How to Diagnose a Bad Wheel Bearing
If you hear a groaning, rubbing, whirring, knocking, or grinding noise when driving your car, it could mean you have a bad wheel bearing. Since wheel bearings are usually built as a part of the wheel hub assembly, it likely means the whole wheel hub assembly needs replacing. This article will explain the signs of a bad wheel bearing, what causes a bad wheel bearing, and how to diagnose and replace a wheel bearing or wheel hub assembly yourself.
For a better idea of what a bad wheel bearing sounds like, this video has a few examples of how a bad wheel bearing sounds.
Signs and Symptoms of a Bad Wheel Bearing
Grinding, Scraping, or Rubbing Noise When Driving
When a wheel bearing wears out, it can make a grinding, rubbing, or scraping noise from the wheel while driving as the internal parts wear and cause more resistance. This can increase in sound volume the longer it goes unreplaced.
Bad wheel bearings might also make a groaning or rubbing noise when turning—another sign the wheel bearing is bad and is affected by the vehicle shifting weight.
Loose Steering or Steering Wheel Vibrates
Too much “play” in the wheel bearing can make the steering feel loose as the wheel hub gets less effective at turning from wear and tear. Sometimes tire vibrations can be felt in the steering wheel as the worn parts of the bearing start to grind.
ABS Light Turns On
On many vehicles, the anti-lock brake system (ABS) is a part of the wheel hub, and if this malfunctions, the entire wheel hub assembly and wheel bearing will need to be replaced.
What Causes the Wheel Bearing to Make a Grinding Noise When Turning?
Wheel bearings sit on the wheel hub on “races” that allow it to spin. When a wheel bearing goes bad from normal wear and tear, lack of grease on the bearing, or elements getting inside, it will have more resistance when spinning. This can create a scraping or grinding noise when driving or when turning the front or rear wheels. As the internal parts wear down, the bearing creates more “play,” which can sometimes be felt in other parts like the steering wheel. The wheel hubs will also become exceptionally hot from the extra friction which could cause more damage to the hub and internal components.
Ways to Diagnose a Bad Wheel Bearing
Check the Wheel Bearing with a Stethoscope
One way to confirm which wheel bearing is bad is to check it with a stethoscope. With the vehicle running up in the air, listening with a stethoscope pressed against the wheel knuckle can pinpoint which wheel bearing is making noise
Spin the Wheel/Tire
Spin the wheel/tire and place a hand on the strut’s coil if the vehicle has coil-over struts. Sometimes you can feel the wheel bearing reverberating on the coil with one hand while the wheel is spinning. Sometimes you can hear the grinding noise from the wheel or tire when spinning it.
Shake the Wheel/Tire in and out
You can feel and hear a bad wheel bearing with a simple test at the tires. Raise and secure the vehicle. Grab the tire from the 12 and 6 o’clock position. Press the tire in and out. Test and feel for any excessive movement or looseness.
Note: A bad wheel bearing can still make a grinding or scraping noise even if you feel no play or movement.
Fix that Grinding Noise When Turning by Replacing a Wheel Bearing or Wheel Hub Assembly Yourself
On many vehicles, the wheel bearing is included with the wheel hub as a wheel hub assembly. This means if the wheel bearing is bad, the whole wheel hub assembly might need to be replaced.
Save on a wheel bearing repair by fixing it yourself. Learn how to properly remove and install a new wheel bearing or wheel hub assembly on your vehicle with 1A Auto’s how-to videos.
Parts and Tools Featured in This Article
- Bad Wheel Bearing Symptoms
- What Does a Bad Wheel Bearing Sound Like?
- How to Tell Which Wheel Bearing Is Bad While Driving
- Wheel Bearings & Wheel Hubs 101: What They Are And How They Fail
- Got Wheel Wobble? Test for a Bad or Noisy Wheel Bearing
- Why are my brakes grinding? [Expert advice to diagnose & fix]
- Rattling Noise Under Car?
- Vibration Under Acceleration?
- Clunking Noise from the Rear of the Car? [Diagnose & Fix]
- Front End Clunking Noise While Driving?
- Rattle in Front End When Going Over Bumps?
For more related content and content about other parts and car knowledge, visit 1A Auto’s automotive articles