Wheel Bearing Noise Diagnosis +Rear & Front Wheel Bearing Noise Symptoms

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If you want detailed guide to help you handle various kinds of Wheel bearing noise diagnosis, this is a complete guide for you to apply.  In this post discussed both front wheel bearing noise symptoms and rear wheel bearing noise symptoms.

One of the symptom of a bad wheel bearing is a cyclic chirping, squealing or growling noise that changes as the vehicle is on motion. This sound sometimes goes away at some speeds level or only occur at certain speed level. And sometimes the noise might get worse when turning, or it may disappear momentarily. This is why it’s difficult to make a diagnosis based on noise alone.

Most often, your mechanic will tell you that your car needs a wheel bearing, and you will wonder what it’s all about.  Today, we will make this as easy as possible to understand, we will tell you what a wheel bearing is, its job, where it’s located in your car, and what it sounds like when it becomes bad.

 And then we answer some common question relating to wheel bearing like:

  • how to tell which wheel bearing is bad by turning
  • how long will a wheel bearing last after it starts making noise
  • what can happen if you have a bad wheel bearing

so with those in mind let get started with What a wheel breaning is

Related article: Wheels Bearing Replacement Cost (Ultimate Guide for Different Cars)

Wheel Bearing Noise Diagnosis +Rear & Front Wheel Bearing Noise Symptoms

So what is a wheel bearing?

We will explain it in a simple way for you to understand it. This is a set of steel balls that is held together in a metal ring, called a race. And at the center of your wheels, there is a hollow piece of metal, called a hub. However, this wheel bearings fit tightly inside this hub, and ride on a metal axle shaft, which helps in reducing friction when the wheel spins.

Please note that these are different from the engine bearings, because as you should already know that there is no constant source of lubrication for the wheel bearings, and this simply mean that they need to be tight enough to keep away water and road dust. And another thing is that they also support the entire vehicle weight while driving, which is why they suffer a lot of abuse from rough roads, potholes and as well as lateral forces when turning.

HOW TO TELL WHICH WHEEL BEARING IS BAD BY TURNING

It is true that malfunctioning wheels can endanger your vehicle’s safety. If they are not properly functioning, a car runs with the risk of accidents. And similarly, wheel bearings are very critical for the wheels to work in harmony with the hub and tires. You should note that there is one bearing for every wheel and it’s very rare for all of them to be damaged at the same time. So how do you tell which wheel bearing is bad?

To answer this, the first thing is to make sure that the bearing is really the one that is producing the noise you hear since this one is very subtle, and it is better heard at slower speed.

To identify which one is bad, you have to drive and be attentive to the sound. To do this, you can try by gently swaying your car while driving slowly. And in case the noise decreases when you slowly drive to the right, then the damaged bearing might be on the left wheel. 

But if it’s less when you sway left, then the right wheel bearing might be probably bad.

It has been noticed that the noise of a broken wheel bearing sounds similar to a brake pad dragging or humming. But you should check if there is any clearance between the wheel and the part that supports it.

To solve this, lift your vehicle with the help of a hydraulic jack and push the wheel towards you with back and forth movements.

In case you notice that it’s not moving in a flexible way, then the problem is the one you are suspecting. But if not, it could be a gap in the tires, suspension or the car steering. 

​Note that a ragged bearing will release more hotness than a better bearing so from time to time you can locate a good or well-used bearing by feeling your vehicle’s wheels close to the fasteners. However, if one wheel is hotter than the others, then it might be a bad bearing.

Below are how to tell which wheel bearing is bad by turning:

  • First, raise both the front wheels off the ground that is if it’s a front wheel bearing problem. But if the noise is coming from the rear, then check the back wheels.
  • Next, grab the tires and spin the wheels. The tires should both spin in their usual rotation without difficulty.
  • You should continue spinning after you stop pushing them. But in case one wheel turns more rigidly than the other, then this means it has a broken wheel bearing
  • In case your wheel is looking loosed on your car while all the screws are tight, then you have an extremely damaged wheel bearing. What you should do is to switch it before driving your car.
  • Try and push the wheel towards you with backward and forward movements. In case you feel it’s moving, then your bearing might be damaged. But if not, as we said earlier, it could be just a tire gap or mismatch in the hydraulic system.

