noise/vibration in front end of '93 Ford F-150 please help!

I'm running out of ideas here... I have a '93 F-150, extended cab, 2WD, 300/E4OD that I bought used with about 120K miles on it. It currently
has about 140K. When I bought it I knew that it had a few issues that needed to be addressed, most notably tires out of balance and bad shocks, but overall it seemed to be in good shape. To date, I have replaced the shocks (myself,) had new tires installed (Michelin LTX AT/2 - I know they're a little aggressive for a 2WD truck, but they were on sale when I bought them, and I drive the truck so seldom I figured that a little NVH was not going to be objectionable, and I wanted to make sure I could get around in winter) and also had a full brake job done on the truck (a note from my last safety inspection said that the rear shoes were almost at the wear limit, so I replaced everything, because it pulled a little and the front rotors were warped) including all hardware and hoses, and had the front wheel bearings replaced (that needed to be done at purchase as well.) Probably not related, but I also have replaced or had replaced all fluids in the truck as PM save for the power steering (and if I don't set this thing on fire in disgust, I will probably do it again at 150K miles.)
Even after the brake job, I still have some NVH from the front end. There's a loud clicking/clacking noise coming from somewhere that is wheel speed related; it sounds like a much louder version of a stone being caught in a tire tread, or a stone loose inside a hubcap. It becomes much louder when you go around a corner, and you can feel a vibration as well - not through the wheel, but in the seat and through the floor. After the brake job, I took the truck back to the shop that did the work and they diagnosed the problem as a bad U-joint. I told them to go ahead and replace all three, as I had noticed that there was some backlash in the driveshaft but hadn't addressed it yet. If anything the vibration was worse after that. I had the driveshaft straightened and balanced, and the problem remained, but it was approximately the same as it was before U-joint replacement. In disgust, I took the truck to another shop and the guy there completely disassembled the front brakes from the spindles out, reassembled, claimed he didn't find anything wrong but that he felt the truck drove much better afterwards - he was right. Unfortunately, the problem has reappeared and I've put less than 1000 miles on it since then.
My best theory at this time is it's a combination of slight play in the wheel bearings combined with pads not fitting tightly in the calipers. If it matters the pads that I bought were Raybestos ceramics, part no. ATD375C. But I'd really like to have this resolved because the noise is embarrassing (it's loud enough that I'm sure people driving next to me can hear it) and it worries me that I might be misdiagnosing and that there's a serious problem that I'm ignoring/writing off to nothing important and I don't want to have a serious failure on the road.
Any ideas...?
Completely unrelated, the battery was dead this morning which pisses me off, as I have had both the alternator and battery replaced fairly recently, and also when I got the truck I went through and cleaned all of the accessable connections and grounds and slathered them with silicone grease as PM, because I've always thought that the charging system on this truck was kind of tenuous from the way the voltmeter drops at idle with any accessories or lights on (it still does it by the way, but I've been told by everyone that looks at it that it's perfectly normal)
I'm about to drop the truck off at yet another shop to let them have a stab at it as I no longer have a good work space of my own, but figured I'd throw this out there to see if anyone has any ideas. (I also don't have a very high opinion of most mechanics; it took my buying a set of "known good" wheels and tires for my old Porsche and swapping them one by one in my driveway before I diagnosed a NVH problem in that car that 5 different shops, including one owned by a guy with a nationally syndicated radio and TV show, could not even detect - and yet both I and my ex-fiance's father - the only other mechanically inclined person to ever drive the car while I had it - both considered it blatantly obvious. If anyone knows of a GOOD shop in the Dulles Airport area, I would certainly like to have your recommendations.)
nate
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Nate Nagel wrote:

Maybe a cracked wheel? Does swapping front to back make any difference?
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On 10/01/2011 11:40 AM, Paul in Houston TX wrote:

