Each wheel of a vehicle has a wheel assembly and wheel bearing is one of the most critical parts of this wheel assembly that keep the tire attached to the vehicle and make the wheel to spin freely without causing excess heat. It is a steel ring that has a set of steel balls held together within it.
However, the wheel bearings have a quite long lifespan and this is why they hardly require any repair or replacement. Only once or twice, you will need wheel bearing replacement throughout the vehicle’s life. And this is the reason that we all do not care much about its maintenance and cleaning.
But remember that if they break, the wheel hub would get separated and fall off which can lead to an uncomfortable situation. Therefore, you must keep your eyes open to warning signs that indicate the wear out of wheel bearing.
Let’s look at the signs and symptoms of the bad wheel bearing. It would help you to recognize the problem well before anything gets worse.
Signs and Symptoms of Bad Wheel Bearing
1. Uneven Tire Wear
Generally, if everything is working fine, the tires would wear out evenly by the time. But if you notice unevenly worn-out tires, this could be the sign of bad wheel bearing. However, there are a few other reasons also that may cause uneven tire wear including unbalanced tires, bad wheel alignment, and CV joints but bad wheel bearing is the common cause of uneven tire wear.
So, if you notice that one side of the vehicle’s tire is wearing out faster than the other, contact a professional mechanic to get it tested and diagnosed to avoid any major problem.
2. Grinding or Roaring Noise
Another sign of bad wheel bearing is a loud grinding noise coming from the tire area of your vehicle. Usually, this grinding and roaring noise occurs when the wheel bearing loses its lubricity and generates a lot of heat inside the wheel bearing. This sound would feel like two pieces of metal are grinding together.
This roaring sound is more noticeable while taking a sharp turn. And you will possibly hear this sound from one specific wheel rather than all of them, just like the tires wear out unevenly. If you notice such awkward noise, get in touch with a certified mechanic as soon as possible because the problem of bad wheel bearing happens rarely but when it happens, it doesn’t take much time to fall.
3. Steering Wheel Vibration
You may also feel the vibration in the steering wheel when the condition of wheel bearing gets worse. This vibration is noticeable when your vehicle is at a slower speed. However, the similar vibration one can feel in the case of an unbalanced tire but this vibration shows up at higher speed.
No matter what the reason is, if there is vibration in the steering wheel, you must take your vehicle to a professional mechanic to get it diagnosed and fixed.
4. Wheels Move Back And Forth
This one is not easier to diagnose as you will need your vehicle’s tires jacked up to test this one out yourself. When the tires are lifted, grab one of the wheels and try rocking it back and forth and observe its movement.
Do the same thing the same way with other wheels. If you notice that the wheel wobbles or moves back and forth when you rock it, it means the wheel bearings have worn out that need to be replaced quickly. For this, you should contact a certified mechanic who will diagnose and rectify the issue the right way.
How to Tell Which Wheel Bearing is Bad (Front or Back)
It is not easier to determine which wheel bearing is bad unless you keenly observe the warning signs it gives out. There are two ways to ascertain which wheel bearing is bad.
- Method #1
To identify which wheel bearing is bad, you need to drive your vehicle. And while driving, keenly listen to the noise coming out from the vehicle. However, you may notice the noise that sounds good, coming out from the smooth working of the vehicle’s engine. You only need to focus on grinding noise that is uncommon and arises when the wheel bearing loses lubricity.
While listening to this noise keenly, you will automatically get to know the source of noise from where it’s coming out and you can tell which wheel bearing is bad, front or rear.
- Method #2
Another way to determine which wheel bearing is faulty is to sway your vehicle in a particular direction. Be attentive while swaying your vehicle slowly and keenly observe the noise. If the noise lessens when you sway your vehicle to the left, the right wheel bearing can have a problem. And if the noise loses its intensity while moving the vehicle to the right, the left wheel bearing is probably the faulty one.
If still, you’re not sure which wheel bearing is bad, you can simply lift each wheel one by one using the jack and check the wheel by pushing it back and forth movement. The wheel that doesn’t move flexibly or wobbles is the faulty one.
Is it Safe to Drive with a Bad Wheel Bearing
Certainly, it is not safe to drive with a bad wheel bearing as it can lead to a dangerous situation. However, you can drive with a bad wheel bearing for a few hundreds of miles if the wearing process has just started. But you should not take the risk of putting your life in danger as in some cases the failing wheel bearing can cause the wheel to fall off completely that is quite dangerous.
It is important to know that the increase in speed can make the wearing process faster and can cause the wheel to crash out completely. So, if you notice the unusual sound in the middle of the road, make sure you drive slowly and steadily, maximum at the speed of 40m per hour till you reach to a mechanic shop.
What Can Happen If You Have a Bad Wheel Bearing?
It is common that with a bad wheel bearing, you will experience an unpleasant drive. The grinding noise, vibrating steering wheel, and pulling down to one side will make your drive uncomfortable. Apart from an unpleasant drive, it can also put your safety at risk if the wheel gets fall off while driving.
1. Wear Down of Internal Parts of Bearing
If your vehicle has a faulty wheel bearing, it can wear down the internal parts of the bearing that can cause a grinding noise. This noise increases with the increase in the vehicle’s speed. The internal parts of a bearing are designed to reduce friction and make the drive smooth and comfortable. When these parts get worn out, your vehicle will not work smoothly.
2. The Noise Gets Increased and Decreased While Turning
The unpleasant sound gets amplified as you drive your vehicle to the side of a good wheel bearing and it gets decreased if you drive to the side of a bad wheel bearing. To get rid of this problem, you should get the bad wheel bearing replaced.
3. The Wheel Gets Loose
When your vehicle has a bad wheel bearing, you will also notice that the wheel has become loose that can be dangerous. In some cases, the wheel may get fall off entirely while driving. Therefore, we recommend immediate replacement of a bad wheel bearing from a professional mechanic.
How Long Will a Worn Wheel Bearing Last
How long a worn wheel bearing last that entirely depends on how you drive the vehicle. As a fact, there is no lubrication on the worn wheel bearing to make it smoothly working. And in such a situation, the increase in speed can amplify the wearing process and can make the bad wheel bearing crackdown quicker than normal. And with an increase in speed, it will also build up excess heat that may cause the wheel to crash out entirely.
But if you drive slowly and steadily by shifting the weight of the vehicle from one side to another, you can still drive almost more than 1000 miles with a faulty wheel bearing. If you keep continuing driving your vehicle with the bad wheel bearing even after thousands of miles, you may call some serious problem for you and your vehicle. Therefore, be attentive if you notice even a minor sign of a bad wheel bearing and get it replaced on an immediate basis.
Essentially, you can’t fix the issue of a bad wheel bearing unless you’re an expert in auto repair and maintenance. But you can certainly identify this issue well in time and get it resolved before anything serious happens to your vehicle. Your knowledge about what causes the bad wheel bearing and what can happen due to this can help you out to decide how to go about this problem. We hope this article has provided you enough information needed to deal with a bad wheel bearing problem. So, be careful with the wheel bearing and enjoy a safe journey!