Symptoms of Bad or Failing Wheel Bearings

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One of the most overlooked yet highly critical parts of the drive-axle and steering assembly are the wheel bearings. Every wheel on your car is attached to a hub and inside this hub is a set of lubricated wheel bearings that allow your tires and wheels to spin freely without building up too much heat. They are engineered to last a very long time, but eventually, they will lose their lubricity, wear out, and need to be replaced. They can even become loose from wear inside the wheel hub assembly. If they break entirely, it can cause a wheel/tire combination to fall off the car while at speed, leading to a very unsafe driving situation.

Prior to 1997, most cars, trucks, and SUVs manufactured and sold in the US had an inner and outer bearing on each wheel that was recommended to be serviced every 30,000 miles. As technology improved, newer vehicles were equipped with a "maintenance free" single wheel bearing designed to extend the life of wheel bearings without having to be serviced. From time to time, these "indestructible" wheel bearings will wear out and need to be replaced before they break.

Here are 4 warning signs that are rather simple to recognize and indicate a worn-out wheel bearing that needs to be replaced.

1. Abnormal Tire Wear

There are many individual mechanical problems that can lead to abnormal tire wear including under or over-inflated tires, CV joints, struts and shocks, and a misaligned suspension system. However, one of the most common sources of uneven tire wear is worn out wheel bearings. It's very rare for wheel bearings to wear evenly. As such, if the left tire is showing more wear, it might indicate a problem with the left wheel bearing. Still, wheel bearings need to be replaced together; if there is a problem with one side, you need to replace the other wheel bearing on the same axle. If you or a tire technician notice one side of your vehicle's tires wearing out quicker than the other, contact an ASE certified mechanic to road test and diagnose the cause of this tire wear. In many cases, it can be something different or minor, but you don't want to risk having a wheel bearing break.

2. Roaring or Grinding Noise from the Tire Area

It's very difficult to detect a failing wheel bearing because it happens infrequently and when they do wear out, it can happen fast. That being said, one warning sign of a worn out wheel bearing is a loud grinding or roaring sound coming from the tire area of your car. This is caused by excess heat that has built up inside the wheel bearing and lost most of its lubricity. Essentially, it's a metal-to-metal sound you're hearing. It's also common that you'll hear this from one specific wheel and not both sides at the same time, indicating uneven wear. Like the above issue, if you notice this warning sign, contact an ASE certified mechanic as soon as possible so they can diagnose the source of this sound and fix it before it becomes a safety issue.

You might also hear snapping, popping or clicking sounds that may indicate a bad wheel bearing. Though usually an indicator of a worn CV joint, a snapping or clicking sound may be caused by inadequate bearing clamping. It may be especially noticeable when taking making sharp turns.

3. Steering Wheel Vibration

Another common symptom with other mechanical problems in the drive and steering assembly, a vibration in the steering wheel can be caused by worn out wheel bearings. Unlike a tire balance problem that typically shows up at higher speeds, a vibration in the steering wheel due to a bad bearing will be noticed at slower speeds and progressively get worse as the vehicle accelerates.

4. Additional Play in the Wheels

This is not very common for normal car owners to diagnose. However, if you have the tire jacked up or the vehicle is on a hydraulic lift, you can check this one out yourself. Grab the wheel on opposite sides and attempt to rock it back and forth. If the wheel bearings are good, the wheel won't "wobble." However, if the tire/wheel assembly moves back and forth, it is most likely due to worn out wheel bearings that need to be replaced as soon as possible.

Additionally, if you notice the vehicle has a hard time rolling while the clutch is depressed or the vehicle is in neutral gear, it can be caused by wheel bearings that are worn out, creating friction, and could be failing.

Anytime you notice any of the above symptoms of a worn out or failing wheel bearing, contact a dependable ASE certified mechanic who will road test, diagnose and replace the wheel bearings if needed.


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Recent Wheel Bearings Replacement reviews

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YourMechanic Wheel Bearings Replacement Service

Average Rating

4.9/5

Number of Reviews

919

Rating Summary
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Edgar

6 years of experience
18 reviews
Edgar
6 years of experience
Chrysler 300 - Wheel Bearings Replacement (Passenger Side Front) - Austin, Texas
Edgar did an excellent job according to my son. The dealership said my car needed a new front end for over $3,000. After researching the problem on the internet, we discovered it only need new bearing on front passenger side. After further research, we discovered YourMechanic. Edgar did a great job and fixed the problem without any problem. We will be referring Edgar with YourMechanic to all our friends! Thanks for the great job, Edgar!!!
Honda Odyssey - Wheel Bearings Replacement (Driver Side Front, Passenger Side Front) - Austin, Texas
Edgar came out on a Saturday and did a great job replacing two wheel ball bearings in our minivan. Was extremely polite and professional. Test drove after to make sure the problem was resolved. Highly recommend!!

Travis

11 years of experience
56 reviews
Travis
11 years of experience
Cadillac DeVille - Wheel Bearings Replacement (Driver Side Front) - Marshville, North Carolina
Seems to be a great person, hopefully a good mechanic (藍藍藍). Got the job done quickly & effectively. Would definitely use him again. Thank you all very much.
Saab 9-5 - Wheel Bearings Replacement (Driver Side Rear) - Charlotte, North Carolina
Travis is a great mechanic came in knocked it out, done! car drives like brand new. Travis is officially my mechanic. thank you!

Brian

21 years of experience
245 reviews
Brian
21 years of experience
Dodge Grand Caravan - Wheel Bearings Replacement (Driver Side Rear, Passenger Side Rear) - Jacksonville, Florida
Brian was on time to do the service on my Dodge Caravan. He was very polite and friendly. He answered all my questions and concerns that I had concerning the wheel bearings on my vehicle and also other concerns I had. He did a great job. I will recommend him and this company to all of my relatives and friends.
Buick LaCrosse - Wheel Bearings Replacement (Driver Side Front) - Jacksonville, Florida
Brian is a great guy. Easy to talk to, and clear as to which maintenance and services are needed. Brian did not try to sell me something I did not need.

Scott

34 years of experience
600 reviews
Scott
34 years of experience
Ford F-150 - Wheel Bearings Replacement (Driver Side Front, Passenger Side Front) - Tempe, Arizona
Scott started the positive experience by communicating with me in advance. Once on site he explained the process and the needed repairs. He instilled confidence that I'd made the right choice by selecting My Mechanic.

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