How to check for a bad wheel bearing, and how to replace a bad wheel bearing? Know the symptoms of having a bad wheel bearing and learn some possible solutions to fix your bad wheel bearing.
If you hear noise coming from one of the wheels while driving down the road, there is a chance that the wheel bearing is going bad.
Wheel bearings can make various noises when they fail, but one of the more common ones is an unnerving whirring/grinding noise as you accelerate. The sound may be there all the time or only when you are making a turn.
Noise is a prevalent symptom when a wheel bearing is on its way out. Some of the sounds are growling and humming. As you drive on the road, the growing noise will get louder as you drive faster. The growling noise can be heard at all speeds, low or high. This also applies to hum noise, as well.
The growling or humming noise is a lack of lubrication inside the wheel bearing. Like most bearings today, it is completely sealed, especially for a pressed ball bearing. The lube is already in the pushed-in bearing and requires no maintenance. However, over time, the lubrication starts to dry up, and eventually, the bearing will lose its lubrication, thus leading to a final failing bearing.
A wobbling wheel is one of the most apparent signs of a bad wheel bearing. As you drive, the wheel tends to wobble from all directions. This is due to the wheel bearing failing.
Other symptoms include the following:
- Excessive play on the steering wheel.
- Vibrating in the steering wheel while driving.
- Abnormal tire wear.
How to check for a bad wheel bearing
To test for a bad wheel bearing, lift the vehicle with a floor jack and place it firmly on the jack stands. Remember to lock the wheels that are not being checked with wheel chocks.
Position your hand on the 12 and 6 o’clock of the wheel and rock the wheel back and forth. A bad wheel bearing will cause the tire to wobble at 12 and 6 positions.
There should be minimal movement. Also, position your hand at 9 and 3 o’clock and rock the wheel. If there is movement, it’s possible the wheel bearing is bad. Furthermore, spin the wheel with the vehicle on a jack stand, and if the bearing is bad, usually it will make some noise.
Be mindful when conducting this test. Ensure you do not have a bad tie rod, axle, strut, or ball joint. Inspect the condition of the suspension components before condemning the wheel bearing.
With the vehicle still in the air, try to lift the wheel; if possible, the ball joint is bad. Next, position your hand at 9 and 3 o’clock and move the wheel inside and out. If you can, the inner or outer tie rod is bad. Furthermore, inspect the strut to ensure none of the issues are found. The wheel bearing is mostly worn.
What is a Wheel Bearing
Wheel bearings are steel balls held in place by a race or steel rings where the balls spin around. A wheel bearing helps the wheel turn as fast as possible with the least friction.
The wheel bearing is part of the suspension system. Wheel bearing consists of steel rings (the race) and a set of steel balls. In modern vehicles, the bearings are sealed and self-lubricated.
The wheel bearing requires little to no maintenance; it also depends on the type of wheel bearing your vehicle may have. In the past, most wheel bearings required maintenance every 30,000 miles. Today, it is designed and engineered to last longer, typically over 100,000 miles.
However, like all moving parts, the wheel bearing will start to wear and tear and cause a drivability issue.
It is essential to understand that wheel bearings on older vehicles (specifically, those manufactured before 1997) were usually serviceable – meaning that they can be taken apart, repacked with new grease, and put back together and function often.
Modern vehicles, however, have sealed bearings that are not serviceable – meaning when they fail, they need to be replaced entirely instead of taken apart and put back together again.
How to replace a wheel bearing yourself
It is possible to replace the wheel bearing yourself on your driveway. You will need a Wheel Bearing Removal Tool.
Also, torque all nuts and bolts according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Call your dealer to get the recommended torque values.
Replacing one or more wheel bearings is expensive because of the labor involved. The wheel and brake mechanisms must be removed to access and replace the bearing. Also, a bearing replacement is challenging because, in some cases, it requires a wheel bearing press to get the bearing in and out of the wheel hub that it sits in.
The cost will vary for each vehicle. It depends on where you take your car to get service. A typical wheel bearing labor is around $100-$500 depending on the location and car you drive, and parts usually run about $20-$200.
Also, just because one bearing has failed does not mean that you must replace the one on the opposite side. Bearings are made to last a long time, and depending on the type of vehicle, sometimes, one bearing can fail before the one on the opposite side does.
Why do wheel bearings fail?
- The seals can crack or break, allowing grease to leak out or dry out, compromising the seals’ function, and allowing moisture and dirt or debris to enter. This will slowly ruin it over time and eventually require it to be repaired or replaced.
- Driving through a flooded street or other areas with high water will inevitably allow moisture to enter the bearing, impairing its function. Another driving situation that can damage a wheel bearing is hitting a pothole too fast or going over a curb or some other hard surface too hard or fast.
Alignment or Tire Issues
- Tires out of round (meaning that they no longer rotate in an exact circle because of a flat spot or warped tread) are prone to bearing damage because of how hard they hammer the road.
We hope you find the Symptoms of Bad Wheel Bearing guide helpful. Check these troubleshooting and repair guides for more help on your vehicle.
Have questions about your car? Get assistance in our newly launched forum section. We’re here to provide support!