, it's just gone all at once.)
  • Speed IS linked to the sound:
    • At high speeds (>40MPH), sound is (seemingly) continuous.
    • At middle speed (15-40MPH), possible to discern sound "squeaks" coming at a very high rate.
    • At low speed (10-15MPH), very clear that sound is "squeaking" on and off. While I can't be sure, it seemed like the sound was occurring at a specific rotation of the tire, and repeating whenever that part of the rotation came up. Slight increases or decreases to speed would correlate to slight changes in the sound rate.
    • At very low speed (<10MPH), the sound goes away entirely. It comes back once you get back up above ~10MPH.
  • Gear or transmission is NOT linked to the sound (or so I believe). The sound has appeared in highway driving at high speed, highway driving in traffic, and city driving. It has been heard in a variety of gears and in neutral. It has been heard when engine power has been going in to the wheels while driving uphill and on flat ground, and heard just the same when coasting on flat ground and going downhill in neutral.
  • Sound can be briefly caused by bumps in road. Going over rough sections of road or small bumps can cause a brief "squeaking" of the sound while the wheel is jostled. The noise caused sounds like a brief moment (~0.2s) of the sound described above.
  • While the bumps can cause "squeaks", they don't seem to cause the long stretch of sound first detailed. The bump "squeaks" can occur both before the long interlude of noise and after the noise has passed. I may have once or twice experienced a bump "squeak" transitioning into the long stretch of sound, but it is not common (if it has happened at all).
  • Steering does not seem to be linked to the sound. Both steering left and right does not seem to have any effect on the sound, either in modifying or causing it.
  • So far, there have been no issues with handling or driving in any way. The car continues to handle the same and it takes no extra "push" to keep up the same speed with or without the noise present. It is as if the car is completely unaffected, just making an awful sound.
Finally, starting just this week, it seems that the brakes have also started to be connected to the sound, although it's difficult to tell how much or in what way. It's possible that the brake pads just need to be replaced and the timing is coincidental. Or it's possible that there's more of a connection.
  • Occasionally, when using the brakes, I'll hear a squealing sound similar (although slightly different) to the originally described sound.
  • When the brake sound appears, the sound is the same regardless of how hard I push the brakes. Very light braking gets the same sound as actually pushing down on the brakes. (Excepting when I feather the brakes to purely get regen. But even just the slightest amount past feathering will cause the sound.)
  • Like with the original sound, the brake sound will come and go. When it happens, it starts before the original squealing sound, but it seems to disappear once the original squealing sound is gone.
  • There might be some link between the brake squealing and the original sound: once I start to hear the brakes squeal, the other sound will usually appear within 5 or so minutes.



Finally, some specific questions:
  • If anyone has replaced a wheel bearing, what brand did you go with? Were you happy with them? What was the part number?
  • Is the Insight wheel bearing identical to a more common Honda part, like a Civic wheel bearing?
  • Any special tips to the work in regards to an Insight? Or is it just like any other car in this regard?
  • If I'm swapping one bearing on the front, should I just go ahead and swap the bearing on the other side as well? Is it likely that the failure of one indicates the other is soon to go, or is it just totally random?
  • In some of the other threads, I saw people talking about swapping the entire wheel hub assembly instead of just the bearing itself: would there be a good reason to do that, assuming I can source the bearing alone?

Any help is very much appreciated. Thanks everybody. And I promise to update this once I know what's going on so future people can benefit from whatever we figure out here.
 

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Get your brakes looked at. My moms Civic had a randomly intermittent irregular sound coming from the wheel. Sounded like a needle being applied to a spinning metal disk. Her friend changed the brake pads and the sound went away. Not sure what specifically was the issue, but the brakes caused it.
 

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agree with checking the front pads. that may be the wear indicator rubbing on the disk. Jack up the car, and before pulling/loosening the tires give them a nice tug at the top, bottom, left and right to see if it has slop in it-if yes, worn bearing (make sure movment isnt the suspension parts). Then pull tire check the brakes and (if they are good) inspect the hub further by rotating it-it should be very smooth, no grease marks (indicating bad seal) and no noise.
 

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Go see SCOTT, in Covina Ca.
What part of LA.....It's a big place.

HTH
Willie
 

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Based on your description it sounds more like a brakes are down to the squeakers, as the others have said.

Wheel bearings do fail on the insights. In the past 10 months I have replaced 2 left front wheel bearings for other Insighters, one of which was in the last week.
Wheel bearing noise is not normally screeching, it normally is some what of a low rumble that changes with speed.

If you would like to bring it by for inspection, I would be happy to look at it for you. Please give me a call, I'm in Covina during the day at the shop, 909-605-3810.

Scott
 

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Check the aluminum splash guards. They corode around the bolts and become loose.
X2.

Aluminum under a steel bolt is not a good combination. Just begs for galvanic corrosion to occur.

If this is indeed the case, just use a pair of pliers to rip out the splash guard. Just had this happen on one of my Insights, and that was the "fix".
 

