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Old 03-24-2016, 01:04 PM   #1
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Front end rattle - leaf springs? (SMB 4x4)

For years now, my SMB 4x4 has had a front end rattle sound when driving over irregular surfaces (even uneven pavement). Clatter, clatter, clatter is what I hear with the windows open. My van is never subtle coming down the road. I've never been able to figure out what is loose down there.

I'm guessing it's something to do with the front leaf springs, perhaps the leaves are clattering against each other? But nothing seems loose when I wiggle by hand.

This is what my front-right leafs look like. No obvious signs of movement & looseness.

Does anyone else experience noises like this?

-- Geoff

2004 Ford, SMB 4x4, RB-50
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Old 03-24-2016, 01:14 PM   #2
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Brake pads can rattle.

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Old 03-24-2016, 01:33 PM   #3
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Calipers can rattle too if the sliders wear. Had that happen on my rears.
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Old 03-24-2016, 01:34 PM   #4
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Good ideas! But I don't think it's the brakes, as I just had the fronts done and the noise hasn't changed.

-- Geoff
2004 Ford, SMB 4x4, RB-50
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Old 03-24-2016, 01:34 PM   #5
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The ford hubs on my axle rattle quite a bit.
Didn't look to see what you have.
Might take a quick look there.
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Old 03-24-2016, 05:07 PM   #6
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Shock bushings gone or worn out?
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Old 03-26-2016, 07:41 AM   #7
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my 4x4 van front end had a serious case of the rattles, got progressively worse, before I pulled it completely apart the first week of December for a front end rebuild. In fact, I'm procrastinating going outside this morning, by looking around on the forum!

After my experience, the last thing I would suspect is the leaf spring packs. Not completely off the table, it's just there are a bunch of other more likely culprits.

In my case, I had several things going on, they all made noise while out on fire roads, even on the highway driving over overpass transitions and road seams.

Stub axle bearings:
Using a pry bar or large screwdriver, check to see if the stub axle has a lot of up and down movement (gently pry up on the ujoint, against the inner C). There's a small needle bearing that is infamous for going bad. Mine had 3/16" movement, were so bad the ujoints had been bouncing off the lower ball joint (the rattle), and had left a witness mark. The inner dust seals were chewed up, from my internet research, those are both tell tale signs. Mine were bad for some time I guess, when the inner needle bearing gets destroyed, it chewed up both stub axle bearing surfaces, a common issue.

gently pry on the sway bar at the link ends and bushings. I'm not familiar with what style SMB uses, but my upper frame attachment bolts had loosened up, and were rattling. My bushing were shot, too, the bar was rubbing against the steel bushing bracket (that looks like an electrical conduit clip on steroids)

Wheel bearings:
I've got a 2001 Dana 60, but I understand all the modern 50 and 60 use a non-servicable unit wheel bearing and hub assembly. I think, but not sure, SMB offers a Spyntec or Dynatrack hub option, that IS serviceable. Either way, to check them, jack up the front end one side at a time, by the axle housing. Shake the tire from the 12 and 6 o'clock positions, there should be no wheel bearing play. My passenger side squeaked like the bearing was audibly dry, and had a dangerous amount of play. Drivers side was good.

Ball joints:
tricky to check, but famous for only lasting 50k-60k miles. I supose less if you traverse washboard fire roads. Be sure you don't tear the grease boot in the process. Pry upward, between the knuckle and the inner C. Mine checked out fine, until I puled it aprt to repair the other stuff, I found 1 ball joint had a small amount of play, 1/32", so I replaced all 4 with Moog greaseable balljoints. It's a big job.

also check the shock and steering damper bushings, the tie rod ends, pitman arm, steering box bolts being loose.

I hope that is helpful, Geoff
1995 E350 7.3 Diesel, 4x4 high roof camper, UJOR 4" lift
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Old 03-26-2016, 10:57 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by TomsBeast View Post
I hope that is helpful, Geoff
Yes! Lots for me to check out, thanks! I'll report back.

I did just get the ball joints replaced (at 75K), so not that.

-- Geoff
2004 Ford, SMB 4x4, RB-50
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Old 03-27-2016, 02:18 AM   #9
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How "heavy" of a rattle is it - light weight sheet metal or heavy suspension components?

Let's narrow it down a little...

Light weight rattle - most common is exhaust heat shields and internal exhaust component breakdown.

Heavy weight - worn shock bushings or shackles.

Get the idea?
Four time Baja 1000 winner, four time Baja 500 winner. Solo'ed the Baja 1000 to LaPaz/Cabo twice.
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Old 03-27-2016, 09:10 AM   #10
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I've been trying to locate the source of a front end rattle for months and I believe it is my brake calipers. Only happens when rolling over uneven surfaces and when I've crawled under the front end (multiple times) everything is rock solid until I grab the calipers. I can wiggle them with my bare hands.

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