1995 Ford Escort - Road Noise

1995 Ford Escort with 97k miles. In the past few months, I've developed a road noise condition that I can't figure out.
The noise sounds like i have a flat tire or really hard rubber tires,
like mud tires on a 4x4. The thing is, the noise is most prevelant at around 45 to 50 mph, and then gets quieter. I really can't tell if its coming from the front or rear of the car, i just know that it gets to a point where the vibration is rattling the interior.
The most interesting thing is that when I am bearing left at those speeds, the noise completely goes away, more so than when it gets quieter at 60. So to me that rules out any connections that don't bear any weight, like universal joints, etc...
I'm thinking about the other pieces that could be a culprit and wanted to know if anyone else experienced this. I think I've narrowed it down to:
Tires Wheel bearings Driveaxle/CV Joints Shocks/Struts
Shocks/struts are original. They still feel pretty good when pushing down on the front end. Bounces 2 times tops and stops.
The CV joints could probably use some attention. The inner CV boots on both legs have a leak, because I can see the grease in a perfect line sprayed up onto the bottom of the engine.
The wheel bearings are sealed and can't be repacked. Is the best test for wheel bearings still to grab the top and bottom of the tire and check for play?
I've rotated the tires but haven't balanced them since about 6k miles. That didn't help/hurt the noise. They are down to about 4mm in tread depth, and no inconsistent wear on the outsides or in the middle. Noise occurs on all road types/conditions.
Any help is appreciated.
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

"when I am bearing left at those > speeds, the noise completely goes away, more so than when it gets > quieter at 60."
Classic Wheel Bearing noise.
It sounds like you need much more though..
"The inner CV boots on both legs have a leak, because I can see the grease in a perfect line sprayed up onto the bottom of the engine."
Those CV joints aren't going to last long if they are spraying grease.
"The wheel bearings are sealed and can't be repacked. Is the best test for wheel bearings still to grab the top and bottom of the tire and check for play?"
No, they are noisy and need to be replaced. If you feel play, it's way too late.
I've rotated the tires but haven't balanced them since about 6k miles. > That didn't help/hurt the noise. They are down to about 4mm in tread > depth, and no inconsistent wear on the outsides or in the middle. > Noise occurs on all road types/conditions.
The tires are done. 4mm is the lower limit of safe tires.
Sounds like: 2 tires, 2 Axle assemblies, and 2 wheel bearing\hub assemblies. SWAG price, about $800. $300-DIY.
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The cause was the left rear wheel bearing. You could hear a difference in the left versus the right just by turning them. Didn't make much noise, but compared to complete silence from the other side, it was obvious the left one had issues.
$53 at O'reilly's for one Hub Assembly. Takes a 32mm socket. Less than 30 minutes.
I'll be getting to my other problems soon.
Thanks for the tip Tom.
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Simple and easy thing, pull the front wheels off and inspect the brake pads and rotors. I recently had a similar road noise issue that sounded like a wheel bearing wearing out, but it was a stuck caliper piston scraping against the rotor. In this case you would also experience a hard pull to one side (to the opposite the stuck caliper) when breaking at medium and high speeds.
For what your chasing down, make sure you identify the correct problem first because throwing parts at the driveline can be expensive. And a wheel failing the "wiggle" test could also signal worn out ball joints and tie-rod ends, rather than a bad wheel bearing. At 97k I'd be surprised if a bearing went bad on a later model vehicle.
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