5 Wheel Bearing Noises and How to Fix Them

new wheel bearing

Last updated: December 9, 2021 at 13:53 pm

We all need a car. Whether you love them, or hate them, it’s how we get around. As such, it’s extremely important to take care of our cars, and maintain them properly, so that you don’t damage your vehicle suddenly and be presented with a massive bill for repair.

One of the most common car noises is wheel bearing damage, which can be identified by its noise. Many people ignore this, but it’s critical to get it checked out as soon as you notice it. But what are the causes of wheel bearing noise, and how can you fix it?

What is a Wheel Bearing?

Simply put, a wheel bearing is a device made from small ball bearing (little metal balls) and a ring, also known as a race. These ball bearings sit snugly inside of this race. The ball bearings spin inside of the race, and their function is quite simply, genius. They allow your wheels to turn with hardly any friction, which essentially allows for great wheel efficiency, opening the doors up to great vehicle designs.

Wheel bearings connect the wheel to the axel. They’ll rotate at the end of these axles, which fits inside of the wheel hub. At the end of the wheel hub, you’ll find lug bolts which helps to secure the wheel in place.

So, a wheel bearing is clearly an integral part of any car. But what are the causes of wheel bearing noises and how do you fix these?

5 Causes of Wheel Bearing Noise

When a wheel bearing breaks, you probably won’t notice anything for a little while. However, over time you will notice the sound more and more, as the bearing becomes more and more damaged. Many people liken the sound to rumble strips on the road. It may also have a growling or squealing tone. The sound will become pretty much unbearable.

There are dozens of reasons why your wheel bearing is making noise. Here are the main causes:

1. Poor Installation

If you’ve recently had your wheel bearings replaced or your car worked on, this is probably going to be the reason why your wheel bearings are making noise. If the mechanic that works on your car is careless with the bearing or goes against manufacturer’s instructions, then they may end up damaging the bearings.

This can lead to noise, and you’ll need to get them fixed as soon as possible. The best way to get them fixed in this circumstance is to replace them altogether.

2. Too Much Contact With Water

rusty wheel bearing

Driving your car in the rain doesn’t mean that your going to damage the integrity of your wheel bearings. Rather, submerging your car in deep water will likely cause wheel bearing damage, among many other things. As standard, wheel bearings do come with a petroleum seal, but this can only handle so much, and driving through deep water might damage these seals.

This will lead to wheel bearing damage and noise, because the bearings will be subject to more friction. This damage is also irreversible, which means you’ll have to buy completely new bearings.

3. Driving on Unsteady Terrain

Because of their position within the wheel, your wheel bearings feel the entire pressure of the car every time you drive on unsteady terrain. Whenever you tap that curb or accidently go into a pothole, your wheel bearing will be under the pressure of your whole car.

This can cause the ball bearings to go into the race, causing small dents and chips on both the race and the ball bearings. As time goes on, there will be a build-up of friction and heat, which will result in yet more imperfections, as well as the burning of the lubricant on the wheel bearing.

This is a problem that happens in the long-term, so if you notice small imperfections before they become an issue, you can save yourself a lot of time and money.

4. Driving With Uneven Tyre Pressure

If your tyres are uneven, then a whole host of damages can occur to your wheel. This isn’t just limited to the bearing. In fact, any part of the wheel assembly could be damaged. Over time, this damage could cause subsequent damage to your wheel bearing, causing it to make noise. The same thing can happen if you drive with poor shock absorbers.

Because there won’t be anything to absorb the impact from the road, your tyre assembly can get damaged easily. The best thing to do is keep your vehicle well serviced, and check on the tyres and shock absorbers regularly, as this will enable to diagnose any issues before they become irreversible.

5. Driving After an Accident That Damaged the Wheel

If you’ve been in an accident, and the damage was on or around the wheel, then you can expect wheel bearing damage. Because they are always spinning, and connected to the majority of the wheel assembly, they are highly susceptible to damage in the event of a crash. This frequently gets overlooked when people prioritise the bodywork damage and forget about how fragile wheel bearings can be.

Related: How to Fix a Squeaky Clutch Pedal

Wheel bearings can be damaged in a lot of ways. But how can you diagnose wheel bearing problems?

How to Diagnose a Wheel Bearing Problem

Of course, the most obvious way to find out if you have a faulty wheel bearing is to listen out for the noise. But, there are plenty of other ways to diagnose a wheel bearing problem. Here are the best methods:

Listening to Your Wheel

There are multiple things to look out for when you listen for wheel bearing noise. Rather than just listening for a growling or rumbling, you should listen for popping or snapping. You’ll be most likely to hear these kinds of noises when you turn sharply.

So, if you’re worried that your wheel bearing is faulty, go to a car park and do some sharp turns. If you hear sharp snapping, then you’ll be able to tell that you have a wheel bearing problem. You should also try to diagnose which wheel the faulty bearing is on.

This can be done by driving slowly and leaning to each wheel. You could even get someone else to listen from the outside for a more accurate test.

Assess Your Steering

If you find that your steering wheel vibrates as you drive, then this is a big sign that your wheel bearings have a problem. The more damaged your bearings are, the more they will make the wheels wobble as you start driving.

This will cause your steering wheel to vibrate and can be an extremely dangerous hazard. In fact, you will likely get into an accident if you don’t have your bearings replaced immediately. It’s extremely dangerous to drive with bad bearings, so don’t risk it.

Look Out for Your ABS Light

If your ABS light comes on, then there’s a good chance that your bearings are having issues. The ABS light will flag any problems with your car, so you’ll have to also listen for the noise of bearings and do the steering tests to be certain that your bearings are the problem.

Check if Your Car Pulls to One Side

If your car drifts to one side as you drive, it could be a sign of wheel bearing damage. There are also a variety of other factors that cause your car to veer to one side, such as problems with brakes or other parts of the wheel assembly, so you should carry out the other checks to properly diagnose the problem.

If you think that you’ve got wheel bearing damage, then you should lift your car on the problem wheel with a car jack. Always read the manual when using a jack, or you could end up injuring yourself. Next, push the wheel back and forth. If the wheels are moving easily, then there’s a serious wheel bearing problem. You should get this checked immediately, or you’ll be risking the safety of both yourself and other motorists.

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You should also spin the wheel as fast as you can. If you can hear a spinning or rattling noise, then there’s a good chance that your bearings are damaged.

And, if you’re still unsure, then take your car to a professional. A mechanic will be able to tell you if you have a wheel bearing problem, or if the issue is elsewhere.

Conclusion

Wheel bearings are an integral part of your car, but a lot can go wrong with them. There are many tests that you can do to diagnose wheel bearing issues and if you ever think that there’s a problem with your wheel bearings, then have them checked out immediately. Driving with damaged wheel bearings is extremely dangerous, and every time you drive, you’ll be risking an accident.

To protect your wheel bearings, always drive on even tyres, don’t go through deep water and try to avoid any potholes in the road. This should ensure that your wheel bearings don’t get damaged.

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About the Author: AJ

AJ is a self-confessed soundproofing nut. He has written full-time on Quiet Living for the past 3 years, and has a wealth of knowledge about living a quieter life, soundproofing and fixing loud noises.

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