I am good at ignoring noises. The sound a wife makes when you don’t do your share of the chores. The noises a child makes when they drop their toy for the umpteenth time. These all fall on my deaf ears. But what I have never been able to ignore is unusual noises coming from my vehicles.
Many moons ago, I was a starving college student with a 1992 Nissan 300zx 2+2 with approximately 140k miles on the clock. I thoroughly enjoyed this car but I did not enjoy working on it. I was that weird kid perpetually working on his 300zx in the dorm parking lot. It was not very reliable or at least MY 300zx wasn’t. I don’t think every one of them suffers with the same issues... injectors, knock sensor, heater core, PCV, vacuum leaks, MAF, IAC valve... the list goes on. Wait! A timing belt too!
I was on my way to work one morning when I backed up and heard an odd whirring sound coming from the engine. It was consistent with engine RPM and had a swishing sound at time. I took it around the block and after a couple runs up to ~4000 RPM, I realized there was a big problem.
RED ALERT! BATTLE STATIONS!
I limped it the way home and took a guess at the swish/whir sound. It sounded like something plastic or rubber (?!!!) makes on metal. I cracked open the timing belt to discover the horror.
There was something very wrong. What the hell happened?! How could the timing belt still be intact when it was obviously shredding itself into oblivion? This being a VG30DE it was an interference engine. Had the timing belt broken - the valve strike the pistons as everything comes to an un-synchronized halt. The fix is to take the now big boat anchor under the hood, and toss it into a lake.
As a poverty level college student, this was a big butt pucker incident for me. To be vehicle-less would have been life altering. I needed a vehicle not only to get to work but school; as it was a 20 mile round trip event everyday...
But what was the culprit? Who was to blame for this near disaster? Who needed to pay amends for my hard work and new parts? This little rat-bastard. It was a nut that fell off the auto-tensioner. It fell right onto the crank sprocket for the timing belt and began to eat 1/3 of it.
After riding my bicycle to work, bumming rides to school for half the week, and about $400, I was back in business. I used my ears and knowledge to avert a big disaster. Maybe it was my fault all along for NEVER KNOWING the last time the timing belt was changed. The original belt (aside from nut damage) was actually in alright shape. I still to this day have never heard of anyone ever having bad luck like this with a Z.
I ended up selling this 300zx when I got into my current career. All the sweat, blood, and stress was over with. I ended up buying a 2005 Nissan Titan 4x4. Since then I’ve owned about two dozen vehicles, but I never lost touch with listening to my vehicles.
FLASH FORWARD - TODAY
I kept hearing a swish-ish or whirring noise coming from the front end of my 2006 Infiniti G35 6MT sedan. It was definately not an engine noise. That I knew for sure. It was most prominant when turning at slow speeds, like in a parking lot. The sound occurred on both sides. Time to whip out the jack, stands, and an impact.
Yeah... so the new stainless steel brake lines were rubbing... and just barely. I found that they were rubbing on the wheel weight clipped on the lip inside the wheel. From my recollection, I put the lower bracket in this position as the stock bracket faced the same direction. I rotated the bracket 90 degrees clockwise and it no longer touches.
Thankfully, my ears saved me again. A leak from the brakes could have been catastrophic or at least very unnerving if it had not been caught. The brake lines suffered minor damage to the plastic sheath but there is no damage to the steel lines themselves.
So the next time you hear something coming from one of your prized automobiles - take a gander - you might save your life... or wallet some pain.