MechanicFilter- Help w/ an '01 Corolla
July 2, 2010 7:39 AM   Subscribe

2001 Toyota corolla (75k) makes a whirring/grinding noise which is clearly coming from the passenger side of the engine compartment. Noise stops when actively turning the steering wheel. Noise is present when idling and moving forward. It's also getting louder from day to day. Any thoughts? I'll be taking it to a mechanic but mine is closed for the holiday weekend. Can I safely keep driving this?
posted by jz to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total)
No expert, but sounds to me like the power steering pump. Worst case would be it fails, and the steering becomes very heavy.

"Power steering pump noise" brings up a lot of relevant results.
posted by derbs at 7:50 AM on July 2, 2010

I had a car in which the power steering would go out randomly - it's totally drivable, but takes a LOT more effort. (Worse than not having power steering at all, as I understand it, because you have to overcome all the non-working assist hardware, which is heavy.) It's a bitch when it happens in the middle of a left turn, I'll tell you that.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:06 AM on July 2, 2010

yeah, probably power steering pump, but might be rack and pinion. Not sure I would try to drive it anywhere but the mechanics, if it is just the pump and it goes out it is no big deal just hard to steer, but if it is the rack and pinion you can either lose all steering or the steering or the steering locks up and you can't turn the wheel, which could be bad. Without positively identifying the source of the sound as the pump i wouldn't chance it.
posted by bartonlong at 8:13 AM on July 2, 2010

Check the power steering fluid. Things can get noisy if the fluid is really low.
posted by asphericalcow at 9:12 AM on July 2, 2010

Usually, a power steering noise gets worse when you're turning the wheel, especially when you're turned as far as you can go in either direction. It's worth checking the fluid, but I'd bet that the belt tensioner or some other pulley bearing is wearing out. When you turn the wheel, you're chaning the load on the pump and on the belt, putting tension on the noisy accessory.
Can you turn the noise on and off when you turn the air conditioning on and off?
posted by Jon-o at 10:33 AM on July 2, 2010

a failing wheel bearing often makes more or less noise as the steering wheel is turned.
posted by kimyo at 11:41 AM on July 2, 2010

I'd second wheel bearing, especially as the noise you're describing lessens when you turn the wheel, which isn't my experience of failing power steering pump.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:25 PM on July 2, 2010

What happens if you are driving in a circle? (Preferably in a parking lot or some other untrafficked place...)

Turning left? Turning right? Moving quickly? Moving slowly? You should be able to discern more by doing some simple, thorough testing.
posted by StarmanDXE at 1:55 PM on July 2, 2010

A wheel bearing is typically going to make a loud, reverberating, low pitched hum at speed that directly increases with amplitude with faster roadspeeds. Any front wheel bearing that's "grinding" at lower speeds is probably far enough gone that it's also going to telegraph a substantial vibration through the steering wheel.
As the OP says, this noise occurs both at idle and in motion. If you can get a wheel bearing to make noise at idle, I'd like to see it.

Check this yourself:
With the car running, open the hood and look at the belt. Look at all of the pulleys and make sure that none of them seem to be flopping about or vibrating excessively. Look at the belt tensioning pulley and make sure that it's not reciprocating wildly on its pivot.

With the car off, you can relieve the belt tension, remove the belt (remembering its original routing-draw a picture-) and spin all of the pulleys individually. The one that sounds like a shopping cart wheel is the bad one.
posted by Jon-o at 3:26 PM on July 2, 2010

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