On a snowy Sunday of late, my dad and I made our annual sojourn to a local Model A Restorers Club swap meet, which was unfortunately less well-attended by vendors this year (most likely due to the aforementioned snow). I only came home with a couple orange parking light bulbs for the Riviera and this useful book, which was on sale for a whole American dollar. Take that, inflation!
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There are few mechanical maladies more frustrating than those that involve NVH, the dreaded “Noise, Vibration, and Harshness.” I can make almost anything run, but tracking down those shakes and rattles is far more esoteric, especially considering that every old car I’ve ever driven has a vibration of some sort at freeway speed. Certainly, some will mention that their old car doesn’t shake or leak oil and always nails down 33 miles per gallon with a 440 motorhome engine and 3.91 gears. You’re lucky. In my experience, at the 70+ mile per hour expressway speeds I maintain to avoid getting clobbered by a wayward minivan with a trash bag covering the side window, things shimmy a bit.
That’s always been a problem, even when these cars were new. Ford’s little handbook offers some sage advice on the theory of diagnosing problems, and it’s good common sense stuff for any mechanic. In essence, use your experience and ask the customer questions.
Aside from the dubious pop culture interpretation of Sherlock Holmes and his attire (sorry for the nerdiness – I’m a longtime fan of Sherlock Holmes stories), Ford offers advice that many of us would be wise to follow, such as “new parts are just that…[it] does not mean they are good functioning parts.” Advice for code scanning mechanics today: “Don’t cure the symptom and leave the cause.” (I can hear it now: “It’s gotta be the oxygen sensor.”)
Along with a cutaway image of a Cougar XR-7 and a list of the frequencies of common vibration-causing components in cycles per second, there is a handy glossary of terms. There are few things more frustrating when working on a car than “floating terminology,” in other words, when a manual uses several words for the same item or expects that the mechanic knows every technical term.
There are plenty of terms in the world of NVH. (The World of NVH. That sounds like a great Hanna-Barbera cartoon.)
The process of diagnosis begins on page 9 with the road test. It suggests taking the customer along to get a better idea of the specific situations where a complaint occurs, along with taking notes so you’ll remember a problem later.
The best note on page 11 reminds the mechanic to not touch anything before performing a road test and a visual inspection. Many mechanics are guilty of making assumptions based on their backlog of experience and are eager to get the job done. That’s how one becomes simply a parts changer. Ford recommends looking in the trunk for “unusual loads,” checking tire pressures, and noticing “bright spots where components may be rubbing against each other.”
Next, the book identifies five types of conditions in the world of NVH and the speeds where they usually occur. “High Speed Shake” is the problem I most often see, and it is often attributable to tires (and often exacerbated by my home alignments on a sloping garage floor). I’ve gotten better at that over time.
Ford knew that mechanics often appreciate specific directions (especially if they’re inexperienced). Chances are, one of the dealer’s mechanics was a specialist at this sort of thing and didn’t need the handbook, but it’s a good guide for those who don’t necessarily work on NVH problems every day. Tools such as a dial indicator aren’t found in every home garage, but they are available for a reasonable price at outlets such as Harbor Freight (don’t laugh – I’ve had mine for years). In addition to checking for wheel and brake rotor runout, you can check ring and pinion backlash, crankshaft endplay, and much more. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.
Here are some more actions for repairing a high-speed shake. I’d love to have an on-car wheel balancer.
Honestly, if you’re removing the center section of your differential to repair a high-speed shake, you’re having a really bad day.
“Tip-in Moan” is a category that deals with that mooing sound one gets when one steps on the gas. It can be as innocuous as a loose air cleaner lid or as serious as a broken engine mount.
Driveline vibrations are often caused by universal joints, but NVH is a cruel mistress and will often send you tripping down the wrong path.
Incorrect driveline angles due to worn mounts or bushings can cause vibrations.
So can your pulleys and belts.
As always, the diagnosis often takes longer than the repair, so the latter pages of the book detail how to do the actual work.
Here’s that handy dial indicator again (I even got a mini-wheel attachment for mine so I could check tire runout – I’m fun at parties).
Replacing the driveshaft would probably result from off-roading your new T-Bird.
Ah, the classic “hose clamps around the driveshaft” trick. I’ve never done it myself, but I’ve heard it works.
Oddly, as a guy for whom a conclusion is a foregone conclusion, the lack of one in Ford’s manual is stark and troubling. On the other hand, nobody would read it anyway, and I’m glad that someone threw this little booklet in a desk somewhere and forgot about it.
I wasn’t there, and it would be interesting to hear from those who were, but dealer training back in the “old days” seemed fairly thorough, with filmstrips, manuals, and pamphlets available for every make and model. This concise little manual is actually very helpful for the amateur garage mechanic of today who doesn’t necessarily deal with these things more than a few times in their lives. Who’d pass that up for a buck?
