9 Bad Wheel Bearing Symptoms & When to Replace?

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Have you been hearing strange noises coming from your vehicle? Is it causing vibration or difficulty in the steering? It may be a sign of a bad wheel bearing. But what exactly are wheel bearings, and how do you know if they fail?

Wheel bearings are a crucial component in your vehicle’s suspension system. They allow the wheels to rotate smoothly while supporting the vehicle’s weight. Over time, they are subject to wear and tear and can develop faults if improperly maintained.

If you suspect your vehicle may have a bad wheel bearing, it’s important to get it checked as soon as possible. Delaying repairs could cause further damage to other parts of your vehicle and lead to costly repairs. This article will outline the bad wheel-bearing symptoms you need to know to ensure your vehicle runs smoothly and safely on the road.

What Causes Bad Wheel Bearings?

There are a lot of factors that can contribute to bad wheel bearing, here’s a list of the most common causes:

  • General Wear and Tear

General wear and tear can become the reason for bad wheel bearings most of the time as constant use causes a lot of friction.

  • Impact Damage

While driving we often come across curbs, potholes, and various other roadblocks that can damage the bearings in our vehicles.

  • Improper Installation

Improper installation of the bearings can make them wear out before time.

  • Lack of Lubrication

If proper lubrication is not used your wheel bearing will likely go bad as the wheels wear out faster and a lot of heat is generated.

  • Overloading The Vehicle

Exceeding the vehicle’s weight capacity puts extra stress on the bearings.

  • Contamination

Dirt, water, or other debris can get into the bearing and cause it to fail.

Now you may want to know how we check for signs of a bad wheel bearing, let’s dive in.

What Leads to Bad Wheel Bearings? 

Over time, wheel bearings can become worn or damaged, leading to issues such as steering problems, vibration, or even accidents. One of the most common causes of wheel bearing damage is improper installation. 

If your wheel bearings were not installed carefully with the correct parts, they could become loose and cause your car to vibrate at high speeds. 

Another common cause of wheel bearing damage is improper lubrication. Without adequate lubrication, your wheel bearings can dry and cause excessive friction. This leads to mechanical failure. 

Keeping your bearings lubricated adequately is essential to ensure they last longer and perform better.

9 Common Symptoms of a Bad Wheel Bearing

Grinding or Roaring Noises

One of the most common signs of a bad wheel bearing is a grinding or roaring noise from the wheel area when the vehicle is in motion. This noise can be caused by worn-out bearings, which cannot support the car’s weight and cause friction between metal components.


Another symptom of bad wheel bearings is a noticeable vibration from the wheel area while driving at high speeds. This can be due to an out-of-balance wheel, which can cause excessive wear on the bearing.

Difficulty Turning

If your vehicle has difficulty turning or feels like it’s pulling one way, it could indicate that your wheel bearings are worn out and need to be replaced.

Uneven Tire Wear

Worn-out wheel bearings can lead to uneven tire wear, which can cause further damage to your vehicle’s suspension system. If one of your tires wears out faster than the others, it could be a sign of bad wheel bearings.

Excessive Heat

When wheel bearings become worn out, they can generate excessive heat. If you feel your wheels are too hot to touch, it could be a sign that the bearings must be replaced.

Clicking Noise

Driving may cause the wheel to click if the issue has advanced to that stage. Although it isn’t deafening, you can hear it by raising the window while driving. It feels like a small metal ball hitting the wheel at first, but it becomes much more audible as time goes on.

This is easily misinterpreted as, for instance, a failing CV joint, as with the humming sound. If this is the only sign you notice, you must adequately check the undercarriage to avoid making a mistake.

Wheel Sway

One sign of a highly damaged wheel bearing is this. Like when you hear grinding, you should change the wheel bearing immediately if you have this symptom. Damage causes unwelcome play while the bearing connects the entire wheel to the driving shaft.

