Wheel bearings usually last a very long time, even if they’re abused (Ask me how I know) but sooner or later, like everything, they’re going to fail. The best thing you can do if you have a suspicion that you have a failing wheel bearing is take it to the shop where we can put the car on a lift and check it, but there are signs you can see yourself before the bearing totally gives up. These indicators vary in severity and can be pretty subtle. Be careful, if you don’t catch a failing bearing in time the result could be some serious damage that could make your car dangerous to drive. Once a bearing begins to fail it wears at an increasing rate, the worse it get the faster it gets worse and the harder you drive or the more load you put on it the faster it’ll wear.
Usually you’ll notice some kind of noise first. Here is a short list of noises that could indicate a worn or failing wheel bearing.
Snapping, clicking or popping.
This can indicate a worn or damaged outer CV-joint. However, it also can be related to excessive bearing endplay, usually associated with inadequate bearing pre-load. This noise is typically heard when cornering or making sharp turns.
Grinding when the vehicle is in motion.
Usually this means there is mechanical damage in a wheel bearing. The noise is normally heard when turning or when there is a shift in load.
Humming, rumbling or growling.
These noises are normally associated with tire or drivetrain components. If it’s related to your wheel bearings you’ll hear the noise or vibration when driving in a straight line, but it’ll get louder when you turn the steering wheel slightly to the left or right. Typically, the side opposite the rumbling is the defective side.
Pulling when brakes are applied.
This isn’t normally associated with bearing failure, but it can be sometimes. Usually this is because of a defective brake caliper, worn brakes or rotors. However, severe looseness related to a bearing can also cause excessive runout, which may cause the brakes to pulsate or pull.
ABS failure, which could be internal or external to the bearing or hub bearing assembly.
In extreme cases, internal and external sensors can be damaged by a worn bearing. This is because as the bearing fails it can wreck sensors that are mounted very close to other parts inside or outside the bearing.
Like I said at the beginning, if you think you may have a bad wheel bearing take it in to your local mechanic and have him put your car on a lift. Once on a lift it’s easy to check all four wheels and either give it a clean bill of health or make repairs. I mean, if your suspicions are that strong, take it in and find out for sure.
From your Local Mechanic, All Tune and Lube Tempe Arizona. Complete Auto Repair and Maintenance.