Postscript: I also have a much more thorough book that discusses the same topic but was published by General Motors in the early 1990s. It includes some more advanced tools to find vibrations, and it discusses the science behind vibrations in much more detail (perhaps too much unnecessary detail for the average line mechanic).
Great topic. Back when some garages still let customers (and their curious kids), wander the service bay(s), as their cars were being worked on. As a little kid, I still remember watching tech assistants, or mechanics themselves, having to wash all the road salt, frozen dripping slush, and road grime, from undercarriages. Before, they could even consider diagnosing a problem. One mechanic having spray lube (or penetrating oil) in one hand, and a ball peen hammer in the other. The usual underbody rust, seeming to regularly complexify their troubleshooting. A great case for electric cars.
I had a friend who was a technical illustrator for Alcatel-Lucent. He wished he could do automotive documentation. He loved cars, but I don’t think it ever happened.
Thanks for sharing. I’d never heard about the hose clamp around the driveshaft tip. Presumably serves the same purpose as balancing weights on tires, to cancel out uneven mass distribution.
Really, the only people who could afford to go to this level of diagnostic effort were dealership employees doing factory warranty work. Labor was expensive even back in the 70s.
Thanks, Tom. I agree that few would bring a car into the dealer with a vibration complaint once the car was out of warranty; some of these issues would take time to diagnose, and as you said, that adds up quickly.
Shade tree methods of prop shaft balancing were included, really, just replace the uni joints to begin with.
Balance of a rotating mass and bad u-joints are two different things.
Lemmetallya, there are few things that drive me battier than a vibration in the car. I fought that in my 71 Scamp, that was really, really sensitive to wheel balance. It is hard to find anyone who does an old fashioned on-the-car spin balance anymore.
A long time ago I read about someone who sung the praises of getting new tires shaved to remove the high spots that will be every so slightly present on any new mass-produced tire. He swore that it made a huge difference, but again, trying to find anyone who will do this has been pretty much impossible for most of my car-owning life.
Maybe next time you can find a book on finding squeaks and rattles. 🙂
Ugh, I usually give up on squeaks and rattles. Old cars have old parts, and all those window rollers and felt channels get a little loose, and every Michigan bump and pothole remind me that I need to get going on replacing all that stuff. Then I remember that reproduction plastic parts are usually terrible, and I just live with it.
One of my planned winter projects was to replace the front window channel felts in the Dart, but the Riviera’s half-disassembled engine has rendered that problem minor.
“It is hard to find anyone who does an old fashioned on-the-car spin balance anymore.”
For good reason. It’s a crappy way to balance tires. “On-the-car” wheel balance is static balance–single-plane. The wheels need to be balanced dynamically–two-plane, or you wind up with the classic “tricycle” wheel balance. The pedals on the tricycle are the same weight, opposite position. At zero RPM, the tricycle wheel is in balance. At low rpm, the tricycle wheel doesn’t shake. Speed it up, and it’s uncontrollable even though it’s in perfect balance when stationary.
If off-the-car, dynamic balancing doesn’t fix a vibration that on-the-car balancing does fix, balance or replace the brake drums/rotors, and then balance the tires dynamically.
It may be possible to balance the brake drums/rotors on the same machine that dynamically balances tires. Kinda depends on the machine, and the brake iron, and the attitude of the guy doing the work.
I balanced wheels “on-the-car” several times, about 1980–’81. Glad to be rid of that process.
As I often do, I read the headline too quickly, and thought this entry was a Ford model with which I wasn’t familiar. The Ford Noise. Must be a Canadian model! 😉
In seriousness, though, what a cool pamphlet! Thanks for sharing images of it.
You’re welcome, Mark. The Ford Noise might be an ironic new EV.
When I was little, I used to love seeking out the earliest press release pics of new cars. Whether, it was in newspapers, magazines or books. Always black and white, they’d often be widely distributed. When my dad would let me flip through his owner’s manuals, I’d often remember the source pics used for manual line drawings.
There was a Granada photo shoot similar to this one (or maybe this one), probably used as the source pic for this booklet’s traced drawings.
The Granada/Monarch/Versailles had similar interior room as the bigger Torino/ Montego so one can only wonder why didn’t Ford take the Granada and do a longer, wider version to replace the Torino? This way there would have been more interior room in the Granada based Torino/ Montego and could have opened doors for a “Lincoln” version which Cadillac would not have. (imagine the original Versailles with a longer, wider Versailles Town Sedan) Does anyone know if Ford had clay designs using a longer/ wider version of the Granada to consider replace Torino/Montego?
Excellent find. I myself enjoy vintage military vehicle/engine TMs for similar reasons.
Indeed this is a great topic. And an excellent book review, I want to add.