This implies that there is undesired play throughout the entire wheel. The wheel bearing’s cage and rollers being damaged is the most frequent cause. Raising the car and trying to turn the steering wheel from left to right will quickly reveal this. Afterwards, the play will start.

Greasy Stains 

Greasy spots on the rim may be the least evident. Most of the time, every early symptom is already present. As a result, it’s unlikely that you’ll notice this. However, take a closer look if you notice this, such as while changing a tire or inspecting. 

Make a quick inspection if you observe a heavy layer of oil, usually black or green, around the hub’s center, on the hubcap.

This happens because the bearing’s seal is damaged or absent, allowing all lubricants to leak. The wheel bearing will eventually suffer significant damage if it is not lubricated.

The Car Veers to The Side

You might also notice that your car leans to the left, along with the wheel wobbling, because the wheel is almost out of balance. It’s highly comparable to when one of a car’s tires is underinflated or when the tires are improperly balanced.

The draw is barely noticeable at first, but if you fail to take action soon enough, it could pull you dramatically to one side.

How to Tell if Wheel Bearing is Bad?

Checking a wheel bearing involves a few steps that include listening for unnatural sounds and doing a physical check. Here’s a briefing of the whole process:

Listening for Sounds

  1. Drive the car

Observe whether there are any unusual noises. These noises can be particularly grinding, humming, or growling which will increase in pitch as you drive faster. This is the most common symptom of bad wheel bearing. 

Physical Check (Car safely jacked up and secured on jack stands)

  1. Grab the wheel at 3 and 9 o’clock positions

Firmly try to wiggle the wheel back and forth. Any excessive play (looseness) or clunking sound indicates a potential issue with the bearing.

  1. Repeat at 12 and 6 o’clock positions

This helps differentiate between a wheel bearing problem and a loose lug nut, which would only show play at these positions.

  1. Spin the wheel 

Listen for any grinding noises or uneven rotations, which could also lead to the conclusion of a bad wheel bearing.

Bad Rear & Front Wheel Bearing Hub Symptoms

While there’s a possibility that both the front and the rear wheel bearings can go bad, the signs might differ. This depends on their location and their effect on the vehicle’s handling.

General Symptoms

  • Noise
  • Vibrations in the steering wheel, seat, or floorboard, and it will worsen with speed or turns.

Front Wheel Bearing Symptoms

  • A worn front wheel bearing can lead to uneven tire wear on the affected side as it gets misaligned.
  • A bad front wheel bearing can lead to the steering wheel pulling to one side while driving.

Rear Wheel Bearing Symptoms

  • Less noticeable symptoms compared to the front bearings.
  • A faulty rear wheel bearing can also cause stability issues in the vehicle.

How Long Does Wheel Bearing Last?

The lifespan can vary significantly depending on several factors such as quality, maintenance, driving conditions, etc., but here’s a general guideline:

Average Lifespan

  • Miles: 85,000 to 100,000 miles (136,000 to 160,000 kilometers)

The Bottom Line 

Wheel bearings may not be something you’ve considered, but they are a crucial component of your car’s suspension and handling. They are responsible for allowing the wheels to spin freely and smoothly while supporting the vehicle’s weight. 

Over time, they can wear out and cause potential safety issues on the road.

If you experience any of these symptoms, having your wheel bearings checked by a qualified mechanic as soon as possible is important. 

Worn-out wheel bearings can cause severe damage to other components in your vehicle and put you and other drivers at risk on the road.


How Do I Know If I Need a Replacement?

Unusual noises, loose wheels, tire wear and tear, and pulling, or vibrating steering wheel suggest that a replacement is needed, but consult a mechanic for proper review.

Can I drive with a bad wheel bearing?

It is advised not to drive for too long with a bad wheel bearing or major issues may be caused in the vehicle. 

What happens when a wheel bearing goes out?

Failing wheel bearing can cause noise, uneven tire wear, loose wheels, pulling to one side, vibration, and even wheel detachment in severe cases.