3/22/2019 by SOFB
Last week I had noticed a distinct noise while driving the Ford Ranger for deliveries in Athens. Similar to a squeaky belt, but more metallic and harsh, the sound was coming from something that was rotating, but I couldn’t determine where from. I pulled over and called AAA to get a tow back to the house.
Earlier, I has driven a short distance with the parking break engaged, so it was suspected that something in the break assembly had broke. This had potential to lead to the break pads being eroded, and was a major reason why we decided to tow the truck. After removing the break assemblies and determining this wasn’t the cause, Con moved to the differential, which allows the outer wheel to rotate faster than the inner wheel while turning. He had known there was an issue with it for some time. Wear on the end of each axle from the bearings and a soaked left break indicated an oil leak, and the high leakage rate indicated low oil in the differential. After removing the cover of the differential he discovered that it was indeed dry. None of these symptoms, however, indicated the noise I had heard while driving.
After lubricating the axles, axle bearings, and differential, and reassembling them, Con started the Ranger and turned the wheel, only to hear the same problematic noise. With the knowledge that turning the wheel turns the drift shaft, he removed the drive shaft and found that its rear u-joint bearings also had no lubrication. Lo and behold, the source was revealed!
We are currently in the process of ordering new bearing assemblies for the u-joint; the current ones have too much wear from lack of lubrication. We tried and failed to buff out the wear on the bearing housings. If we take away too much metal, the diameter changes and the bearings will not fit snugly inside.
Two important lessons have arisen from this experience, the first being to be attentive to a vehicle while driving, especially if you do not have the skill base to determine if it’s safe to drive with or fix whatever problem may arise. The second lesson is to monitor a situation even if you think you’ve solved the problem. Con could’ve stopped after the differential and not bothered to check on the noise before signing off on the Ranger; but, he was thinking holistically, with foresight, and discovered what is now suspected to be the source of the noise I heard. By monitoring a known symptom, he was able to find its source before any more damage was caused.