A bad wheel bearing is a huge problem for car owners. There are signs that it might be bad, like humming and grinding noises when turning, vibrations from the steering wheel, lose steering, and unusual sounds coming from the axle or hub assembly when braking. It can damage suspension parts and even cause an accident if not fixed.
To diagnose it, it’s good to know how a wheel bearing works. They reduce friction between moving parts in wheels, providing rotational support and allowing smooth movement.
They usually have steel balls with synthetic rubber seals on both sides of the axle spindle assembly or hub in each wheel’s outer rim. This enables reliable handling, reduces road noise, and reduces wear on other suspension parts.
Knowing this helps fix a bad bearing issue so you can replace it before it worsens. Plus, proper car maintenance prevents this issue from becoming a bigger problem. In this guide, we’ll talk about:
- Common symptoms
- Tools to diagnose them
- Ways to maintain them
- Ways to fix them
Symptoms of a Bad Wheel Bearing
A bad wheel bearing can cause a lot of trouble in your car. It’s easy to detect though. Here are some common symptoms. Look for them to identify and fix the problem fast:
- Unusual noises coming from the wheels.
- Vibrations when driving.
- Difficulty steering.
- Loose feeling in the wheel.
If a wheel bearing has gone bad, you could hear metal clanking when the vehicle is in motion. It may sound like grinding or growling. It usually gets louder when turning or going over bumps. It can be tough to pinpoint the noise’s source. Vibration and looseness in the steering wheel may also be present. A bad wheel bearing can lead to major issues, such as suspension and tire damage.
Check wheel bearings often for signs of wear. Replace them fast if any signs of damage appear:
- Listen for metal clanking.
- Look for vibration and looseness in the steering wheel.
- Check for signs of wear.
Vibration can be a sign of a bad wheel bearing. If the bearing is not right or has too much play, the tire will wobble and shake as it rotates. It gets worse as your speed increases. The shaking can affect the steering wheel, seat, and other parts of the car. You may even hear a clicking noise.
If you think you have a bad wheel bearing, go to an auto repair service quickly. Otherwise, axle shafts or suspension parts may be damaged.
Loose steering is a sign of a bad wheel bearing. It’s dangerous, and too little resistance can lead to accidents. Also, look out for other signs like vibrations, clunking noises, and early tire wear. If you have all these symptoms, your wheel bearing is likely damaged or broken.
Ignoring the issue can lead to further damage. Friction on the tires will decrease, leading to premature wear and impacting your car’s performance. Get your vehicle checked by a technician if you think your wheel bearing is bad.
Causes of a Bad Wheel Bearing
Wheel bearings? Essential for any car. They hold the wheel and let it spin as you drive. But what can cause a bad wheel bearing? Let’s take a look at all possible causes of this issue:
- Excessive load
- Improper installation
- Insufficient lubrication
- Excessive wear
- Excessive heat
Lack of Lubrication
Lack of lubrication causes bad wheel bearings. Lubrication reduces friction, wear and lengthens the part’s life. Insufficient lubrication can damage the bearing, resulting in rattling noises, vibration, grinding/scraping, jerking when turning/braking and squeaking when driving.
It is important to regularly check lubricant condition. If it is dried out or smells burned, a replacement is needed. Also, check power steering fluid levels during maintenance. Low levels could lead to inadequate lubrication for the wheel bearings, accelerating wear.
Corrosion can ruin wheel bearings. It may be caused by rust, salt on the roads, or other things. Corroded bearings wear faster and make loud noises.
Inadequate lubrication and improper regreasing can also cause noise. This includes too loose bearing nuts. Poorly designed seals may let in water, which can damage the bearings.
Wheel bearings are a must, reducing friction when a wheel rotates. They make wheels turn quietly and freely. Overheating is a sign of bad bearings or other mechanical issues. Too hot bearings can cause metallic elements to become compromised. Thermal fatigue and deformation of components also happen.
Excessive heat can mean the bearings won’t support the load. This leads to premature bearing failure. If this happens, replace the wheel bearing with a high-quality disk. Proper maintenance is key. Inspect your wheel bearings regularly to avoid overheating. Also, check seals and lubricant are installed and changed when needed.
Diagnosis of a Bad Wheel Bearing
Diagnosing a bad wheel bearing is essential. It’s to detect vibrations and noises when driving. But, it can be tricky without the right tools, knowledge and technique.
This article will tell you what to look for, the tools you need and how to properly diagnose it:
Jack Up the Vehicle
Lifting the car is essential for wheel bearing diagnostics. To do this, you need a jack and jack stands. Raise the car to a comfortable height and secure with weight-rated jack stands. It’s essential to make sure the vehicle is stable before testing or repairing components, to avoid injury.