Theoretically the tires were rotated at my last oil change, so no. Good idea though. Although it merits investigation because maybe when the second shop "fixed" the problem they might have rotated the tires then as well? In which case the problem moved to the back where it was not noticeable?
I just realized I never tried driving the truck without the hubcaps on. I probably should try that as well just to eliminate them, although I seriously doubt that that's the problem.
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Nate Nagel wrote:

I had a car once, don't remember which one, that made a horrible snapping sound from the RF wheel. I thought the lugnuts were loose. Turns out it was the hubcap. It seems that steel wheels have a lot of flex.
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Nate Nagel wrote:

Why not bring it back to the guy above who made it drive better. You never seem to take the truck to the same person twice. You have a strange problem to diagnose so don't expect most people to fix it on the first try.

If the truck has the remote mounted starter solenoid on the fender by the battery, replace it. When they go bad the contacts stick and drain the batterty. Common problem on fords.

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On 10/01/2011 07:34 PM, Mike wrote:

Actually it was in the first shop about five times, the second at least twice... I'm sick of dumping money at it and getting it back not fixed :(

there's something there, it doesn't look like the solenoid on my Studebaker (which I believe is actually shared with older Fords) I thought it was just a connection block - the battery cable terminates there with a forked connector and two posts - don't see a cable going to the starter from there, but I'll have to have another look later. It's been pouring rain all day, so I haven't even been motivated to do the first thing I was going to do, which was to check the voltage on the battery and the KOEO current draw
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Nate Nagel wrote:

OK to see if it is brake related is easy. Pull the calipers off and take it for a test drive. Use the E-Brake to stop it. If the noise goes away then I would look at the rotors for warp or the caliper mounts for damage.
If the noise is still there then jack up the nose and rotate each side and listen for a noise with a stethoscope.
You say the noise went away for a while but came back after it sat for a while? Hos long and under what conditions did it return? Was it doing it prior to all the work being done or did it start after that? Does it increase when you apply the brakes? Does it change if you drop the trans into neutral and let the engine idle at speed? You say it changes while turning, BOTH ways? Or is it different based on direction?

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On 10/01/2011 11:46 PM, Steve W. wrote:

rotors are near new (were replaced with pads) and don't feel warped under braking. I'm a little hesitant to try that test as I don't have anywhere that I can do it that doesn't have very heavy traffic, and most of it apparently involving people of limited intelligence :( Yes, I live in NoVA.

It never completely went away, but was barely noticeable after the second shop put it back together. It's been getting gradually louder every time I drive the truck, until now it's obnoxious again.

I can't really tell... it drove awfully when I got it but no red flags, it seemed like regular maintenance would fix it right up. When I got it it had bad wheel bearings, one completely nonfunctional shock, and warped brakes, and also the cooling system was a little messed up. I've been picking away at the issues on it and this is the big one remaining (well, that and the new issue with me finding the battery dead.)

No, if anything, it gets quieter.

no, not at all.

Doesn't seem to matter which direction you turn
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wrote:

I would check the inner race of the wheel bearing fitting to the stub axle. Of course, my thinking is there is damage to the stub axle, and that it is out of round, and the wheel bearing is "toggling" on it when you take turns.
Lg
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On 10/02/2011 07:40 AM, Nicholas wrote:

Damn. that theory actually makes sense, but sounds expensive to fix. two ball joints, plus junkyard parts of unknown provenance... but there was at least one very bad wheel bearing on the truck when I bought it, and due to time constraints (I'd just bought a house at the time and was cleaning up the joint, and needed another vehicle up and running because the ECM in my 944 had crapped the bed and was in the shop being fixed) I didn't replace them myself but paid someone to do so... so I haven't seen the spindles myself personally.
That would also explain grease dampening the issue after disassembly/reassembly if the mechanic was conscientious and wiped a swipe of grease on the spindle before reassembling everything. And then the issue recurring after driving a few hundred miles.
I'll have to check it out after it ever stops @#$% raining, and let you know what I find...
I've never actually removed the calipers on a Ford before (I also paid someone to do the brake job, because that came up while I was *selling* same house,) but I do know that they don't look anything like anything I've ever worked on... will I need any special tools?
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wrote:

