Your vehicle’s wheel bearing is responsible for ensuring a smooth wheel rotation and sustain the vehicle’s weight load. Over time of use, the wheel bearing can get damaged and require replacement.
Luckily, the wheel bearing would tell you when it's close to getting damaged before it even does. Thus, it would help if you kept an eye for signs of a bad wheel bearing.
Signs of a bad wheel bearing might be hard to detect, resulting in a high risk of severe damage. In most cases, the first thing you might notice is some weird sounds.
In this article, we provide you with an overview of the wheel bearing role in your vehicle. Furthermore, we list the most common signs of a bad wheel bearing to help you take care of the problem fast and avoid complicated future damages.
What is the wheel bearing?
The wheel bearing is a very important part of your vehicle’s assembly. It consists of a metal ring holding either a set of tapers or steel balls. When the bearing contains a set of tapers, it is called a tapered bearing, and when it contains a set of steel balls, its called a ball bearing.
The wheel bearing has several vital roles in your vehicle’s structure. First, it connects the wheel to the axle. Second, it prevents friction between the when and the axle as the wheel rotates around it. Finally, it provides the necessary support to withstand loads due to breaking, gravitation, and acceleration forces.
Signs of a bad wheel bearing
Now you understand what the wheel bearing is and how it works; its important to ensure good wheel bearings. In this section, we provide the most common signs of a bad bearing, as reported by automotive experts and many customers.
- Hearing weird noises
As a rule of thumb, hearing any weird noises coming from your vehicle is always a bad sign. Thus, you must get your vehicle inspected by a professional mechanic and get it repaired as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more complicated the problem can get.
The most common sign of a bad wheel bearing is hearing weird noises coming from the wheels, wheels axles, or the wheel bearings itself. Each noise indicates a different problem. For instance:
- Hearing Snapping, popping, or clicking
If you are driving your vehicle and heard snapping, popping, or clicking noises, especially when turning, this indicates issues with the wheel bearing.
Snapping, popping, or clicking noises indicate one of two problems: either the outer CV-joint damaging or the excessive bearing in the endplay.
- Hearing grinding noise while driving
Another common noise indicating issues with the wheel bearing is grinding. If your vehicle’s wheel bearing is damaged, and you tried to perform a sharp turn while moving, you might hear some grinding sound.
Grinding happens due to mechanical damages in the wheel-end, more specifically, the raceway or the roller. The noise can be much clearer if you change the load significantly.
- Hearing clunking or knocking noise
If you hear clunking or knocking noise, it is not directly related to the bearing. It might be related to a backlash in differential gears or excessive play in the joints.
Clunking and knocking can be heard mostly when switching direction, like shifting from accelerating to coasting, forward to reverse, etc.
- Hearing rumbling or growling noise
Rumbling and growling noises are usually related to the drivetrain or the electrical components. However, sometimes this noise can be related to the wheel bearing. If you noticed that rumbling and growling occurs when you drive straight and increases when you turn, then it’s the wheel bearing.
As you noticed, there are different types of noises you might experience when having issues with the wheel bearing. Whatever the noise was, you must get your vehicle inspected and repaired by a professional mechanic.
- Vibration in the wheel associated with wobbling
Wheel vibration can happen due to several reasons, including issues with a worn tire, problems with the suspension, improper chassis alignment. It is also possible to experience wheel vibration when having a bad wheel bearing. However, if that’s the case, the wheel bearing would be almost completely damaged. Thus, this is the last thing you would want to deal with.
- Wheel vibration when driving at a constant speed
Many people think that when experiencing wheel vibration at constant speeds, it indicates a bad wheel bearing. However, this is not the case.
This occurs mostly due to issues with the suspension parts or unbalanced tires.
- Brake pulls due to losing bearing
In most scenarios, abnormal brakes pull happens due to the caliper, worn rotors, or brakes. However, sometimes if the wheel bearings are extremely loose, they can cause brakes to pull.
Even though it is very rare for a bad wheel bearing to cause brakes to pull.
- Brake pads and rotor wear unevenly
While uneven wear in rotor and brakes pads occur mostly due to issues with the caliper, it can also happen because of extreme loosens in the bearings. In general, bearing problems do not usually cause brake pads or rotor wear.
- Tire wear unevenly
Tire wear can happen due to many different reasons. For instance, your vehicle’s tire might wear unevenly because of suspension problems, inflation issues, and misalignment. However, if the wheel bearing is extremely loose, it can also result in tire wearing.
- Problems with ABS damage
The last sign we would like to highlight here has to do with ABS damage or failure. Extreme loss in wheel bearing can destroy the internal and external sensors due to intensive movement.
How long does a wheel bearing last after it starts making noise?
