There are many horror stories about people who didn’t replace wheel bearings. Whether by ignorance or by neglect, failure to replace wheel bearings when they is worn out can lead to some lethal feelings towards your vehicle and some scary moments with your wallet.
So how can you tell when your wheel bearings are on their way out and avoid the inevitable damage that comes from not replacing them? There are many different signs that indicate a bad wheel bearing, let’s discuss a few.
• First of all, sounds can be a strong indication of wheel bearing wear, so keep your ears keen. Before you know you need to replace a wheel bearing, you should be able to hear some semblance of wear. For example, if you hear a snapping or popping sound as you are going around a sharp turn, the noise could very well point out an issue with the bearing. It is most likely, to be more specific, a worn or damaged CV-joint. Some other sounds you might hear is a grinding noise while you are moving. This normally would mean that there is mechanical damage in a wheel-end system, but if it is the bearing, then it could mean it has lost strength such as roller or raceway damage. If there is a knocking sound, this can be an indication of excessive movement in the CV-joints or U-joints. If there is a rumbling or humming sound, and is bearing related, then this could also be a sign it is time to replace a wheel bearing.
• A second indication of wheel bearing wear is the drive of the vehicle. If there is a pull to the side when applying your brakes, this could be another sign of wheel bearing wear. Most of the time this implies an issue with other aspects of the car, but not always. Feeling a shudder or vibration while you are driving at a constant speed normally doesn’t mean bearing damage as well as a wheel vibration or wobble. However, if you do feel a wobble and it is the bearing that is the cause, then it probably means a loss of clamp or even severe mechanical damage.
• The third indication is the uneven wear of the vehicle itself. If you start to notice an uneven tire wear it could be from other sources. But, if your wheel bearing is extremely worn then it could lead to this uneven tire wear. If there is an uneven rotor or brake wear, then as with all the other symptoms we have discussed, it is most likely from other sources. Again under normal circumstances this is the case, but if it is the bearing causing this, then it is because of unusual looseness that comes from it being worn.
• The fourth and last indication, and only in rare instances, is internal and external sensors can be damaged by movement from too much end-play. Normally other factors create problems for the sensors, but in these extreme cases a worn bearing can be indicated by these damaged sensors.
As seen by the many different indicators of wheel bearing wear, they may be revealing other problems with your vehicle instead. If there are indicators pointing to different problems or potential problems with your car, then try to diagnose them as soon as possible. You should always make sure your car is properly maintained to ensure no mechanical issue turns into a safety one. This being said, these different indicators or symptoms adding up together can really prove it is time to replace a wheel bearing. So remember to always listen, feel, and inspect your car for abnormalities not only to know when it is time to replace a bearing, but also to ensure car safety for the years of driving to come.