I once had a serious vibration develop a few weeks after having the drums on my Windstar turned. It actually caused wheel hop, right rear. The mechanic found that the drum was turned off-center by the parts store that did the turning for me. Interesting that it took weeks of driving for me to feel it.
Thanks, Wolfgang. I’m always afraid that something crazy like that brake drum will drive me bonkers trying to figure it out. Your mechanic did the smart thing by (probably) asking what was the last thing you changed on the car, which is always a good technique (like finding your lost keys). 🙂
As a high school student on lunch break, I used to love walking around the picturesque small town my parents lived near. I would identity many late model passing cars, not by looking at them, but simply by their suspension, drivetrain, or engine sounds. Probably, the very easiest to identify, were any Slant Sixes. Also specifically, Dodge Aspens, Plymouth Volares, and M-Body Chrysler products, because their front transverse torsion bars consistently made a unique rattle over bumps and potholes. The V-6s and transaxles in GM front drive X-Cars, with their consistent identifying squeaks, were another super easy guess.
I always found it interesting, how very cold winter weather, made cars significantly louder in general. With engine, exhaust, and body noises, seeming much amplified by cold air and metal.
I still enjoy doing that, Daniel. These days, I can tell when an old Blazer/Jimmy is coming by its squeaking ball joints. An old Impala/Grand Prix has a distinctive 4T65E transmission whine. Ford 5.4 trucks have massive exhaust leaks (and a distinctive starter sound). Most V8 Mustangs have a distinctive exhaust note. Good times, although sad, in the way that most of the sounds are due to a lack of maintenance.
The amplification of noise in cold weather is something I notice in my daily driver Focus. I’ve owned it since new, and the front struts (or something up there) have always squeaked over our terrible roads when it’s cold out. It’s never gotten worse, and it goes away in the warmer months.
Squeaks and rattles can drive you nuts. I had one that just as mysteriously as it had appeared, simply vanished. And another, on a 2002 Ford Taurus, sounded to a driver like it was way up behind the instrument cluster. First step in getting there is the lower instrument panel cover, held by two bolts and two clips. One of the bolts was loose, and that was the rattle.
I bought a Totota TownAce that had a horrible rattle in the cabin. Took two minutes and a spanner to find and cure it; I have no idea how the previous owners lived with it for so long.
Start up rattle on one of my dads new Holdens turned out to be from a bad batch of fanbelts, installed at assembly, on another one he collected a tobacco tin of self tapping screws from around the car and sent it in for them to be installed where they were meant to be, the entire heater assembly fell out from under the dash on that one it just hung there on the hoses, it could have been a monday build lots of hangovers after weekends at the plant.
GM recommended using a reed tach for diagnosing vibrations. The reed tach would give you the vibration “speed” and then you would see what components were rotating at that speed.
I had more than a couple of weird NVH problems over the years.
One was a GMC Safari van, band new and it had a soft thump especially noticeable at parking lot speeds. Turned out to be it had a dent in one tooth of the pinion gear.
A GMC pickup that had an annoying warbling hum at highway speed, The air dam under the front bumper had holes for tow hooks but no tow hooks. Taped up holes and noise was gone. New air dam or install tow hooks to fix.
A White/GMC tractor that pulled when brakes were applied, after much hair pulling the source was found, the spider that mounts the brake shoes was machined off center so only one brake shoe was making contact.
Another White/GMC tractor with a thump when turning right. The regional Volvo rep had the truck brought in to our shop. Noise was easily replicated. We had a person in both seats and one in the sleeper to try and locate the noise source. Turns out the noise was a hydraulic jack in the drivers side storage compartment. On a right turn the jack would tip over and bump the body and then right it self.
A GMC 1/2 ton pickup 4.3L V6, one of a large batch sold to large city maintenance dept. This one, brand new, had a bad engine vibration and since they had a bunch of these identical spec trucks it was easy to compare and see there was a problem. Worked with GM Tech on this trying many things with no results, vibration, damper, flywheel, torque convertor. Then another tech wizard suggested changing the transmission mount and there it was, wrong mount installed at the factory.
A Ford Explorer that was about two years old had an odd vibration that would come and go as you drove down the road. Truck was under warranty, dropped it at the dealer for them to look at it. They weren’t sure what was going on, Ford Tech line got involved. Put a new transmission and transfer case in it, still doing it. Problem turned out to be tires. This Explorer was AWD and the rear tires had worn down significantly more than the fronts and AWD vehicles don’t like tires that have a significant difference in diameter. New tires and noise is gone, slap two of the well used rear tires on and the noise is back.
