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2008 XLE AWD with 125K miles. My wife's daily driver, so I don't get much if any feedback until something breaks. I was actually driving it recently on the freeway and noticed a couple of issues.

First issue is an intermittent vibration/grinding felt through the steering wheel. No shake/judder of the wheel itself, but a feels like a grinding sensation transmitted up to the steering wheel. My perception is that of a disk with a hole in the center that sits on a rod and when you spin the disk by hand it doesn't spin cleanly but vibrates/grinds. This comes and goes during the drive. Happens at freeway speeds (65-75 mph). Most noticeable when speed is mostly constant (vs accelerating or braking). Any ideas what to look for here? (My first thought is wheel bearings). What is the best way to check this?

Second issue which I don't think is related is the typical violent judder in the steering wheel upon braking, again from freeway speeds (60+ mph). This I chalk up to a rotor issue (warped?) and will have checked.

Steering tracks straight. Tire pressures all checked and at recommended level. No other indications of wheel balance issues (constant vibration/steering judder).

Appreciate any insight as to what to check for the grinding issue.

-Kevin
 

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2008 XLE AWD with 125K miles. My wife's daily driver, so I don't get much if any feedback until something breaks. I was actually driving it recently on the freeway and noticed a couple of issues.

First issue is an intermittent vibration/grinding felt through the steering wheel. No shake/judder of the wheel itself, but a feels like a grinding sensation transmitted up to the steering wheel. My perception is that of a disk with a hole in the center that sits on a rod and when you spin the disk by hand it doesn't spin cleanly but vibrates/grinds. This comes and goes during the drive. Happens at freeway speeds (65-75 mph). Most noticeable when speed is mostly constant (vs accelerating or braking). Any ideas what to look for here? (My first thought is wheel bearings). What is the best way to check this?

Second issue which I don't think is related is the typical violent judder in the steering wheel upon braking, again from freeway speeds (60+ mph). This I chalk up to a rotor issue (warped?) and will have checked.

Steering tracks straight. Tire pressures all checked and at recommended level. No other indications of wheel balance issues (constant vibration/steering judder).

Appreciate any insight as to what to check for the grinding issue.

-Kevin
Without looking, there's probably not much virtual diagnosis to be done. It's possible that the brakes are totally gone. It's possible the wheel bearing(s) are shot. It's possible that some suspension component is worn out. It's also possible the half-shaft/CV is toast. The term, "typical violent judder," aside from being a great college band name, is a scary thing to consider at highway speeds. Your brakes could be shot or your brake fluid could be filthy or your ABS could have problems. There's also a possibility of a wheel speed sensor being shot, as, that could describe the sensation when the traction control activates.

If you've never had them done, it's probably not a terrible idea to have wheel bearings replaced as preventative maintenance plus have the brakes checked.
 

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First issue is an intermittent vibration/grinding felt through the steering wheel. No shake/judder of the wheel itself, but a feels like a grinding sensation transmitted up to the steering wheel...This comes and goes during the drive. Happens at freeway speeds (65-75 mph). Most noticeable when speed is mostly constant (vs accelerating or braking). Any ideas what to look for here? (My first thought is wheel bearings).
Mine too. Does the noise/vibration change when the wheel is turned right or left? Typically loading/unloading a bad wheel bearing by steering side to side will change the loudness or frequency of the noise.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
The term, "typical violent judder," aside from being a great college band name, is a scary thing to consider at highway speeds. Your brakes could be shot or your brake fluid could be filthy or your ABS could have problems. There's also a possibility of a wheel speed sensor being shot, as, that could describe the sensation when the traction control activates.
When I say violent judder, I mean the steering wheel shakes visibly. Nothing through the brake pedal. It normal. Front discs have been replaced twice already, pads at least three times, fluid has been flushed within last 3 years. This judder is not new which is why I was a little cavalier in my description. Has happened more than once previously and was fixed with brake servicing. We've owned this van since new and I've always thought the brakes are a weak point. Either poorly spec'd materials or simply under-designed for the heat they generate. Relatively spongy pedal, long-ish stops and rotors that 'warp' pretty easily. Frustrating.


Mine too. Does the noise/vibration change when the wheel is turned right or left? Typically loading/unloading a bad wheel bearing by steering side to side will change the loudness or frequency of the noise.
There is no noise. The vibration/grinding sensation I feel through the wheel is something I noticed when cruising at a constant speed down the freeway (in a straight line). I don't remember noticing it with any amount of load on the steering. Once steering loads up it feels solid.

I'll plan to bring it by our local mechanic to have them service the front brakes and check the suspension for anything obvious including the wheel bearings.
 

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When I say violent judder, I mean the steering wheel shakes visibly. Nothing through the brake pedal. It normal. Front discs have been replaced twice already, pads at least three times, fluid has been flushed within last 3 years. This judder is not new which is why I was a little cavalier in my description. Has happened more than once previously and was fixed with brake servicing. We've owned this van since new and I've always thought the brakes are a weak point. Either poorly spec'd materials or simply under-designed for the heat they generate. Relatively spongy pedal, long-ish stops and rotors that 'warp' pretty easily. Frustrating.
It's odd that the wheel shakes visibly but you feel nothing in the pedal and yet the problem goes away with brake service. I'd be curious to know if it did the same thing when you turn the traction control off. The symptom seems like something may be broken or severely worn like the tie rods or stabilizer links and the braking action causes the whole front end to bounce in the limited range of travel provided by the stabilizer bar. However the fix would not go away with brake service, unless you have a really considerate mechanic who tightens something or replaces something or packs grease into something (without telling you) making the problem go away for a time.

I haven't found the brakes to be particularly high-performance but I also haven't found them to be poor-performance either. I think there is a very real issue with quality manufacturing, given all the problems people post with vibrations immediately after brake service caused by poorly manufactured parts.
 
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