How To Tell If You Have A Bad Wheel Bearing

how to tell if you have a bad wheel bearing

Are you hearing some strange noises and you’re asking yourself how to tell if you have a bad wheel bearing? The answer is not that difficult, but let’s go through a bit about the issue.

You can have multiple symptoms to show you that your wheel bearing hub is worn out. The most common signs are audible, and sometimes even transmitted in the steering wheel.

What is a car wheel bearing?

The car wheel bearing is a part of the wheel hub assembly, which is a widely used part in the automotive industry.  It’s placed between the brake discs and the drive shaft. It’s also containing the mounting mechanism for the wheel itself.

The driving shaft is connected to this assembly, which is allowing for the power to be transferred to the wheels. That way the car can move back and forward on a road.

The wheel hub assembly, it’s the connection between the driving axle and the wheel. It’s a very important component in the correct and safe functioning of a vehicle.

7 signs of a bad wheel bearing

1. Grinding noise from the wheel area

Usually it’s not easy to recognize a bad wheel bearing because it appears occasionally and once they start to break, it can be quick. One wake-up call of a ready to break wheel bearing could be a powerful grinding or roaring sound showing up from the tire area of your car.

Excess heat that has built up inside the wheel bearing can cause this, because the lubrication is not existent. Typically, you’re hearing two metals that are grinding on each other.

Usually you’re hearing the sounds only from one side of the car, because the car wheel bearings don’t wear at the same intensity on both sides.

It’s a good idea to diagnose the vehicle and solve the problem as soon as possible.

2. Vibration in the steering wheel

One other problem that you can have when your vehicle suffers from a bad wheel bearing is a vibration within the steering wheel.

This vibration is noticed usually at lower speeds and it’s getting worse as soon as the vehicle is gaining speed by accelerating. It’s a little different from the problems where you have unbalanced wheels.

When your car experiences unbalanced wheels you will feel it when you drive at high speeds.

3. Extra movement in the wheels when rotate them

This symptom will be a little more difficult to hear or test. However, if you’ve got a nice car jack, hydraulic lift or something which can help you lift the car you will be able to analyze it.

Put both hands on the wheel, on opposite sides, and give it a hard shake. If the wheel bearings are stable, the wheel is not allowed to wiggle.

However, if the wheel is moving out of the ordinary ratio, it’s a very good sign of faulty wheel bearing that requires to get replaced as soon as possible.

In addition, you can also notice that your car is moving really difficult when in a neutral state or with clutch pressed. This means that there is a lot of friction in the bearings, which causes a movement attenuation.

4. Vehicle dragging on one side

This symptom is most commonly seen when you are driving and try to break. Even if this sign can imply faulty brake calipers or the brake rotors, it might also be the wheel bearings themselves because of the exaggerated amount of wear.

When a wheel bearing is worn the lubrication necessary for the bearings is not available anymore. Also, the shiny part of the bearing is gone and thus the rugged surface causes vibration to it tire. This vibration can pull the vehicle on the side of the faulty wheel bearing, which is not wanted.

5. Irregular tire wear

You can think there are a bunch of mechanical issues that will create abnormal tire wear including suspension that is not properly aligned, over inflated or to little inflated tires and other joint problems. However, one among the foremost common sources of uneven tire wear can be weary wheel bearings.

Usually the wheel bearings don’t wear uniformly. If the left tire is getting more wear, it would indicate an issue with the left wheel bearing. Still, wheel bearings got to get replaced together.

Once you have an issue with one side, you would like to exchange the opposite wheel bearing from the exact axle. If you see one side of your vehicle’s tires wearing out quicker than the opposite, try to diagnose the reason for which this tire that is wearing out. Usually, it may be something different or minor, but you do not want to risk having a wheel bearing break.

6. Wheel vibration when running at constant speed

7. Snapping noises when turning wheels

How long can you drive on a bad wheel bearing?

While there is no exact mileage to answer the question, we can make some assumptions:

  • If you encounter any of the above signs and you feel you have a bad wheel bearing, the first step is to drive slow. We do this to prevent the assembly to heat. Also in extreme cases where the wheel is blocked, critical incidents are avoided by being able to quickly pull over;
  • How loud is the noise that the wheel bearing is causing? If it’s very load, or increasing by speed then you can assume that any time the wheel can get locked or torn apart. In this case, it’s good to drive it until the closest service or do it yourself if you have the knowledge;
  • After you drive for a while, check with your hand how hot is the wheel bearing hub cap. If it’s at the same temperature as the other wheels, then you can still drive it for a while;
  • If it’s faulty and grinding wheel bearing maybe 50 miles, if it’s on the early stage of breaking maybe 1000 miles and some people went up to 2000 miles. The idea behind this is to not be cheap with an important assembly which later can cause disastrous situations;

Will a bad wheel bearing cause the car to shake?

While there are other causes of this symptom, one of them could be unbalanced wheels.

Usually the wheel bearing should be really worn out so it can cause your car to shake. You will feel small vibrations or even car dragging on one side, but shaking is not very common.

Will my tire fall off with a bad wheel bearing?

It’s very important to not reach this step. If the wheel bearing is fully worn out can cause your wheel to block.

When the wheel is blocked a lot of dangerous situations may arise. Think of the wheel bearing as the part that allows for the rotation movement from the shaft, to be transmitted to the wheel.

If this component is not doing the job correctly, and it will get blocked your wheel may fall off at high speeds.

Usually this is very difficult to happen, only in case you ignore the common signs that we’ve talked about above.  If you’re struggling how to tell if you have a bad wheel bearing, contact a mechanic or service and fix the problem as soon as possible.

How To Tell Which Wheel Bearing Is Bad Front Or Back?

It’ not that difficult to determine in which wheel is your issue. This means that first you should listen from where your sound is coming from. It should be easy to figure this out.

Secondly, you can jack the car and move the wheel. That’s another easy method to figure it out.

Thirdly, you will notice it during driving, but it’s more challenging to see exactly where is your problem. You can determine this if the car is dragging on one side, meaning that there is your issue.

How Do You Check Wheel Bearings?

I will leave you a nice video on how you can check wheel bearings. It’s really explanatory and digging into the issues.


We’ve learned a couple of methods, how to tell if you have a bad wheel bearing. Once you encounter any of them or your car is diagnosed with this problem, fix it as soon as possible to avoid paying some extra money.


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