I have a Cen-Tech 1 inch digital indicator, but you can use vernier calipers. I originally bought it to measure rotor runout. But you don't have to have it. Vernier calipers should do, along with a visusal inspection to see if there are any wear marks on the axle where the bearing sits. Good Luck.
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On 10/02/2011 09:27 AM, Nicholas wrote:

oh, I think that I can tell whether your theory is correct or not just by feel alone... I meant do I need anything that I'm not likely to have (having worked on various VWs, Porsches, GMs etc.) to remove the calipers. Looking at the shop manual the caliper mounting mechanism just looks goofy to me, but probably makes sense when you actually have the wheel off and your head under there...
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wrote:

AFAIK, nothing special in the way of tools. Except the caliper bracket bolts are going to be tight, like 70 lb-ft. You might want to use a pipe over your 1/2 inch socket wrench handle to get those suckers to come loose.
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On Sat, 01 Oct 2011 23:46:47 -0400, Steve W. rearranged some electrons to say:

Let me know where you live, so I can avoid that area.
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You really only need to know where he lives so you can stay behind him. I guess you need to know when he goes out....
Maybe there's an app for that.
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On 10/01/2011 06:09 AM, Nate Nagel wrote:

dude, you need to stop spending money at shops and put the money into tools to do this stuff yourself if you want to keep a p.o.s. on the road. a good [a-frame] shop press, a good jack, good axle stands, a good impact driver - this whole list will cost you the same or less than you've already spent having the incompetent take your money while failing to do the job.
as for the noise, jack the car up and see if you can replicate it by turning wheels. so far, you don't seem to have identified whether it's front or rear, let alone which side.
[also, start with the simple stuff - try reversing at speed, and braking hard. you might have a stone in a brake disk vane clipping the caliper. will typically dislodge by reversing the force application direction!]
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On 10/02/2011 02:12 PM, jim beam wrote:

problem is, I already have the tools, but where I live, I can't afford a place with a garage big enough to pull a pickup truck in and work on it :( It's way easier to just make more money and pay a (good) mechanic (if I can find one) than it is to figure out how to make enough money to afford a place with a real garage.
I really need to leave NoVA but now is not a good time to be looking for another job.
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On 10/02/2011 08:10 PM, Nate Nagel wrote:

absent these things called "friends", you can still do stuff on driveways/streets. besides, if you're going under a vehicle, it's often safer to access it with 2 wheels up on a curb to provide crawl room than it is to have the thing up on a jack/stands where there is a greater danger of it rolling off.

no, i think you need to get with the diy program. you just can't rely on finding that 10%er that knows what they're doing. use a friend's driveway, or even the street. if i can do it in stick-up-the-ass san fran where police helicopters dispatch cruisers to check out someone under a car with the wheels off [true - personal experience], then you can manage it out there in the sticks.

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On 10/02/2011 11:33 PM, jim beam wrote:

Problem is, it's been raining for about two weeks straight. Maybe more. I've lost count; but it certainly seems like every time I'm outside it's been raining for I don't know how long. I don't like working in the rain. (not good for the tools either.)

see above re: rain.
I suppose I could drive a couple hours to somewhere where I have a friend that *does* have a large garage, but then you know I'll need a tool or something that I didn't bring with me... and I'm in the middle of a remodeling project right now so that's actually Priority #1 (having more than one bathroom in a house that usually has three people in it is a Good Thing.)
I really do have more money than free time at this point in my life, I used to be a hard core DIYer but have been trying to get away from it...
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On 10/02/2011 09:01 PM, Nate Nagel wrote: <snip>

jeepers dude, buy a tent canopy thing at woolmort, and some used wooden pallets. that will keep the rain off from above and below. unless you prefer working in snow. it's about getting the job done right. clearly having the money and the time to keep taking the thing to people who can't fix it ain't solving a thing.
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