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Old 10-24-2015, 06:21 AM   #1
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Disconcerting drivetrain noise on a 96 E350 (Quigley 4x4)

Heya folks,

I have a 96 7.3 E350, Quigley 4x4 converted, that we built into our own sort of Sportsmobile (their poptop, our homebrew rest of the vehicle). Relevant details to the situation that I can think of are that I bought the van used at about 128k miles and we have about 143k on it now. We had the E40D rebuilt by a purportedly good rebuilder with more or less all of the available upgrades/better parts, and we had the rear diff gearset and half axles replaced (still a posi though I don't recall the specs/brand of the parts).

Everything has seemed bulletproof on the drivetrain, but a couple days ago, while grinding up a good, smooth, but very steep dirt road in 2H, at about 15mph in the top of 1st gear, we heard a grinding/vibrating noise that seemed to be associated with a reduction in power. The noise seemed to come from the rear of the van, I'm guessing the transfer case or the rear diff. It didn't seem to come from the transmission. Natural instinct was to let off the gas and the noise went away instantly. Troubling and a head scratcher. This repeated two more times pulling this hill - brief bursts of this grinding/vibrating noise, seemingly with power reduction, but I instantly let off the gas and it went away each time. The following day we had another good hill to go up (basically the same hill), and I put it in 4WD even though traction wasn't necessary, my thinking being that 4WD would reduce the strain on the rear half of the drivetrain. We had no problems while in 4WD, including pushing it a bit to try to reproduce.

Of course it could have just been loss of traction, and there is a bit of hope in my mind that that is all it was, but it sure sounded like metal - metal grinding

I'm no mechanic and didn't have a mechanic along of course, and I can't imagine a bunch of internet troubleshooting will tell me what is wrong. But what would folks do in this situation? I am going to see if I can pull any transmission codes, but what else? Hope it doesn't happen again? Be prepared for a ****ty tow and repair if something goes out in the middle of nowhere? Take a look in the rear diff, transfer case, and tranny for metal shavings? Prevantatively try to open up and inspect the trans case and rear diff? Getting parts could be fun, we are in Ecuador with the vehicle. Brake discs were a reasonable challenge to find here!

Any and all thoughts are welcome, and again thank you in advance!

Cheers,
Josh
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Old 10-24-2015, 02:15 PM   #2
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Re: Disconcerting drivetrain noise on a 96 E350 (Quigley 4x4

Had a rear u joint act up similar to that.
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Old 10-24-2015, 04:10 PM   #3
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Re: Disconcerting drivetrain noise on a 96 E350 (Quigley 4x4

Also check your fluid level in the rear dif, poke around under the van and see if there's any worn parts-like the u joints, but would point to something else-internal-if there's power loss also.
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Old 10-24-2015, 05:59 PM   #4
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Re: Disconcerting drivetrain noise on a 96 E350 (Quigley 4x4

Quote:
Originally Posted by daveb
Had a rear u joint act up similar to that.
That was my first thought too. I'd get under it and inspect everything you can see. See if there is any play in the Ujoints, see if the drive shaft moves excessively in the tail housing of the trans. Look for loose heat shields, rusted hangers, pretty much everything. Check the diff oil level, look for leaks. Look at the brake calipers. That will be a good start.
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Old 10-24-2015, 06:27 PM   #5
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Re: Disconcerting drivetrain noise on a 96 E350 (Quigley 4x4

I had a similar issue with noise. What I found out, when I had new tires installed the tire shop had forgotten to torque the lug nuts on one of the back wheels. The nuts had become slightly loose so when I put stress on I got a popping and grinding noise but it went away once I was moving. This was a scary find!
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Old 10-25-2015, 04:29 AM   #6
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Re: Disconcerting drivetrain noise on a 96 E350 (Quigley 4x4

If you'll be crawling under your van to check the u-joints make sure its on flat ground, wheels chocked to prevent rolling-----the transmission(s) should be in neutral when looking for loose or failing u-joints.

If you'll be checking and re-tightening wheel lug nuts I'd raise each wheel off the ground.

Hope its nothing too severe or costly.
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Old 11-05-2015, 07:25 AM   #7
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Re: Disconcerting drivetrain noise on a 96 E350 (Quigley 4x4

Heya folks,

We are finally back in civilization, a little anyways, with access to internet and a good place to play DIY mechanic, so I'm digging into this today, and I wanted to say thank you all for all the suggestions.

I had already checked the lug nuts and done some very basic prowling under there, nothing immediately obvious but that is what today is for.

We have only had the noise repeat one time thus far, it was again in 2H, top of 1st, grinding up a steep hill, this time on pavers with great traction. I am quite certain at this point that it is not from the transfer case, it has to be from the rear diff / rear axle / hubs / u-joints / etc in the back from everything I can guess.

We will see, the joy of a 20 year old vehicle.

Cheers from Mindo, Ecuador
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Old 11-05-2015, 08:07 AM   #8
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Re: Disconcerting drivetrain noise on a 96 E350 (Quigley 4x4

My first thought was also a u-joint. When mine went out, they seemed fine when in place - solid, no play. But, when I pulled the driveshaft out both were stiff an nearly impossible to move.

Mike
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Old 11-05-2015, 09:17 AM   #9
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Re: Disconcerting drivetrain noise on a 96 E350 (Quigley 4x4

Hello again,

So more fun things found under the van! First, we have a broken hanger on our main fuel tank, so that will require heading somewhere big enough to get a decent welding job done. PITA. I can't find any abnormal seeming play in the u-joints. Haven't looked at fluid levels in the diffs yet, because I wanted to post a few pictures up and see what people think of this situation. It looks like oil has been sprayed in a ring pattern from the area of the front U-joint on the rear driveshaft. As in, just as it comes out of the transfer case, it looks like a sprayed ring of oil on the underbody and on the side of the fuel tank.





I'll have another post in a second with one more picture. I'm guessing this would be coming out of the back of the transfer case due to a bad seal for it to be spraying in that pattern?
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Old 11-05-2015, 09:19 AM   #10
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Re: Disconcerting drivetrain noise on a 96 E350 (Quigley 4x4

Here is one more photo, you can also see the broken fuel tank hangar/bracket. Pfffft...

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