How do you know if your wheel bearings are bad?
First, understand that on today’s vehicles, wheel bearings are typically a sealed unit. In the past, repairs shops would ‘re-pack the bearings’. In other words, service the part with new grease. Today’s wheel bearing are sealed and can not be services.
The average life of a sealed bearing is about 70-100,000 miles. According to a recent research, it’s claimed that 51% of bad wheel bearings are identified and replaced as a result of a noise complaint. Another 24% are found during a brake job, and 19% are discovered during an alignment.
The most common symptom of bad or failing wheel bearings is noise. That could be anything from squeaks and squeals to moans or grinding noises.
Other symptoms could be a pull to one side when braking or if your steering starts to ‘wonder’.
Checking for a Bad Wheel Bearing
To check a wheel bearing, with the wheel off the ground, grasp the tire at the 12 and 6 o’clock positions. Attempt to rock the tire. If you feel any play, the bearings are loose and need to be replaced.
Also, rotate the tire by hand. Any feeling of roughness or noise from the bearings would also be an indication that the wheel bearings are worn or damaged and need to be replaced.
If it’s determined that one wheel bearing has failed, you should pay close attention to all the other wheels. With one failure, continued increase in mileage is a ‘caution’ that the other wheel bearings are reaching the end of their life expectancy.
Does it make a difference if my car has ABS brakes?
On vehicles equipped with ABS Brakes (Anti-lock brakes) the wheel bearing assembly includes an integral ABS sensor or ‘tone’ ring. If a wheel-speed sensor is reading erratically, the ABS system will set off a warning light.
The ABS system will set a fault code that corresponds to the sensor location (left front, right front, right rear or left rear) and disable the ABS system until the fault is fixed. On these vehicles, the only way to get the ABS light to go out is to replace the hub assembly (assuming the problem isn’t a wiring or loose connector fault).
Can you re-pack the wheel bearings?
No. Wheel bearings on today’s vehicles are a sealed assembly. They can not be disassembled for service, re-packing or repair.
If the internal ABS sensor has failed or if the external ABS tone ring on the hub is damaged or badly corroded, the whole unit must be replaced.
On older vehicles, wheel bearings could be cleaned, repacked with grease, adjusted and replaced if needed. Even the leaky grease seal can be replaced without having to replace the entire bearing.
Is a wheel bearing noise a safety issue?
In one word – “Yes!” Wheel bearing noises and faulty wheel bearings are not something you want to ignore or put off. There is no way a technician can tell you how many miles a noisy wheel bearing will last before it fails completely.
The reason a wheel bearing failure can be dangerous is because it could cause the wheel to separate from the vehicle or leave you with a loss of steering control.
The other safety issue involves the ABS braking system. If a wheel bearing problem causes the ABS Brake warning light to come on, it will remain on and the ABS system will be disabled.
Now, this should not affect normal braking, but it will prevent the ABS system from helping out in an emergency or when braking on a slick surface.
If you’re hearing noises from your front wheels, it could be a serious safety issue and should be checked. You can visit or contact us now, or pick up the phone and call PHONE or book your service appointment on-line! It’s fast and convenient!
Is that noise a bad tire or wheel bearing?
Typically, a tire noises will change in the pitch depending on the road or different types of pavement. As an example, your tire noise may change between asphalt and cement. On the other hand, a wheel bearing now will remain the same, regardless of the type of road or pavement.
On the other hand, wheel bearing noises typically will not change – unless they’re getting louder as the condition of the bearing deteriorates.
You may also hear a variation in wheel bearing noises with hard turning maneuvers. That’s because the change of ‘load’ on the wheels during those turns.
What type of sound does a bad wheel bearing make?
A faulty wheel bearing can make different types of sounds all depending on how bad it really is.
Typically, when they first start to fail, a defective wheel bearing will make a sound somewhat like a whine, hum or a low whirring noise. As the condition on the bearing deteriorates, the sound will usually get louder. Again, depending on the condition, the noise could escalate to a steady moaning noise and even become a grinding type noise.
Understand that front end noises can also be caused by suspension parts or CV joints. For that reason you should take the time to have the wheel bearings checked.
The check is pretty simple in most cases. With the wheels off the ground, grabbing the wheel at the top and bottom and rocking it back and forth is the easiest way to check for ‘play’ in the bearing. Any play will require your attention.
It’s important to mention that the center hub of the wheel should not move with the wheel. If there is movement in the hub, noises could be from other suspension parts or joints.
What’s involved with replacing a sealed wheel bearing and hub assembly?
Replacing a sealed wheel bearing and hub assembly involves removing the wheel, hub nut and brakes to replace the unit.
On installation, it’s important to use a torque wrench to tighten all bolts and nuts to specifications. Impact tools should not be used.