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How to Tell Which Wheel Bearing is Bad?

Malfunctioning wheels can put a vehicle’s safety in jeopardy. Without them properly functioning, a car runs with the risk of accidents. Similarly, wheel bearings are critical for the wheels to work harmoniously with the hub and tires. There is one bearing for each wheel and it’s rare for all of them fail at the same time. How to tell which wheel bearing is bad?

Well, we’re going to discuss how to find out the bad one and what they actually do in keeping the wheel assembly together.

What is a Wheel Bearing?

Before going deeper into the bad bearing symptoms and the ways to single out the faulty one, you should know what it is and its functions.

A wheel bearing is a metal ring housing a number of steel balls together. The ring, known as a race, fits inside a hub, which is a hollow metal piece at the center of the wheels. The hub rolls on a metal axle shaft in order to lessen friction during the rotation of the wheels.

These ball-shaped bearings are the most common type in today’s vehicles. There are also precision ball bearings and roller bearings.

Wheel bearings support the whole weight of a vehicle and they don’t have any constant source of lubrication. For these reasons, they suffer lots of abuse and wear out over time.

how to tell which wheel bearing is bad front or back
A bearing is vital for the wheel’s functions.

How to Tell Which Wheel Bearing is Bad?

Any system in an automobile has several small components that have to work and be integrated together for the car to run without any trouble. But like everything else, these parts are prone to abuse and they show warning signs when they are about to give out.

Wheel bearings also display some symptoms when they cannot function to their full ability and are on the verge of failure. But how to tell which wheel bearing is bad: front or back?

All types of wheel bearings display similar symptoms when they are failing. Here’s how to tell which wheel bearing is bad:

Pay attention to noises.

A grinding sound coming from the tires indicates overused bearings that don’t have enough lubrication to avoid grinding friction between metal parts. The noise intensifies when the vehicle accelerates and it comes from either the front or backside, showing the position of the bad bearing.

Sometimes, it could be a rumbling noise when you are driving on a straight road and it escalates once you make a turn. This is how to tell which wheel bearing is bad by turning as the opposite side of the turn is the affected area.

A clicking sound also demands attention, as it is likely to come from a broken bearing in the hub assembly. If a bearing is the culprit, the noise turns faster with acceleration. To identify which bearing is responsible, reduce the car’s speed and sway it gently. If the clicking sound muffles when you move to the left, the right wheel is likely to have the broken bearing.

Check the tires.

The condition of the tires is another easy way to tell that there is something wrong with the bearings. If a tire wears out unevenly, it’s most likely because of the attached wheel bearing is damaged.

Tires will show signs of wear over time. It is quite normal if all of them deteriorate at the same rate.

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Wobbly wheels.

Another damaged bearing-related symptom is a wobbly wheel. In that case, the car feels loose or you find the steering less responsive, to be precise, at the time of driving. When this happens, check each wheel by jacking up the vehicle. If the wheel assembly moves back and forth, the wheel bearing attached to it is definitely damaged.

Unstable wheels could be the aftereffect of some other problems too like a broken suspension or a misaligned chassis. A mechanic can pinpoint the exact reason by doing a road test.

Rigid wheels.

Like loose wheels, stiff wheels are another safety problem and indicative of bad bearings. To find out which bearings are the culprits, you have to raise the car with a floor jack and check the front and rear wheels.

Just grab the tires and rotate the wheels. Effortless spinning means they are fine but if one of them feels stiff, it must have a broken bearing.

Side pulling when braking.

Apart from a defective bearing, this problem could result from a number of faulty components including damaged brakes, worn-out rotor, defective equalizer, or a busted rotor.

how to tell which wheel bearing is bad by turning
Pulling could be caused by a broken bearing.

However, if the reason is a broken bearing, it will eventually lead to loose brakes. Whenever you step on the brakes, the car acts like it has a mind of its own and pulls in a specific direction. Examine the bearings of the side the vehicle pulls to.

Hope you are no more confused about how to tell which wheel bearing is bad. You just have to pick up the symptom and perform a simple task to find out which bearing is to blame for.