My first vibration problem was my first car. When I bought the car, 63 Ford 352 4 speed. The trans would jump out of 3rd gear on deceleration. Also had a vibration around 67-68 mph, drive faster or slower and it was fine. Drove it for years like this, dumb kid. Well one day about sixty miles from home the vibration suddenly gets much worse, speed faster than 45 mph and the car feels like its shaking apart. Pulled the driveshaft, going to replace the u-joints, couldn’t get the joints all the way out so I pounded them back together, I’ll pull it apart after school. Next day on the way to school the vibration is totally gone. Thru in some new greaseable joints anyway. Still had a slight vibe, discovered the tailshaft bushing was gone. New bushing and seal in the trans and now finally vibration is gone.
40 some years go by and my son-in-law is chasing a driveline vibration in his much modified 64 Buick Skylark. Originally a V6 4 speed convertible, now sporting a 455, 5 speed and a 12 bolt rear end. Finally discovered the new driveshaft was too short, slip yoke is only partially in the the tailshaft bushing, luckily he was able to locate a longer yoke to fix the problem otherwise it would have meant a new longer drive shaft.
52 years of turning wrenches and still running into weird stuff.
Weird thing, the above post I wrote didn’t show up when I posted it. 20 minutes later still not posted so I just posted a short version. Today I come in to read some more entries and here is my long post. Must have got stuck in the local cell tower.
I always thought that a Wittek or Whittek clamp referred to the ‘tower’ type clamp with the screw over the clamp.
The illustration shows a ‘worm’ clamp.
Quality Is Job #1 – even in publishing. 🙂
GM had a similar training program. Don’t recall if it was monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly. I think I still have the vibration training pamphlet.
Had lots of weird vibration/noises issues over the years.
A new 6-71 that would wreck a new set of belts in seconds, defective vibration damper.
A new GMC pickup, bad engine vibration, wrong transmission mount.
A new GMC Safari van, low speed thump, dented tooth on pinion gear tooth.
A Buick with a driveline vibration, a short driveshaft not fully engaging the tailshaft bushing.
A Ford with a driveline vibration, missing its transmission tailshaft bushing.
52 years of turn wrenches and still finding weird stuff.
It’s so cool to hear about that kind of stuff (not to own those cars!). The fact that those problems have stuck with you says something…one in a million types of problems (that should probably have never happened!).
When you build a million, you get one-in-a-million problems.
We still have trainings and documentation like that, only on the laptop. Noise is still hard to find, and sometimes not easy to cure.
I used to laugh, at how embarrassingly bad, some domestic malaise era cars sounded. If you were standing near a railway track crossing, or rutted pavement, as they drove by at any speed above 25 mph.
It was a helpful indicator, of what cars, not to buy.
On round tires it is a thing. I had a BMW that drove me crazy with a shimmy. After an assortment of parts etc, I started looking at the tires. One was out about .060, in spec, the other was about .080, a little out of spec. Stuck a sanding disc in a drill, bolted it to a 4X6 and slowly edged the tire in while rotating it. Didn’t get them round, but got rid of the high spots and bang, no more shimmy! Some brands are rounder than others, one from France which I think is overall a so so tire and overpriced, is however much tighter on the roundness than others I’ve tested.
Those chassis related vibrations are one thing. Loose rattling from inside the dashboard is another.Even though I have a car that is still covered by warranty, I’m pretty hesitant to let the dealer try to fix the problem. In my opinion they are just as likely to make it worse.
My 91 Probe had a rattle in the drivers door and the hatch back lid also had a rattle. They fixed both finally after a couple of visits, they did manage to drag their air hose across the side of the car, luckily this was a black car before clear coating so it buffed out easily.
Would have been a handy book to have back when I owned 1977 ZH Fairlane Marquis (Aussie) 351C, Among it’s many miseries, it had a driveline vibration that felt as described in your book as a “Buzz”, any reasonable highway distance would make me exhausted from it.
I replaced a lot of components, checked all the obvious things and mechanics failed to pin it down.
It was easily the worst car I ever had, It was in really well kept condition when I brought it, I tried hard, but I could not keep up with it’s issues, to list them all would drift to far from this topic.
The final insult was when the engine would cut out as soon as it reached operating temp and refuse to restart until completely cooled down.
I sold it to a guy who just wanted the engine, I bet it gave him hell too.
Holden had booklet called- if I remember correctly “Click or Clunk” Written to help dealershop service advisors and customers describe the type of noise to help narrow down the cause.
And I need to chase an intermittant rattle in the Skylark.
Wow this brought back memories of a 1973 Ford Pinto I owned. 1.6 liter 4 speed. At 55 mph, the speed limit in those days the whole car would shake from the resonance of the motor. If I went 50, or 60 mph the car was fine. But right at 55 mph it was loud and vibrated badly. I was told this was called 4 cylinder boom, and could not correct it because of the engine harmonics. I literally could not drive 55 lol! An overdrive 5th gear would have helped greatly.