A wheel bearing is a device that attaches to the axle and allows the wheels to spin freely. The wheel bearing helps prevent excessive wear on the tire. It also ensures a stable and comfortable ride for passengers.
Wheel bearings are not designed for regular replacement. They should be inspected at least once every twelve months, or after hearing unusual noise. If you notice any signs of damage or overheating, it’s time to replace your wheel bearing right away.
An article published on the NCBI website states that a lot of vehicle accidents occur due to mechanical failures. A noisy bearing can even cause an accident caused by distraction from the irritating sound.
Think of it this way, in a car accident your insurer can pretend driver negligence since you didn’t have your vehicle checked. It is best to check the bearing for signs of damage regularly, so it can be replaced when necessary.
What is the Cause of Wheel Bearings Making Noise?
Wheel bearings can make a lot of noise when they are worn out. You may also hear the sound if you go over any bumps in your car’s path or pass over a rough patch on the road. The sound will be loudest at high speeds, but it can happen even at low speeds if there’s enough vibration.
The ball bearing within a wheel bearing assembly is what makes it possible for these parts to rotate as they should and provide smooth rotation without excessive friction (thanks to a special grease) that would create heat and wear down the part prematurely.
Modern bearings are shielded, but they can still be damaged by water or dirt if this shield is broken or compromised.
What is the Noise of a Bad Bearing?
The sound of a bad bearing is often confused with that of a brake pad. This can be dangerous as it may cause the driver to overlook the issue. The noise from an old or depleted brake pad is high-pitched or chirping when you aren’t applying the brakes.
So, it is important to conclude exactly what sound you are experiencing If it’s a bad bearing, the noise will stay constant until you fix it.
The noise produced by a bad bearing may be described as constant, grinding, screeching, or squealing. This sound is usually constant, and will only increase with time. Its frequency is proportional to the speed of the vehicle.
When driving with a compromised wheel bearing, the heat causes the grease inside to burn over time. The temperature goes so high that eventually, the whole wheel can fall off.
How to Locate the Source of the Problem
It is hard to diagnose a bad bearing when you need to drive the car in order to reproduce the noise.
You need to locate the exact position where it is coming from. So, carefully listen to each wheel in the following order: driver side front-passenger side rear-driver side rear-passenger side front while driving your car.
To test each wheel you should drive at around 40mph. Try to gently sway your vehicle to the side and listen to where the sound is coming from. If the noise is stronger when you turn left, then the bad bearing should be on the right wheel. If the noise is stronger when you turn right, then the bad bearing should be on the left wheel.
When you find out where it is coming from, repeat this test at different speeds and listen carefully to decide if it makes a difference.
The sound from a bad bearing is often mistaken with the noise from scalloped/chopped tires. Actually, a bad bearing can cause noise, which is similar to scalloping or chopped tires. So, before all, check your tires for this kind of damage. When the seal of the bearing is damaged, the bearing becomes noisy and abnormal.
When wheel bearings become dirty, some particles get into the gap between the parts of the bearing and make a grinding sound. This situation will cause damage and abnormal noise after a long operation. This howling sound will increase with speed and time.
Replacing the Wheel Bearing
Replacing a wheel bearing is one of those chores that we all put off for late. But the bad news is, it’s hard to do and you can’t do it yourself. It is always better for a professional to check your car.
Even if we have plenty of time from when we first hear the bad-bearing howling sound, we can neglect this problem until it’s too late. That, one of the wheel bearings needs replacement, doesn’t mean you need to replace all of the wheel bearings.
Keep in mind that you should always replace a bearing if it has failed. Waiting on repairs can cause more damage and increase your costs even further.
Replacing a bad bearing is hard because the bearings are usually located in the wheel hub. The only way to get at them is by removing the tire and parts of the suspension assembly while you do it. That means all of your wheels will be on jack stands and held up with blocks. This takes time to accomplish, and that’s why it could be costly.
It is always harder to replace front wheel bearings on front-wheel-drive, and all of the four-wheel bearings for four-wheel-drive vehicles.
For How Long Your Noisy Wheel Bearing Can Last
No one can answer this question. Sometimes it can last up to half a year, sometimes it fails within 3 months. It all depends on how well you maintain the car and how often you drive it, as well as other factors.
Yet, in all cases, your car should be checked by a professional mechanic, who can inspect your car and suggest you the most optimal solution.
The bearing can make a tapping or howling noise before it completely burns out. What throws most people off is that they don’t know what causes this sound and are unaware that it is a warning sign for further damage.
There are various causes of this noise including: damaged, worn, or overheated bearings and wheel hub seals. As previously mentioned; if your bearing has reached its life expectancy, it may start to make noises as it gets older.
The sound from a bad bearing is often mistaken with the noise from scalloped/chopped tires. Actually, a bad bearing can cause noise, which is similar to scalloping or chopped tires. So, before all, check your tires for this kind of damage.
Your best bet is to bring your vehicle in for an inspection by a professional mechanic who will be able to make recommendations based on how well you maintain your car and what factors might cause premature failure.
Now you will be able to recognize the problem when you hear it.
Further Reading: Effective Solutions to Car Speakers that Rattle with Bass