How to Determine If a Wheel Bearing Is Going Bad

Written by cricket webber
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How to Determine If a Wheel Bearing Is Going Bad
Wheel bearings help your wheel assembly move properly. (bearings image by petar Ishmeriev from Fotolia.com)

Sometimes a bad wheel bearing is easy to determine because the grinding sounds are loud enough to hear over your radio or the wheels are obviously loose. Other times, wheel bearings are more subtle as they go bad. Although fixing wheel bearings yourself is complicated, there are some simple tests you can perform to determine whether a professional's assistance is needed. If you can recruit a friend to help you, you can test both rear and front tires at the same time as you have each end of the car jacked up.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Car jack
  • Wooden blocks or chocks

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Roll down your car's windows and turn off the radio and air conditioner.

  2. 2

    Drive around the block. Vary your speed but adhere to posted speed limits.

  3. 3

    Listen for any unusual sounds as you drive, particularly a low grinding or growling sound.

  4. 4

    Park the car on a level surface. Turn off the engine.

  5. 5

    Jack up the rear end of the car. Place wooden blocks in front of the front wheels to keep the car from moving forward.

  6. 6

    Grasp one wheel firmly in both hands and rotate it. Listen again for growling or rattling sounds.

  7. 7

    Grasp the wheel firmly again in both hands and shake it lightly. You should not feel much give unless the bearings are loose or broken. If the wheel seems to move more than a fraction of an inch or if you hear rattling sounds, have a professional check the bearings.

  8. 8

    Lower the car after checking both rear wheels. Jack up the front end of the car and repeat the tests on the front wheels.

Tips and warnings

  • Fixing wheel bearings yourself is a difficult job and easy to do incorrectly. If your wheel bearings are in poor condition or have broken, have a professional fix them.

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