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Finally, some specific questions:
  • If anyone has replaced a wheel bearing, what brand did you go with? Were you happy with them? What was the part number?
  • Is the Insight wheel bearing identical to a more common Honda part, like a Civic wheel bearing?
  • Any special tips to the work in regards to an Insight? Or is it just like any other car in this regard?
  • If I'm swapping one bearing on the front, should I just go ahead and swap the bearing on the other side as well? Is it likely that the failure of one indicates the other is soon to go, or is it just totally random?
  • In some of the other threads, I saw people talking about swapping the entire wheel hub assembly instead of just the bearing itself: would there be a good reason to do that, assuming I can source the bearing alone?
I doubt that you have a wheel bearing issue, since your mileage is so low, but to answer your questions:

1. For the front I use OEM Honda bearings. Identical lifespan to the originals (250,000-400,000 miles) I have a Beck Arnley and a PRO bearing installed on one Insight, but no miles on them, so I can't say anything good or bad about them except that they were only US $40 and $25. For rears, use the cheapest that you can find. Timken and OEM Honda are one and the same, and for some reason I have been completely unable to get more than 100,000 miles out of either of them. Despite 500,000 from the originals. I have a set of Precision brand bearings that I will be trying next. About $55 a piece from Amazon.

2. No, the bearings are Insight specific.

3. The Insight bearings are just like any other car.

4. No need to replace the bearings in pairs. Just the one that is bad.

5. Replacing the whole bearing and hub assembly would be quicker, but more expensive since you would have to buy a new or used hub in addition to the bearing. Or, to save money, you could get a used hub assembly from a salvage yard. Otherwise, with a new bearing you have to press your old hub out of the old bearing and into the new one, which takes more time.
 

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Like others, I was going to say 'check the brake dust shields' ('splash guards', 'heat shields'). Or anything brake-related. A squeal as you describe doesn't fit a wheel bearing noise, plus you say the noise doesn't change when you turn, while it often does if it's a wheel bearing, particularly the front...
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Great, thanks for the recommendations. I'll be taking a look at the brakes tomorrow. I'll also check the aluminum splash guards, but I regularly look at those when I do oil changes, and all the underbody stuff seems to be in decent shape.

Hopefully it's just a simple matter of the brake pads needing to be swapped out and the sound surprising me. I'll report back at some point.
 

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When my rear bearing went the sound became so loud I put ear plugs in. Majestic had a set of rear bearings for replacement . So I ordered a set from them. After taking the old ones off we found only one of my rear bearings was bad but I replaced both at the same time. They had over 387 K miles on them.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
It looks like you guys were right: I took a look at the brakes on Monday, saw that the front left one was definitely getting into the wear indicator, and replaced both the front brake pads that day. I haven't heard a peep yet, so I'm almost certain that was what caused the sound in the first place. [I also resurfaced both rotors because they had some mild scratching. Nothing serious (and I don't think enough to explain the odd way the noise was created), but definitely good to surface them.]

Initially, it seemed to me like it couldn't be a brake pad issue because the way the squealing noise appeared was so strange. Having it show up before I was hearing noise related to braking was weird, and then the way it showed up for a few minutes after a long period of driving threw me as well. Still, as soon as my dad heard the noise, he was almost sure it was the brake pads going. This is my first car, so I didn't really know the sound of brake pads that need replacing until now.


Two more notes for anyone who searches up this thread in the future:
  • I noticed a strange sound in connection to braking while going in reverse. It wasn't the same as the high-pitched squeal, very different, but definitely connected to braking. If memory serves (it might not), sort of like a WHOOM WHOOM WHOOM sound. This is caused (I believe) by the way the brake pad wear indicator is designed: it's built to make a noise with the tire rotating in a certain direction. It's sort of like a very elongated U shape that gets pulled apart and scrapes when the pads get low enough. However, when you go backwards and brake, the tips of the U are instead compressed, and result in a very different sound. I don't know if that always happens, but it seemed like it might help others diagnose worn brake pads.
  • If you think you might need to replace your brake pads, I'd recommend purchasing them in advance. I wanted to do the replacement on the same day I inspected the brakes, and it was pretty tough to find an auto store that stocked parts. Of five local auto stores, only one had stock in store. Buy before you plan to do the work. Worst case, if you buy them and you don't need them, you'll still use them in the future.

Thanks for the advice, everyone!
 

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I had the same intermittent grinding/squeaking noise on my '02. I think it had a little more than 200k miles on it at the time. I had replaced the front pads twice, but had never turned the rotors, so although the rotors were smooth they were dished out where the pads rode. The outer edge of one rotor actually started riding on the metal base of the pad causing the grinding noise even though there was plenty of pad left. A simple pad replacement fixed the problem temporarily, but the permanent fix was to replace the rotors since they were probably worn past the minimum wear tolerance. I sold the car with a new set of rotors to be installed by the new owner, '02 Insight. Good luck!
 
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