The answer to this question depends on several factors, including the type of sound. As a rule of thumb, you must not ignore small problems in your vehicle to avoid dealing with complicated repairs requiring high costs. Furthermore, ignoring the problem might cause you issues with the insurance company, as they can claim your ignorance when the problem is very clear.
That been said, you can not guess the lifespan left in your wheel bearing when it starts making the noise. Thus, the best you can do is to have it inspected by a professional mechanic.
It is not recommended to take any risk chance by delaying your wheel bearing problem. This is because bad wheel bearings might cause safety issues. Furthermore, if you compared the time, effort, and money needed to fix the wheel bearing to other complicated damages, it makes more sense to get the wheel bearing’s problem resolved as soon as possible.
How do you check the wheel bearing?
There are three main methods you can use to check for a bad wheel bearing.
- Listening to the wheel bearing noise
The first method to confirm a bad wheel bearing is listening to the noises coming out of it. When you drive on high speeds, if you heard some strong-wind-like noise, this is a clear indication of a bad wheel bearing.
This the most common way of detecting a bad wheel bearing. The good thing about this method is that you can easily identify which wheel bearing causes the noise by listening to its direction or location.
- Check the bearing’s for play
This method means that you will have to “physically” check for a bad wheel bearing. To do so, you need to follow the following steps:
- Jack and support your vehicle in a fixed place
- Ensure that the back tires are locked, so the vehicle does not roll backward. You can do this by placing a small piece of wood behind the tire.
- For each tire, grab it at 3-9 o’clock position and shake it back and forth. If you started hearing a clicking sound coming from the play, this indicates a bad wheel bearing.
- To confirm that the problem is coming from the wheel bearing, not the tire, you can grab the 12-6 o’clock position and shake it. If you heard the same clicking noise, it is a confirmation that it's your vehicle’s wheel bearing.
- The last thing you need to do is confirm its not the wheel axle joints causing the problem.
- To do so, while shaking the tire, take a look at the back of the tire and ensure the upper and lower ball joints are not shaking.
- You can also listen to any grinding sound when rotating the tire. If this is the case, then it’s the wheel bearing causing the problem.
- Look in the computer code in newer vehicles
Your vehicle’s computer uses the dashboard lights to indicate internal problems and to grab your attention. When the problem is related to the wheel bearing, you might see a little wrench light right at the center of the dashboard. Furthermore, the ABS check light might also illuminate at the same time.
To read the error, you need to use an OBD-2 scan. The cool thing about the OBD-2 scan is that it will tell you the exact wheel bearing location.
Some of the common wheel bearing error codes are code C1223. The OBD-2 will tell you what needs to be done to resolve the problem. Another common wheel bearing error is the C1155 indicating replacing the wheel bearing assembly.
How much does it cost to replace the wheel bearing?
According to automotive experts, replacing the wheel bearing requires about $100 to $700. On average, expect to pay at least $300 to repair the wheel bearing.
In the automotive world, mechanical costs are divided into parts and labor costs. For the wheel bearing cost, the price depends on the vehicle’s make, model, and year. For instance, the Ford F-Series requires between $400 and $750 for a wheel bearing replacement. On the other hand, the Toyota Corolla requires between $620 to $860.
Is it worth repairing my vehicle’s wheel bearing?
Well, this depends on several factors. For example, if your vehicle has several other complicated problems that require very high repair costs, it might not be worth repairing the wheel bearing.
Similarly, if the required repair costs are getting close to the value of the vehicle, if not more, you might consider selling your vehicle instead.
Luckily, Cash Car Buyers can help you. We buy all cars from all makes, models, or years despite their condition. Furthermore, we provide free towing for all customers despite their living location.
All that you need to do is to give us a call, describe your vehicle, accept our instant offer, get your vehicle removed within one to three days, and receive your cash payment right on the spot.
Lastly, if your vehicle doesn’t have a title, not a problem, we can still buy it. However, we recommend getting a title replacement to get the maximum cash out of your vehicle.
The wheel bearing has a vital role in your vehicle; it ensures smooth perfect weight handling and smooth wheel rotation. Over time of use, the wheel bearing, like any other component of your car, wears and gets damaged due to erosion, water leak, and accidents.
Your vehicle must have a perfectly working wheel bearing to avoid getting complicated mechanical issues that require high repair costs. Therefore, it is recommended to keep an eye for signs of a bad wheel bearing.
In most cases, a bad wheel bearing makes weird noises like snapping, clicking, popping, grinding, knocking, and humming. Furthermore, a bad wheel bearing can cause wheel vibration, and brakes pull, uneven tire wear.
If you noticed any of the previous signs, you must get your vehicle’s wheel bearing repaired as soon as possible. Not only to avoid high repair costs but also to prevent safety issues.