Front End Rumbling Sound

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Staff member
Dec 15, 2011
Hills above Silicon Valley, California
Took the wife our for our first Tesla drive in ages to have a look at a high-mileage (70K miles) 2014 i-MiEV today at a Toyota dealership, as a possibility for a really old friend who still drives but recently had her car crunched. A really nice clean i-MiEV. Car had a sticker on it close to $9K but they were now offering it close to $6K. Big sticker posted saying "As-Is, No Warranty". I chose to go there in the Tesla instead of the i-MiEV ... you can speculate as to the strategic importance of this.

The OEM Enasave tires looked new but a bit low and, sure enough, there was the TPMS tire symbol was on the dash. Went for a test drive anyway, but there was a nasty rumbling in the front end, reminiscent of driving with snow tires on dry pavement. Asked the salesperson to have the tires pumped up, which their service did (tire symbol on dash disappeared) and I went for another drive, but experienced the same rumbling sound.

The rumbling was coming 'from the front', neither left nor right side as far as I could tell. It was speed dependent and really noticeable. No change when touching the brakes. Just for fun tried the a/c, no change and, of course, that wouldn't be speed-dependent. I haven't had a bad wheel bearing in over 30 years, and if I recall I had trouble isolating it to a specific wheel.

Anyway, told the salesman about it and suggested he have the shop check it.

The battery capacity was down to 32Ah using CaniOn, which caused me to explain how awful this problem is for this car and its impact on range. The salesman asked me if I could wait a minute and he went inside and soon came out with his manager(?), with whom I had an interesting interchange -

1. First, some staff person came running up showing showing me the Mitsubishi battery warranty as 10 years 100K miles.
2. After I explained that the warranty only covers a battery failure and not degradation, the manager(?) was confused when I then said the battery does not have a 'defect'. I then used the cellphone analogy about batteries wearing out...
3. He then claimed that a replacement battery can be had for $500, at which point I lost my cool and suggested that he was now sounding like a used car salesman :twisted: and asked him to show me... he went inside and soon came back out with someone on the phone claiming a used i-MiEV battery costs $900 ... but none are available in the US. I suggested that it would have to have a guaranteed minimum capacity before I would even consider one.
4. I now allowed as I might possibly live with this battery degradation (my friend drives maybe 15 miles a week and only locally), but the rumbling noise was a disqualifier.
5. As I was walking away the manager(?) asked me what I would pay for it if they fixed the noise, Without blinking I said $3.5K, at which point he turned apoplectic and said they could get more from a junkyard :!: and stomped away.

I commiserated with the salesman, as he was a really nice straight shooter who let me take the car for a solo drive and plug in CaniOn, and I asked him to give me a call if they fix that rumbling.

Interesting having conversations while wearing masks and keeping away from each other. My first interaction with strangers since early March.

Anyway, has anyone experienced such a rumbling sound, or what it might be if not a wheel bearing?

In hindsight, maybe I should have offered to take it off their hands for $2.5K as is. After all, what's simpler than a wheel bearing replacement on a non-driven wheel? :roll:
Hey Joe
There's a white ES with 18K miles in El Cerrito not too far from you for $5,900. I can clearly see that it has quick charge in the pictures. I think that your Tesla can make it that far. :cool:
ed5000 said:
Hey Joe
There's a white ES with 18K miles in El Cerrito not too far from you for $5,900. I can clearly see that it has quick charge in the pictures. I think that your Tesla can make it that far. :cool:

Yes, I saw that and had the ad printout in the car with us, but we elected not to drive up there after the Toyota experience. The daughter of the lady I was going to give the car to has now decided to have her car repaired, so the need has vaporized; nevertheless, always keeping my eye out for bargains. I might still drive up to El Cerrito to have a look at that 2012ES as I'm very curious what the battery capacity is, and it's a good excuse to get away for a joyride.
I can understand why the salesman would be mad. I was when I got a $2,800 offer in the mail. Not faulting you at all, though.

What did the previous owners do to that car? Even with 70k on it, a 6-year old pack shouldn’t have lost that much capacity. That’s worse than both of my cars.

As to the rumble itself, wheel alignment, tire pressure, wheel balance would be my checks. If those are all good, then I’d look at the bearings. My bet is the wheels are out of balance.