What Does a Bad Wheel Bearing Sound Like?

Hearing any abnormal noise while you drive is stressful. With so many moving parts making up your car, it can be nearly impossible to tell where that humming, whining, or whirring noise is coming from. A common issue that many drivers run into is a failing wheel bearing, which can present in a variety of ways. While many potential issues can cause an unusual noise while you drive, a bad wheel bearing is one possibility.

First, what is a wheel bearing?

Wheel bearings are a set of steel balls contained in a lubricated metal ring located in the hub. They support the weight of your vehicle and allow the wheels to rotate freely while you drive. In normal conditions, the bearing accomplishes this without making any excessive noise. If the grease lubricant escapes the bearing or debris as water or sand enters it, the bearing will wear out and fail quickly.

inside of a wheel bearing with metal balls

What sound does a bad wheel bearing make?

Being part of the hub assembly, noise caused by a bad wheel bearing will only occur when you are moving. The sound may increase or decrease when you pick up speed or go around a turn. Paying attention to changes in noise or volume when going around corners. These changes can give insight into which side has gone failed. A bad wheel bearing can make any of the following noises depending on the cause or severity of the failure:

  • Humming
  • Grinding
  • Grating
  • Clicking (when turning)
  • Growling
  • Howling

Remember, a bad bearing will make the same noises no matter what road surface you are on. If you hear a noise that changes when you get on a more smooth or more rough road, you might be hearing tire noise.

A bad wheel bearing only makes noise when the car is moving

If the noise you are hearing continues when you come to a stop, it is likely not caused by a bad wheel bearing. To produce noise, the wheels of your car need to be rotating.

That being said, when you are moving, the sound will not cut in or out. If you only hear a noise when you are accelerating, decelerating, or braking, there may be another drivetrain issue.

Can I drive if my wheel bearing is making noise? 

The short answer is no. You should not drive your vehicle if you believe you have bad wheel bearing. The long answer is yes, but with the understanding that driving with a failed or failing wheel bearing can lead to serious safety issues as well as severe damage to your car.

A lot of the time, your car may not feel any different when the bearing is making noise. It’s easy to overlook or put off an issue that is not directly impacting your daily driving.

Your car is not as stable

When the bearing fails and comes apart, it will cause play in the wheel. This can lead to severe instability when driving at high speeds and can come on suddenly if the bearing completely fails while you drive.

The brake pedal can by soft

The brake discs on your car are part of the rotating assembly connected to the hub and wheel bearing. When your wheel bearing has failed to the point of lateral play, the disc will no longer be aligned correctly. This means when you press the pedal, it may feel soft and take longer for your car to stop.

The wheel can come off

This is an extreme case, but if you drive on a bad wheel bearing for long enough, the wheel could come off. If this were to happen on the freeway or at high speeds, it could be catastrophic for you, your car, and other drivers.

Get your wheel bearing replaced at Matson Point S!

When in doubt, bring your car to a technician. When it comes to wheel bearings, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you aren’t sure whether the sound you are hearing is a bad wheel bearing, the technicians at Matson Point S will take a look and let you know exactly what is wrong with your car. Give us a call or schedule an appointment at our Riverton, Utah location today!

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