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"Pinging" sound around wheel well - Solved!

22 February 2007
Sunny SW
Just a quick thread in case anyone encounters this and is trying to solve.

Symptom: While starting to accelerate slowly, I could hear a very distinct "pinging" sound like metal hitting on metal. It sounded like it was originating either in the suspension or near the wheel well. It would happen on and off and would completely go away once up to 10 mph and might have pinged only once, possibly twice during that brief acceleration. You would never hear it while driving or turning…only upon starting to move and it had to be very slow and very gradual.

So my son and I jacked up and got under the car to look around. After reading some threads on prime, first we checked the bolts for the aftermarket sway bar were torqued to spec…nothing. Then double-checked to make sure the sway bar wasn't brushing the battery tray…nothing. Next was inspecting the steering rack bushings…still nothing. I have aftermarket brake pads so I began to check the backing plates, clips, seeing if they had lost springy-ness…still nothing. That was all the threads on prime I had come across so far for this type of symptom so I was stumped. I literally "spun" my wheels and then I heard something…it sounded like something was rolling around inside the tire. Off the wheel went and over to Discount Tire to get a look inside.

Answer: Some of you may have already guessed what it was if this has happened to you before. The valve stems on my aftermarket wheels have 2 metal nuts on them to secure them from the inside. One of them, surely due to some recent spirited driving with several local primers, worked it's way off and was trapped inside the tire. Discount inspected the inside of the tire and everything according to them was fine, put everything back together, and the sound is gone.

Since it happens only when you're moving and sounds like metal, in your mind you fear it's worse than it really is because you're thinking mechanical or in the suspension. Detecting it while driving was difficult since it was so intermittent and only upon initial acceleration <10mph. Bottom line the tire would carry the nut upwards and if you had just the right rotational speed (instead of going all the way around), gravity would have it fall down onto the inside of the wheel and "pingo"…there's the sound.
Same thing happened to me a couple months ago. It drove me nuts looking for it. Then when I was putting the wheel back on I heard it. I have the stock wheels but have the metal valve stems. And yes they have two nuts inside the rim. It's one of those situations where I was pissed that I couldn't find the problem and then when I did all I could do was laugh.