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Whirring Noise When Driving: What Are The Causes & Fixes?

Hi, I'm Azim Uddin, a student who loves cars. Visit carcaresite.com to learn about car maintenance for beginners and experts. In my studies, I found a cool connection between hosting and car care. Join me on this journey where every road has a story, and hospitality meets the thrill of cars. Explore, learn, and enjoy the ride with me!

Hi, I'm Azim Uddin, a student who loves cars. Visit carcaresite.com to learn about car maintenance for beginners and experts. In my studies, I found a cool connection between hosting and car care. Join me on this journey where every road has a story, and hospitality meets the thrill of cars. Explore, learn, and enjoy the ride with me!

Last Updated on May 9, 2024 by Azim Uddin

Some car noises, like tires humming and mirrors whistling in the wind when driving, are typical. However, there are some sounds you don’t want to hear because they usually signal trouble. One of these noises is whirring.

But what is the cause of the whirring noise when driving? If you hear a whirring sound while driving, you could be having a worn wheel bearing or differential problems. Sometimes, the noise could be due to issues with the transmission or tires. Occasionally, brake problems can also be the culprit.

So, how do you go about diagnosing and fixing the whirring noise? Stay right here to find out.

Whirring Noise When Driving

Causes of Whirring Noise When Driving

If your car is making whirring sounds only when you’re driving, identifying the source of these noises is crucial for safety purposes. So, let’s find out what are the causes of the noise.

A wheel bearing connects your vehicle’s wheels to the axles, allowing them to turn with minimal friction. Over time, the bearings can wear down due to improper alignment, poor installation, and driving through mud or water.

When they start to wear out, you can hear a loud whirring sound coming from the rear or front of your car. This noise usually becomes louder or faster as you increase your driving speed. Typically, the whirring sound starts at around 30 mph and 45 mph.

To determine if you have a worn wheel bearing, jack up your car. Then, spin each wheel by hand. If one of the wheels has a fair bit of play, the bearing is faulty. Therefore, you must replace it, and here is how to do it:

  • Step 1: Park your car on a level surface and loosen the wheel’s lug nuts.
  • Step 2: Raise your vehicle.
  • Step 3: Remove the lug nuts and the wheel with the faulty bearing.
  • Step 4: Unscrew the bolts on the brake caliper and the bracket to remove the parts.
  • Step 5: Take out the wheel bearing by prying off the dust cap, washer, retaining nut, and cotter pin.
  • Step 6: Slide off the rotor and unfasten the inner wheel bearing.
  • Step 7: Install the new bearing in reverse order.
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wheel bearing connects your vehicle’s wheels to the axles

A differential system is a set of gears that enable the drive wheels to turn at different speeds. If there is excessive lash in differential gears, you will hear a whirring noise coming from the center of your car. The noise is usually more pronounced when making turns on the road or decelerating.

You can tell that your car has differential problems if you are experiencing poor handling and control while driving. Generally, the common fixes for this issue include:

  • Replacing the worn-out pinion.
  • Resetting or replacing the pinion and ring.
  • Top up the differential or gear oil.
  • Install a new differential.

Unfortunately, differential issues can be hard to diagnose and repair. Therefore, you should leave the job to a professional.

Sometimes, you may hear a low whirring or whining sound after decelerating and then accelerating. When this happens, the cause can be transmission problems or low transmission fluids.

As it turns out, it is common in vehicles with IVT/CVT type transmissions, such as the Subaru XV and Hyundai Venue.

You can diagnose transmission problems by inspecting the fluid levels. Alternatively, turn the parking brake on. Then, hold down your car’s brake pedal while stepping on the gas pedal for a few seconds. If the engine fails to rev up or does not stay revved up longer, you have transmission issues.

To fix the problems, here is what you can do:

  • Add more transmission fluid if it is low.
  • Replace the transmission fluid if it is dirty, burnt, or contaminated.
  • Repair or replace the torque converter.
  • Install a new or remanufactured transmission.
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Unfortunately, replacing the transmission is a labor-intensive and complex task. It also requires the right tools and a bit of mechanical expertise. While you can do it if you have someone to help, you should let a qualified technician handle everything.

Below is a video of how to remove and replace the transmission if you choose to go the DIY route:

Tires that are under-inflated, incorrectly aligned, or with irregular tread can also cause whirring or whining noises when driving. The cause of the noise is erratic tire movement, which usually gets louder at higher speeds.

Incorrectly aligned tires are responsible for whirring or whining noises when driving

To confirm if the tires are under-inflated, use a tire gauge to check the air pressure. For the irregular tread, you can use a tire depth gauge to measure the tire tread depth. Alternatively, you can check for irregularities by lightly rubbing your hand across the tread.

After diagnosing tire issues, you can fix them through the following:

  1. Inflate the tires based on the recommended tire pressure.
  2. Take your car to an auto repair shop near you and have the wheels aligned.
  3. Replace the tires if they are badly worn out. Here is how to do it:
  4. Step 1: Raise your vehicle off the ground.
  5. Step 2: Remove the lug nuts on each wheel.
  6. Step 3: Deflate the tires to remove them from the rim.
  7. Step 4: Clean any rust on the rims.
  8. Step 5: Install the new tires on the rims using a tire machine.
  9. Step 6: Inflate the tires and reinstall them onto your vehicle.
  10. Step 7: Have the wheels aligned.

If you hear a decently loud whirring sound as you come to a stop or accelerate, it could be an issue with the brakes. This happens when friction occurs between the rotor and brake pads as the wheels turn. It can also arise when the brake pads become worn out, hitting the wear indicator.

Start by checking the pads and rotors for wear. If the pads appear thin, less than 1/4-inch, you should replace them. Alternatively, you can check if the wear indicator slot and if it is barely visible, the pads are worn down.

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Also, check the thickness of the rotors. If they are worn to the minimum thickness specification, have them replaced. To replace the pads and rotors, follow these steps:

  • Step 1: Lift your vehicle off the ground.
  • Step 2: Unfasten the lug nuts and remove the first wheel.
  • Step 3: Disassemble the brake caliper and slide out the old brake pad.
  • Step 4: Next, remove the worn-down rotor and install the new one.
  • Step 5: Re-assemble the caliper and install the new brake pad.
  • Step 6: Put back on the wheel.
  • Step 7: Repeat the process for the other three wheels.

FAQs

In this section, we will quickly look at commonly asked questions about the causes of whirring sound when driving.

Q: Does low-power steering fluid cause a whirring noise while driving?

No. If the power steering fluid levels are low, you should hear whining or squealing noises when driving. However, the noise is usually more pronounced as you turn the steering wheel.

Q: How often should I service the wheel bearings to prevent the whirring noise?

The timing may vary depending on your driving habits and road conditions. But generally, the bearings require servicing after every 25,000 to 30,000 miles. Some experts also recommend servicing them during every brake service.

Q: Can I continue driving the car while it is making the whirring noise?

Yes, you can. However, you must get your car inspected as soon as possible to diagnose the cause of the noise. This is because if the problem is not fixed in time, it can worsen, leading to more expensive repairs.

Conclusion

Whirring noise when driving can be annoying, especially if you have sensitive hearing and the noise increases as you accelerate. The good news? If you have basic mechanic skills, you can quickly diagnose the cause of the whirring noise and fix it.

However, some causes of this noise require professional diagnosis and fixing. This is because you may not have the correct tools for the job. With that said, servicing your vehicle routinely can help minimize the chances of the whirring sound occurring.

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