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Old 08-23-2005, 04:15 AM   #1
Patrick Olsen
Scooby Guru
Member#: 120
Join Date: Jul 1999
Chapter/Region: AKIC
Location: Where the Navy sends me...
1997 Legacy 2.5GT
1996 Impreza coupe

Exclamation Bad ABS sensor - OR - Hmmm, maybe that wheel bearing is bad after all!

A story that's entirely too long, but here goes anyway...

Months ago I had some indication that my front left wheel bearing was going bad. Some "bad wheel bearing" type noises, seemed to change depending on which direction I turned the wheel as I rolled along. For whatever reason, I never did the ol' grab the wheel and shake thing to see if there was any play. Shortly after the noises started, I put some new brake pads in and the noises went away. Huh, musta been the brake pads somehow.

A couple/few months pass and recently I've noticed that as I back out of the garage in the morning and crank the wheel to the right, I'm definitely getting some rubbing noises from the left front. It doesn't really sound like a wheel bearing, though, it sounds more like the tire rubbing the fender liner or something like that. I did some looking around, had the car up on a lift to swap on the race tires for last weekend's auto-x, didn't see any signs of rubbing. [/me scratches head] The only thing unusual was that the plastic spiral-wrap around the ABS wheel sensor wiring (more on that below) looked like it was getting caught on something.

Seemingly unrelated to all this, long ago (a year or two ago) I had forgotten to bolt the front left ABS wheel sensor to the strut, and as a result it had rubbed against the CV boot. It wore through the outer layer of rubber insulation, but didn't actually get to the sensor wire, so I just taped it up. Eventually, when I bought spiral-wrap to put on my braided SS brake lines, I also threw a bit on the wheel sensor wiring to cover up the relatively vulnerable electrical tape.

So, yesterday my ABS light came on on my way home from work. Huh. Made a stop for dinner along the way and when I started the car back up the ABS light was out. I remembered that last weekend I had noticed the spiral-wrap looked like it was catching something, so I figured the added stiffness of the wrap wasn't letting the sensor wire flex enough, hence causing it to rub. I figured the rubbing noise I had been hearing was the spiral wrap and sensor wire being chewed up, and now it had gotten to the point that I was getting intermittent contact, causing the intermittent ABS light.

Put the car up on the jack this evening, pulled off the front left wheel, and removed the spiral-wrap. Well I'll be damned, the sensor wire is fine. As I was looking around at things trying to see if there was something else that might explain the noises I had been hearing, I noticed that the ABS wheel sensor "nub" (the part that extends out towards the exciter ring) looked a bit skewed:

So I reached my fingers in there and wiggled it around and sure enough the nub was snapped off and was just being held in there by the rubber outer part of the sensor:

Removed the sensor, put the wheel back on, grabbed top and bottom of the wheel (still up on the jack, obviously), and sure enough the thing's got probably 1/4" of play in it (at the top and bottom of the tire, that is, so the play is magnified by the radius of the wheel/tire combo). Lord only knows how much the thing moves when I auto-x it - apparently enough for the exciter ring to contact the ABS wheel sensor and snap it right off!

Needless to say, I'll be making more of an effort to verify my wheel bearings are good every time I swap between street and race rubber or vice versa.

Pat Olsen
'97 Legacy 2.5GT sedan
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Old 08-23-2005, 12:55 PM   #2
Patrick Olsen
Scooby Guru
Member#: 120
Join Date: Jul 1999
Chapter/Region: AKIC
Location: Where the Navy sends me...
1997 Legacy 2.5GT
1996 Impreza coupe


Apparently, my fiddling with the bearing (grabbing the wheel and moving it back and forth to check the bearing) must have been the last straw. Driving in to work this morning it felt like the left front was wobbling big time - shaking the whole front end of the car. Good stuff.

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Old 08-23-2005, 01:20 PM   #3
Scooby Newbie
Member#: 7209
Join Date: Jun 2001
Chapter/Region: NWIC
Location: Pullman, WA
2005 WRX STi
World Rally Blue


Same thing happened on my old WRX, only in the opposite order... the wheel bearing snapped, and took out the sensor with it.

BTW, a good tip from a friend of mine, loosen the axle nut if you want to check the actual wheel bearing runout. Otherwise you're getting help from the axle holding the bearing together. He had lots of bearing type noise, but could never get any play with the wheel jacked up. Loosened the axle nut and it had almost 1/4" each way.
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