HOW LONG WILL A WHEEL BEARING LAST AFTER IT STARTS MAKING NOISE

Well, it’s very hard to determine with certainty the expected service life of a perfectly good car part. But you want to know how long will a wheel bearing last after it starts making noise or exhibiting symptoms of failure.

First, how is the bearing failing? Is it howling, or is it grinding? Does it have excessive free play in the wheel or hub? And when did the noise becomes unbearable?

However, what you should know is that if you can hear the noise or feel it, then the bearing has already been damaged. So you’re already operating on a risky lane.

What you should note is that a wheel bearings have an average lifespan of 136,000 to 160,000 km (that is approximately 85,000 to 100,000 miles). Although this is only a rule of thumb, the actual lifespan of a wheel bearing depends on the quality of the wheel bearing and the operating conditions. Our best recommendation is to change it once it starts making noise to avoid the risk of accident.

WHAT CAN HAPPEN IF YOU HAVE A BAD WHEEL BEARING

This means failing wheel bearings should be replaced as soon as possible.

For those who keep wondering what can happen if you have a bad wheel bearing, you should know that it can lead to pulling to one side while braking which can be very risky for you. Below are what can happen if you have a bad wheel bearing.

  • It will have a Loud or Softer Noise When Turning or Accelerating

Whenever you are turning, the outside wheel works harder, which means the bad wheel bearing, will not amplify in sound anytime you turn on the side with the good bearing and the bad wheel bearing will reduce in sound when turning on the side with the bad bearing. Note that if there is any noticeable sound from the wheels while driving that amplifies or reduces when turning can indicate that the wheel bearing is bad.

  • It will have a Sloppy or Vibrating Steering

Anytime you accelerate, a bad wheel bearing with a broken seal can wear down the parts inside the bearing, which leads to a grinding noise or vibrations that amplifies. A wheel bearings have seals which protects the inner working parts, and they are made to reduce friction and let the wheel spin in a smooth way. But bad wheel bearing will prevent this from happening.

And also, a worn down wheel bearing can lead to a play at the wheel, which leads to looser steering. However, this usually happens from dirt or debris going inside, causing it to work less smoothly.

  • It will have an Excessive Play in the Wheel

It’s true that a bad wheel bearing can be tested by jacking up the vehicle at the suspected wheel. However, if the wheel makes a noise while turning or does not turn in a smooth way, the wheel bearing is likely to be replaced. You can turn the wheel side to side at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions or the 6 and 12 o’clock positions. Once done, the wheel will feel loose at either of these positions if the bearing is bad, and, since many vehicles come with the bearing and wheel as an assembly, both will likely have to be replaced.

Anytime a wheel bearing goes bad, it’s not only noticeable in sound or steering, but can also be very risky. For example, the wheel can fall off while driving.

Now you know what can happen if you have a bad wheel bearing, so we recommend replacing your wheel bearing as soon as possible with a quality replacements. Make sure to also read this Article: is it safe to drive with a bad wheel bearing? 11 Symptoms of a Bad Wheel Bearing

FRONT WHEEL BEARING NOISE SYMPTOMS

For you to determine the condition of your front wheel bearings, there are 5 common signs you can look out for.

  • An uneven brake pad or rotor wear

Most times this is a sign of a bad equalizer or brake caliper but not related to the bearing. An excessive run out can be caused by damaged or worn bearings which causes severe looseness, that could lead to an uneven amount of wears on the rotor or brake pads. Usually, this is due to a warped rotor from the caliper that is not properly retracting.

  • You will notice grinding while in motion

If this happens, it simply mean that a mechanical damage already exists within the wheel-end system. But as for the bearings, it could mean that it has a lack of integrity, like raceway or roller damages. Most time this noise is commonly heard while shifting or turning.

  • You will notice a rumbling, humming or growling sound

Your vehicle will get these kind of sound and usually, these type of noises are connected with electrical, tire or drivetrain components. But if it is related to the bearings, you will often hear the vibration or noise while driving straight, and will increase when turning the wheel just slightly either directions. However, the opposite side of the noise is the side that is defective.

