Safety is the number one priority when using your car whether you’re alone or transporting loved ones.
Sometimes the simplest of things can cause serious and at times fatal damage.
It is necessary to perform regular checks on your vehicle.
One issue that can cause serious damage is a bad wheel bearing.
Wheel bearings usually give you telltale signs that it is time for a replacement.
Some of these tell-tale signs come in the form of sounds including chirping, squealing, or growling sounds.
In this instance, covering up the sound is not the solution since wheel bearings play a crucial role in your vehicle.
If you are interested in how long will a wheel bearing last after it starts making noise?
Stick around as we discuss this and more.
How long will a wheel bearing last after it starts making noise?
It is very hard to determine how long certain car parts will last since other factors such as weather, storage, and others can alter their durability.
If you want to know how long will a worn wheel bearing last, then the first step is to identify the sound it is making or any abnormal behavior.
Loud or soft noise when turning
Check to see if you hear the noise when the vehicle is turning by testing it out.
Practice some left and right turns.
When you turn, the outer wheels work the hardest which means that the good side bearing will not make noise when you make a turn in that direction.
However, when turning in the direction of the bad bearing, the noise will become greatly amplified.
For example, if the noise reduces when you turn right that means the left wheel bearing is damaged and vice versa.
Loud and constant winding and grinding noise
Is there a loud and constant winding and grinding noise when the vehicle is in motion?
Does it get louder as you accelerate?
If it does, then your wheel bearing is damaged.
Clunking noise when driving on uneven roads
If you hear a constant clunking noise when going down uneven roads, then you have a problem.
The constant bump from the road will cause the noise to amplify and may even lead to the bearing breaking.
Steering wheel vibrates
Does the steering wheel vibrate when speeding up or turning?
If you find that speeding up causes your steering wheel to vibrate then it means that a broken seal may be the cause of the vibrations.
The seal on a wheel bearing is there to protect against foreign elements from getting to the inner workings of the wheel bearing so that it functions properly.
Excessive play in the steering wheel
A worn wheel bearing can also cause excessive play in the steering wheel.
This can lead to looser and out of control steering which is unsafe when driving.
To check for excessive play in the steering wheel, turn the wheel side to side at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions or the 6 to 12 o’clock positions.
If the wheel feels loose at any one of these positions, then your wheel bearing is bad and needs to be replaced.
Failing ABS System
Last but not least, is a malfunctioning anti-lock braking system(ABS).
Sometimes the ABS sensor that is integrated into the wheel bearing can receive damage due to excessive movement or from stones, corrosion, or other hazards.
Any issues with your braking system should be checked out without delay.
Doing so may save your life and the life of those dearest to you.
Only after diagnosing the sound or weird feeling will you be able to tell how long you can continue to use your car with a noisy wheel bearing.
That being said, any noise from your wheel bearing is an indication that it is time for a replacement.
If you hear or feel the noise, we recommend getting your wheel bearings looked at right away if you can.
To better understand why we urge you to get it looked at immediately, we’ll discuss what wheel bearings are, how they work, and how using a noisy one can be harmful.
What is a wheel bearing and what is its function in a car?
Simply put, a wheel bearing is a part that attaches the wheel to the axle.
It is a set of steel balls held together by a metal ring.
It is made from hardened steel that can withstand several months or years of use depending on certain conditions.
The wheel bearing fits inside the center of the wheel which has a hollow piece of metal called a hub.
It then rides on a metal axle shaft and allows the wheel to rotate smoothly while reducing friction as the wheel spins.
Wheel bearings also support the entire weight of the vehicle when it is in motion.
They are in constant use when accelerating, braking, or turning which is why they need to be in perfect working condition at all times.
How long do wheel bearings last?
To determine how long do wheel bearings last is tough as we mentioned before other factors can play a huge part in determining their durability.
However, a wheel bearing can last an average of anywhere from 136,000 to 160,000 km which is about 85,000 to 100,000 miles.
Keep in mind that the quality of a wheel bearing and vehicle operation also determines a wheel bearing lifespan.
So there is no definite answer, since some wheel bearing may last longer than others.
Just get it looked at as soon as you hear or feel your vehicle acting weird.
Note that sometimes a worn-out brake pad can make the same chirping noise as a worn wheel bearing so check to make sure it is not your brake pad that is bad.
On the other hand, noises coming from your vehicle can be from a problematic lifter or catalytic converter rattle
Why do broken wheel bearings make noise?
As with all car parts, wheel bearings, though a low maintenance part, will fail from time to time.
So why do broken wheel bearings make noise?
Here are a few reasons why:
If you’re a do it yourself mechanic then, faulty installation can cause your wheel bearing to make noise.
If you reuse bolts, nuts, pins, seals instead of replacing them with new ones, they can cause your wheel bearing to behave abnormally.
It is better to replace these items and not reuse the old ones.
On the other hand, if you used a hammer or impact wrench to hit anything in or around the outside of the wheel, this can also cause the wheel bearing to fail prematurely.
These will greatly increase the chances of your wheel bearing failing when you need it most and putting you at risk.
