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5 Symptoms of Noisy Wheel Bearings

That new car smell isn’t the only thing that goes away once you start putting miles on a vehicle. Most new cars drive quiet as could be, but eventually, they start making a strange noise or two. Some noises from parts are somewhat routine for an aging vehicle. However, there are some, like noisy wheel bearings, that you can’t ignore.

Today, we’re looking at five symptoms of noisy wheel bearings and why you should take them seriously. Let’s get started!

What Is a Wheel Bearing?

A wheel bearing may be small in size, but it plays a critical role in ensuring your wheels travel down the road smoothly.

The actual wheel bearing is a set of steel balls placed together in a metal ring. The wheel bearings sit inside the center of a wheel and help keep friction in check as your wheels spin when driving down the road.

What Does a Noisy Wheel Bearing Sound Like?

Noisy wheel bearings may mean it’s time to replace them. They will typically make a grinding or growling noise as the tires rotate. However, some bad wheel bearings will make a chirping or squealing sound. The noise will typically increase the more you accelerate the vehicle.

Noisy wheel bearings don’t just fix themselves, and they’re likely only going to worsen the longer you put off fixing them. It’s a good idea to turn down the tunes, roll the window down and listen to the sounds of your vehicle while driving every so often. Catching a bad wheel bearing early can help you avoid causing any more damage to your vehicle.

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Mechanic fixing noisy wheel bearings.
If you hear some question sounds, your wheel bearings might be the culprit!

5 Symptoms of Noisy Wheel Bearings

By the time you have noisy wheel bearings, there’s a handful of other symptoms that will begin to show up, indicating it’s time to replace your wheel bearings. Let’s take a look at what else you can expect!

1. The Car Feeling ‘Loose’

When your wheel bearings are going bad, you may notice a bit more “play” in your steering wheel. While it once felt very responsive, it will eventually feel a bit less precise as the wheel bearings age. 

Because this is typically a very gradual change, it can be easy not to notice how loose the steering has become. However, worn-down wheel bearings will become loose in the wheel assembly, and you’ll experience a significant amount of play in the steering wheel.

2. Uneven Tire Wear

You should be rotating your tires regularly. You can find how often and the specific way they need rotating in the owner’s manual that came with your vehicle. However, bad wheel bearings aren’t only noisy, but they’ll also wear tires down unevenly. 

If you put off addressing the wheel bearings, you could potentially ruin your tires and have to buy a new set. It’s essential to keep your tires rotated and look for any obvious signs of unusual wearing in the tread of your tires.

3. Car Pulling in One Direction

While you should always keep your hands on the wheel, a vehicle functioning properly should travel straight down the road unless you touch the steering wheel. While many factors could cause a vehicle to pull in one direction, bad wheel bearings are possible. The car will typically pull in the direction of the noisy wheel bearings, and the pulling will only get worse with time.

4. Wheel Wobble

Why does a bad wheel bearing feel like your tire is wobbling? Well, because it is! As the wheel bearing wears down, it makes it possible for the wheel’s rotor to move. As the weight shifts on and off the tire, it causes the tire to wobble.

If this continues for too long, you’ll need to replace the wheel bearing and possibly the tire or essential components in your brakes. If you notice any wobbling in your tires, you should get it checked out as soon as possible.

5. Steering Wheel Shaking

If the failing wheel bearing is on the front of your vehicle, you’re likely to experience shaking in your steering wheel. You’ll typically notice the shaking dramatically increasing as you gain speed and turn corners. 

Pro Tip: Wondering How Often Should RV Wheel Bearings Be Repacked? We took a closer look to find out!

Close up of a wheel bearing
Get your wheel bearings looked at as soon as you start hearing questionable sounds!

Should You Replace a Noisy Wheel Bearing?

If you’re experiencing noisy wheel bearings, you should have them looked at immediately. Wheel bearings will typically last around 100,000 miles under normal circumstances. However, various factors could cause them to wear out sooner than that.

Putting off replacing your wheel bearings may be tempting, but it’ll get you every time. You’re taking a major gamble in doing more extensive damage to your vehicle or worsening the situation. Wheel bearings play an integral part in your safety and a comfortable ride.

How Dangerous Is a Bad Wheel Bearing?

A bad wheel bearing can be very dangerous, and you should never put off repairing them. A wheel bearing is noisy because it’s metal grinding against metal. Wheel bearings can lock up and cause additional damage to your wheel’s hub, joints, and possibly even the transmission. None of these are parts that you want to risk needing to replace. 

You especially don’t want a bad wheel bearing to cause an accident. So make sure you have a trained professional check out your noisy wheel bearings as soon as possible!

Have you ever had to replace noisy wheel bearings? Drop a comment below!

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