Time to remove the wheel. Loosen each bolt a quarter turn, then move on to the next one. Once all bolts are loosened, lift off the wheel with your arms. Be quick to release any remaining tension from your hands, as the tire’s weight can be significant.
Inspect the wheel for:
- Oil leaks
- Disruptions in rubber seals
- Any integrity changes
If any of these signs are present, they may require immediate replacement. Make sure to use a backstop and appropriate braking methods to ensure no movement during diagnosis.
Check for Play in the Wheel
To diagnose a bad wheel bearing, check the wheel. Lift and support it, then grab the tire at 3 and 9 o’clock. Move it left and right. If there’s more than 1/8-inch of play, it’s likely the wheel bearing.
To confirm, open the hood. Check the tie rod end and ball joints. Apply pressure with an adjustable wrench in alternate directions. Wiggle the tire from beneath. If any part of the suspension moves or is loose, replace or re-tighten it.
If there’s no play in the suspension joint when you apply pressure, the ball joint and tie rod are likely not the problem. Look for cracks or bulges on the tires. This could point to a bad wheel bearing.
Check for Heat
Check your wheel bearing with your hand. It should not be too hot. Be careful – it can get hot due to friction or bad lubrication. Unusual heat transfer could be a sign of failure.
Listen for strange grinding noises by driving forward and back. Damaged wheel bearings make clicking noises. If you hear scraping or grinding, take your vehicle for servicing.
Repair of a Bad Wheel Bearing
Repairing a bad wheel bearing is a complicated task. It requires great care. Utilize the correct tools and safety measures for an effective repair. Here’s a look at the tools and procedures for repairing a bad wheel bearing:
- Utilize the correct tools
- Follow safety measures
- Perform the repair properly
Remove the Wheel Bearing
Removing a wheel bearing can be tricky, based on the make and model of the vehicle. Check the owner’s manual or an online repair database for instructions. Generally, the steps are:
- Lift and support the car with jack stands.
- Remove the tire and brake rotor (consult owner’s manual).
- Take out dust caps or cotter pins (consult owner’s manual).
- Loosen the nut that holds the inner bearing with a wrench or socket wrench (choose correct size).
- Use a large flathead screwdriver between inner race and axle flange to loosen stuck bearings (be careful not to damage the seal).
- Unscrew castle nut from spindle and pull off outer bearing race from housing (be careful not to damage dust shield).
- Pry apart inner part of bearing assembly from spindle (replacement bearings likely come premounted).
- Disassemble spacer/spacer ring and pressing piece between inner portion of bearing assembly and bottom part of housing (inspect/clean before re-installing onto vehicle axle hub flange with new bearings/seals).
Install New Wheel Bearing
Replacing a wheel bearing is an easy job for someone with the right tools and knowledge. To start, you’ll need to buy the correct type of bearing for your car, as well as bolts, seals, and nuts.
Lift the car and place it on stands. Remove the tire, brake parts, and unbolt the suspension arm. Take out the wheel hub and use a hammer to unfasten each bolt that holds the old bearing.
Replace the bearing in reverse order. Put grease where needed and use thread locker on the bolts. Check all parts are secure, then reattach the tire. Now you can drive with your new wheel bearing!
Re-Install the Wheel
Once the wheel bearing is replaced, the wheel can be reinstalled. Fit the hub onto the axle with a press. Slide the wheel onto the hub and rotate it so the lug studs fit through the rotor’s openings. Make sure the four lug studs properly engage. Then, drive in new lug nuts by hand until they are tight.
Lower the vehicle onto its wheels, fill the tires with air to factory specs, and torque each lug nut with an impact wrench. Follow the torque spec from the service manual. Test the vehicle at slow speeds over short distances to make sure everything is reassembled correctly before going faster.
Bad wheel bearings can be dangerous to drive with. They can cause damage and create hazards for the driver and passengers. To be safe, you must replace them right away. Get a qualified technician to help you and follow safety precautions.
Check other parts that could have been damaged by the bad wheel bearing. These include brake shoes, lining, drive axles, and tie rod end. Replacing the whole axle or worse can cost more than just replacing the wheel bearing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1: What is a bad wheel bearing?
A1: A bad wheel bearing is a malfunctioning bearing in the wheel assembly of a vehicle. It can cause a variety of issues such as a grinding noise, difficulty steering, or uneven tire wear.
Q2: How can I tell if my wheel bearing is bad?
A2: If you notice a grinding noise coming from your wheels, or if you experience difficulty steering or your tires are wearing unevenly, it’s possible that your wheel bearing is bad. You should have it inspected by a mechanic to confirm.
Q3: How can I fix a bad wheel bearing?
A3: The only way to fix a bad wheel bearing is to replace it. This can be done by a mechanic or in some cases, a do-it-yourselfer. It is a complex job, so it’s best to leave it to a professional.