Impact from poor roads
Impact damage from driving through roads that consist of many potholes can cut short the life of any wheel bearing.
Driving over speed bumps as well as hitting the curb can all shorten a wheel bearing’s lifespan.
Poor Quality Wheel Bearing
Since safety is the number one priority when driving, this is not the time to be cheap.
Wheel bearings are under constant pressure and are always in use.
For these reasons, you want to make sure you have a wheel bearing made from the highest quality materials that can withstand all the strain it is constantly placed upon it.
Modern wheel bearings come sealed to keep out water and debris.
They are sealed to keep in the high-temperature grease that wheel bearings need to function.
Driving through deep water or mud and other contaminants such as road salt can still get past the seals which in turn damages the wheel bearings.
There may come a time where you want to modify your vehicle and want tires with lower thread walls, bigger or wider rims, stiffer shock absorbers, and suspension springs.
While these may give your vehicle a better appearance or feel, it puts excess pressure on the wheel bearing.
To avoid this, stick with the manufacturer’s recommendation for your vehicle type.
This way your wheel bearing will perform as it should and will last you a long time.
Other causes include overheating due to excess friction, insufficient lubricant, imbalance tires, etc.
Can you drive with a bad wheel bearing?
It is almost impossible for a wheel bearing to fail right away after noticing the first symptoms.
However, as we’ve mentioned countless times, do not for any reason wait to have someone change your wheel bearings if they are damaged.
So to answer the question can you drive with a bad wheel bearing, we’ll have to say the answer is no.
Because it is not safe to drive your vehicle with a broken wheel bearing.
A worn wheel bearing can break and cause the wheels on your vehicle to fall off since the wheel bearing is essential to connect the wheel to your car.
As a result of a broken or missing bearing, you can end up in an accident, severely hurting yourself and others in the vehicle with you.
Additionally, in extreme cases, broken wheel bearings can cause your brakes to fail which is something you don’t want happening especially if you’re going at high speed.
This can lead you to lose total control of the car which again can result in an accident.
Another reason for ensuring you replace a noisy wheel bearing is that your insurer may not cover you if you are in an accident due to negligence.
This is bound to happen if the problem was evident and you did not have the vehicle inspected some time close to the date of the accident.
In cases where you are in an isolated spot and your wheel bearing starts to go bad, you can possibly drive for about 1600 kilometers.
Driving to this distance may not cause significant damage to your wheels.
Just drive slowly so that you can control the vehicle at all times and keep your eyes peeled for a convenient place where you can have the wheel bearing replaced or looked at.
How long does it take to replace a wheel bearing?
When it comes to replacing a worn wheel bearing, time varies from vehicle to vehicle.
How long does it take to replace a wheel bearing will all depend on the skill level of the mechanic and the wheel bearing that needs to be replaced.
If it is a wheel bearing in the rear, it may take anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes and if the hubs and wheel bearing is permanently bolted to the car it can take 20 minutes to an hour.
Front-wheel bearings can take from 30 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes, all depending on your mechanic.
For 4 wheel drive vehicles or rear axle bearings on rear-wheel drive, this can take hours since this is a big job that requires a ton of attention and time.
Replacing your wheel bearing is going to set you back quite a few bucks due to labor cost in addition to the cost of the replacement part.
For this reason, many people opt to replace their wheel bearings themselves.
But if you have no mechanical experience or have no idea what you’re doing, you can cause more harm than good.
As we’ve stated before, faulty installation can pose issues and put everyone in the vehicle at risk or shorten the lifespan of your wheel bearing
This is why, although expensive it is best to have a professional replace your broken wheel bearing.
Common Symptoms of a broken front wheel bearing
Uneven brake pad or rotor wear
These parts have nothing to do with the bearing but a worn wheel bearing can cause severe looseness which can lead to wear and tear on the rotor or brake pads.
Grinding while in motion
If you hear this, it means there is mechanical damage somewhere in the wheel-end system.
You will hear this most when shifting or turning.
Rumbling, Humming, or Growling sound
While these sounds are common with electrical, tire, or electrical components, they can also be produced by a broken wheel bearing.
If it is bearing related, you will hear the sound while driving straight or when turning slightly in either direction.
This can be caused by worn suspension components or imbalanced tires.
Sometimes it could mean a damaged hub or bearing.
Abnormal tire wear
Many things can cause abnormal tire wear but a loose or worn bearing can cause this as well.
Common Symptoms of a broken rear wheel bearing
Abnormal side pulling when applying the brake
This is usually a sign of a problematic equalizer or caliper but can also be caused by a worn bearing.
Clicking, snapping or popping sounds
You will hear these sounds when making sharp turns or cornering.
In extreme cases, ABS failure happens due to excessive movement that damages the ABS sensors.
Wheel bearing with severe damage will cause your wheel to wobble since the bearing is essential to connect the wheel to your vehicle.
If it becomes worn or broken, the wheel can start to wobble and even fall off.
Now that you know a few of the signs and what to look for, you can determine which bearing needs to be replaced.