One of the critical components on a wheel is the wheel bearings, which are necessary for turning and supporting the car’s weight during acceleration, braking, and cornering.
Bad wheel bearings affect the functioning of your tire because they’re connected to the hub, tire, and entire wheel assembly. So, exactly how can you know when your car has bad wheel bearings? Here’s a complete list of common things to look out for!
Bad Wheel Bearing Symptoms
1. Humming Or Rumbling Noise
When you have bad wheel bearings, the most easily identifiable sign is the unusual humming sound.
Rumbling sounds are often associated with electrical, tire, and drivetrain components. If this noise is present when driving on a straight line and increases when turning the wheel, the side opposite the rumbling part is the one with the problem.
Although humming is a sign of bad bearings, it can also be linked to other problems, including a tire issue or a CV joint.
Therefore, to avoid any confusion, it’s better to have your car checked by a professional tire expert or mechanic.
2. Clicking Or Snapping Sound
Bad wheel bearings also exhibit clicking or snapping sounds that increase in frequency when the car accelerates, makes sharp turns, or drives around a corner.
Therefore, if you hear clicking sounds when driving, your wheel assembly might have a problem that needs to be addressed.
Once you hear this sound, it could also signal a worn-out or damaged CV-joint; therefore, you should have your wheels checked by the mechanic to confirm the actual cause.
3. Grinding Sound
If your car produces a grinding sound as you drive, this could mean that your wheel system has severe mechanical damage, and wheel bearings are to blame if the sound appears when turning your car or shifting gears.
This grinding sound also means that your car might have roller damages and that there’s damage within the wheel system.
4. Knocking Or Clunking Sounds
When driving, a knocking or clunking is a symptom that the U-joints and CV-joints are moving a lot, and can also be due to excessive backlash when using different gears.
You’ll hear these sounds when changing gears and shifting directions such as reverse to drive or accelerating to coasting.
It’s highly recommended to have your tires checked immediately after hearing a knocking or clunking sound in order to prevent more serious issues.
5. Wheel Wobbling
Wobbling tires can be scary and dangerous on the road, and some of them occur due to bad wheel bearings.
Your tire technician can check for wheel wobbling by manually checking for wheel movement at the tire shop. If the wheel and tire shake, you need to have the hub assembly checked to prevent the tire and wheel from coming off when driving.
On the contrary, wobbling tires can also be due to a damaged wheel, suspension component, worn-out tire, and chassis misalignment. In addition, this could occur if the lug nuts are not properly tightened and torqued.
If the wheel bearings are the problem, this means that you lost a clamp or your bearing has severe mechanical damage.
Some wheel vibrations can also happen due to a bent car frame. If this is the problem, you’ll need to have the car repaired at your auto body repair shop.
6. ABS Failure
If your car has an anti-lock braking system malfunction, the ABS light will illuminate to indicate that there’s a problem.
Once the tire and wheel start wobbling, the wheel’s speed sensor stops operating properly, which means that your ABS may operate occasionally or not at all.
Both internal and external sensors can become severely damaged in extreme situations, especially when there’s excessive movement (this mostly happens due to severe mechanical damage).
For tires designed with sensors mounted on the external component, the sensor damage could be due to corrosion, stones, or other hazards (ABS sensors fail because they’re linked to the wheel bearing).
When your bearings are damaged, your car will start vibrating when you change speed or make turns.
Different issues can cause vibrations; therefore, you need to check whether there are other symptoms to warrant a wheel bearing replacement.
8. Uneven Tire Wear
When your wheel bearings get damaged, the wheel will not rotate as it should, which in turn affects the tire tread.
If one tire is also wearing out faster than the others, this could indicate that the wheel bearings are worn out. Tire treads come with a legal limit, so you need to check whether yours are within the set limit.
If the tread wear is worse on one tire, this could be due to a bearings issue. However, this problem could also signify that the tire is not properly inflated, tires are improperly aligned, damaged, or worn out suspension components.
Therefore, to confirm the actual problem, have the tires checked by a professional mechanic.
9. Steering Wheel Vibrations
Vibrations on your steering wheel are an indication that you have bad wheel bearings. If you constantly drive your car, you’ll notice when there’s a change in how the steering wheel behaves.
Vibrations will tend to increase when the speed increases or when you turn right or left. Before replacing the bearings, ensure you rule out flat spots on your tire, imbalanced tires, or damaged suspension components.
10. Vehicle Pulling To One Side
Your car will start pulling to the left or right when you apply breaks if the bearings are worn out. When this happens, the vehicle will pull towards the direction where the worn bearings are located. Therefore, you need to observe this and note the direction to inform your mechanic.
11. Loose Steering Wheel
Worn bearings could cause your steering wheel to be looser than usual, less responsive, and less precise, and become more detached as the vehicle speed increases.
However, this could also be a sign that your car needs a wheel alignment. Therefore, you should have that checked by a professional.
12. Uneven Brake Pad or Rotor Wear
Apart from your tires, unusual brake pad wear could be due to bad wheel bearings. Therefore, once you notice that the rotor is wearing out, you should schedule an appointment with a tire technician to check the issue.
However, only a professional can confirm the real problem, so it’s always recommended to have your car checked to get the proper advice.
When your car has damaged wheel bearings, it will exhibit symptoms such as a humming or rumbling sound, wheel wobbling, uneven tire wear and more.
Therefore, as soon as you notice any of these issues, it’s advisable to have your tires checked as soon as possible to confirm whether the bearings are the problem.