Your vehicle’s wheels may seem to have simple functionality, but their design involves a lot of complexity. The wheel bearing is the perfect example of that.
Wheel bearings are critical for your wheels to stay sturdy and work harmoniously.
However, they’re prone to damage. And an almost definite sign of a worn bearing is noise.
So what does a wheel bearing noise sound like?
And can you drive with a faulty wheel bearing?
In this article, we’ll answer all your questions on wheel bearing noise, including what it sounds like, four other damage symptoms, possible causes, and the cost of replacement.
This Article Contains:
- What’s A Wheel Bearing?
- What Does A Bad Wheel Bearing Sound Like?
- How To Distinguish A Bad Wheel Bearing Noise From Tire Noise?
- 4 Other Telltale Signs Of A Bad Bearing
- What Are The Possible Causes Of A Bad Wheel Bearing?
- Is It Safe To Drive With Wheel Bearing Noise?
- How Much Does A Wheel Bearing Replacement Cost?
Let’s get started.
What’s A Wheel Bearing?
A wheel bearing is a set of steel balls or rollers found inside the hub assembly and held by a cage in a metal ring called a “race.”
At the center of your wheels is a hollow metal piece called a wheel hub. The wheel bearings fit tightly inside this hub and ride on a metal axle shaft.
When wheels spin around these metal axles, they create friction and heat. Wheel bearings help reduce friction and heat, and protect your wheels and tires.
A bad or worn bearing causes friction, leading to difficulty in effective wheel roll.
But how do you know you’re dealing with a failed wheel bearing?
Read on to find out.
What Does A Bad Wheel Bearing Sound Like?
Whether your vehicle has roller bearings, ball bearings, or any other type of wheel bearings, the most obvious sign of damage is noise.
Wheel bearing noise can be classified as one of the following unusual sounds:
- Snapping Or Clicking Noise: A snapping or clicking noise from under your vehicle is normally caused by excessive bearing endplay. You’d typically hear this noise while cornering or making sharp turns with moderate speed. Note that you can also hear this noise if you have a damaged CV joint.
- Knocking Or Thumping Noise: You’re likely hearing a knocking sound from a noisy wheel bearing because it isn’t rotating as freely as it should.
- Grinding Or Humming Noise: The humming or grinding noise can be from a bad wheel bearing or a worn tire. If the sound becomes worse and resembles a growling noise with increased vehicle speed, it’s almost certainly a bad wheel bearing.
Since other vehicle issues like tire damage cause a similar noise, it can be challenging to determine if what you’re hearing is a bad bearing noise or tire noise.
Is there a way to know for sure if you’re dealing with a bad wheel bearing?
Let’s find out.
How To Distinguish A Bad Wheel Bearing Noise From Tire Noise?
Any noise made by your car is a cause for concern.
Here’s something you can try to figure out if what you’re hearing is a bad bearing noise:
Turn the steering wheel slightly to the left or right. If the noise worsens, then it’s likely one of the wheel bearings.
However, sometimes you may not have a faulty wheel bearing or a worn tire. The issue can be within the drivetrain, the CV joint, or the rear differential.
It’s best to get your vehicle evaluated by a certified mechanic who can say for sure if it’s a bad wheel bearing noise.
Besides the noise, let’s look at the other key symptoms you may experience.
4 Other Telltale Signs Of A Bad Bearing
Here are four other signs of a damaged wheel bearing:
1. Shaky And Loose Steering
A worn wheel bearing can give you a shaky steering wheel at a lower vehicle speed. The shaking will only worsen and may even occur while accelerating if the wheel bearing failure is unaddressed.
2. Uneven Tire Wear
A bad bearing can negatively affect your vehicle’s alignment. Poor alignment can cause uneven tire wear.
If all four of your tires are aligned with complete contact with the road, you wouldn’t have uneven wear. Typically, the most worn tire is the same wheel with the faulty bearing.
A failing wheel bearing can lead to increased wheel friction, causing them to change position. As a result, you may experience vibrations and tremors while driving.
The shakiness will persist and even worsen until your wheel bearing problem is fixed.
4. Wobbly Wheel Assembly
This one’s a symptom your mechanic can identify. When your vehicle is up on the lift, a mechanic can grab the wheel and try to rock it back and forth.
If the wheel assembly wobbles, you probably have a wheel bearing problem.
Next, let’s look at the possible causes for a failed bearing.
What Are The Possible Causes Of A Bad Wheel Bearing?
A wheel bearing issue can be a result of:
- Improper Installation: Wheel bearings can be damaged because they were installed improperly or against the manufacturer’s recommendation.
- Driving Through Deep Water: Wheel bearing seals are installed at the factory with a petroleum-based lubricant. This helps seal in the high-temperature grease the bearing needs. However, a sealed wheel bearing still can’t completely stop water from getting through.
- Driving On The Rough Roads: A pothole or a bumpy road trip can lead to wheel bearing failure as the bearings receive the entire pressure of the car’s weight.
- Unbalanced Tires Or Bad Shocks: The wheel system depends on its wheel hub assembly, wheel bearing, tire, lower arm, lower joint, knuckle arm, and shock. Any unbalanced part can cause a faulty wheel bearing.
Let’s now find out if it’s safe to get on the road with a bad bearing.
Is It Safe To Drive With Wheel Bearing Noise?
It is NOT safe to drive with a damaged front or rear wheel bearing. And since wheel bearing noise points to bearing problems, it wouldn’t be a good idea to take your car for a spin.
Sometimes, a failed wheel bearing can cause you to lose a wheel while driving, which can have potentially deadly consequences.
So, if you think you hear a wheel bearing noise, get your vehicle repaired immediately. Your safety depends on it!
Wondering how much that would cost you?
Let’s find out.
How Much Does A Wheel Bearing Replacement Cost?
On average, wheel bearing replacement costs between $200 and $800.
The labor costs for replacing a wheel bearing are between $140 and $200, while the parts themselves cost between $150 and $400.
Can you fix it yourself?
Well, a critical problem here is diagnosing the exact reason for the issues you see. For all you know, a wheel bearing noise can actually be tire damage in reality.
Plus, sometimes, you may have to remove the steering knuckle to replace the wheel bearing.
So even if you were to determine front or rear wheel bearing damage, you’d need specialized equipment and experience to fix it yourself.
Wheel bearings are key to keeping your wheels in position and moving effectively. A wheel bearing issue can prove to be dangerous on the road and can cost you your safety.
So when dealing with a bad wheel bearing or wheel bearing noise, it’s best to seek help from a professional mechanic.
Make sure that they:
- Are ASE-certified
- Only use high-quality replacement parts
- Offer you a service warranty
And luckily, RepairSmith is the most convenient car repair and maintenance solution that offers all of this.