  • You will notice a shimmy, shudder, or vibration at constant speed

Sometimes these symptoms are often connected with damaged or worn suspension components but could be the tires that are out-of-round or no longer balanced. But sometimes it’s not really an indication of a damaged bearing or hub.

  • You will notice an uneven or abnormal tire wear

There are many things that can lead to abnormal tire wear, with the most common of them being damaged or worn suspension components, improper inflation, misalignment or tire selection. However, an excessive looseness or bearing wear could lead to abnormal tire wear, which is often caused by other modes of failure.

REAR WHEEL BEARING NOISE SYMPTOMS

For you to determine the condition of a rear wheel bearings, these are 5 common signs you can look out for.

  • You will notice an abnormal side pulling when brake is applied

Sometimes this symptom is often the sign of a defective equalizer or caliper, but it could also be a sign of worn rotors or brakes. However, a severe looseness in regards to bearings could lead to an excessive amount of run out that could lead to brakes pulling or pulsating. One of the common reason is warped rotors caused by the caliper not properly retracting.

  • You will notice clicking, snapping or popping

If this happens, it may suggest a damaged or worn outer CV-joint. But sometimes it could also mean there is an excessive bearing endplay, most time this is the result of poor clamping. And it is very common to hear this noise when making sharp turns or cornering.

  • You will notice an ABS failure

It is only on an extreme situations that this can happen, the external and internal sensors are able to become damaged due to excessive movement that is related to excessive end-play. This will therefore suggest the loss or lack of bearing clamp. But normally, this is the result of an extreme mechanical damage or break up. And also, with designs that have sensors mounted on the external component, sensor damage could be the result of stones, corrosion, or various other hazards.

  • You will notice clunking or knocking

In case you hear this type of noise, this means there is an excessive amounts of play in the U-joints or CV-joints. Sometimes it can even be the cause of an excessive backlash with differential gears. Though this is not linked to bearings and commonly heard when shifting and changing directions from reverse or drive.

  • You will notice wobble or wheel vibrations

Though these symptoms can often be connected with worn tires, suspension or wheel components, it also could be a severe chassis misalignment too. And in relation to the bearing or wheel hub, it often suggests the lack of clamp or bearing with mechanical damage that is very severe. This could also happen if the lug nuts are not tightened properly.

WHEEL BEARING NOISE DIAGNOSIS

For wheel bearing noise diagnosis, you can examine your car’s wheel bearings to see if they need to be repacked. Note that wheel bearings usually come in pairs of inner and outer bearings. This allows your wheels to turn freely over thousands of miles by cushioning the contact between the wheel and the spindle it sits on with frictionless bearings and lots of nice, gooey grease. And this greases tends to pick up dust, dirt, and little particles of metal, even though the bearings are protected to some extent by the hub and the brake drum or disc.

In case you just want to examine your wheel bearings for wear without removing the wheels, you can do the following:

  • Lift up your vehicle. Just try as much as you can to support it on a jack stands.
  • Try to grasp each wheel at the top and bottom, then attempt to rock it without getting under the vehicle.
  • It should have a minimal movement. An excessive play may indicate that the wheel bearing is worn and needs adjustment or replacement.
  • Try as much as you can to put the gearshift in Neutral if you have an automatic transmission, or take your manual transmission out of gear.
  • Try rotating the wheel. Once you are rotating it, try and listen for any unusual noise and feel for any roughness as it rotates, this may indicate that the bearing is damaged and needs to be replaced.
  • Then shift back into Park (for an automatic transmission) or gear (for a manual transmission) before lowering the vehicle to the ground after you are done.

Concluding on   Wheel bearing noise diagnosis

I hope this post on Wheel bearing noise diagnosis + Rear & front wheel bearing noise symptoms was helpful to you? If it was, please share this post

Here are what we covered in this post:

  • what is a wheel bearing
  • how to tell which wheel bearing is bad by turning
  • how long will a wheel bearing last after it starts making noise
  • what can happen if you have a bad wheel bearing
  • front wheel bearing noise symptoms
  • rear wheel bearing noise symptoms
  • Wheel bearing noise diagnosis

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What to read next : 4 MAIN REASON WHY CAR MAKES HUMMING NOISE WHEN ACCELERATING or Driving

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