Knowing how to check a bad wheel bearing is the first step to solving the problem.
Making a quality diagnosis means you can solve the problem on time. Also, you can perhaps avoid mixing a bad wheel bearing with other problems on the suspension.
This article should be able to help you with this. If you’re not up reading, you have a video at the end of the article that you can also watch on our Youtube channel.
HOW TO CHECK A BAD WHEEL BEARING?
1. LISTEN TO THE BAD WHEEL BEARING SOUND WHEN DRIVING
When talking about how to check a bad wheel bearing, listening is the first way to find out.
Also, it can oftentimes help determine from what wheel it’s coming from.
To be honest, this method isn’t that accurate. Especially in the beginning stage of the problem, and can be mistaken for other car problems.
But if you listen carefully while driving, you have a good chance of at least determining from what side of the car it’s coming from.
The sound gets easier to spot as the problem get’s worse because the sound is more distinctive and easier to notice.
We’ve made a separate article dedicated specifically to bad wheel bearing noises and how they sound from the beginning until the problem is solved. click here if you want to read it.
Besides this, another important article related to this topic is the most common symptoms of a bad wheel bearing. You can read the article by clicking here.
2. RAISE THE CAR AND SPIN THE WHEEL
Once you notice the sound and it becomes present all the time, it would be best to raise the car and manually spin the wheels.
If you have a car lift the job would be much easier but having a car jack is a more common situation.
When using a car jack, you’ll have to raise the car one wheel at a time so to say.
So, secure the car, insert the jack and raise the car until the wheel has at least a couple of inches of clearance.
If you want to watch more on how to raise and secure the car when changing a flat tire, click here to watch the video.
Be prepared that you’ll perhaps have to raise the car multiple times until you determine what wheel has a bad bearing.
This is where the sound and listening part especially comes in handy. If you’ve previously listened well, then there’s a good chance you’ve correctly guessed what wheel is producing the sound. This means much less work on the car jack for you.
Once the car is raised, give the wheel a good spin with your hands
If the wheel bearing is bad you’ll immediately notice sounds like humming, squealing, clicking, or even grinding if the problem is in the final stage.
As opposed to this, a wheel with a good bearing will be almost silent.
Be aware that in a lot of cases, you may also hear a slight screeching sound. This comes from the brake pads which sometimes don’t completely separate from the brake disc.
So, when turning the wheel, don’t mistake this for a bad wheel bearing.
3. TEST FOR WHEEL WOBBLE AND EXTRA PLAY
Besides spinning the wheel, you have another option for how to check a bad wheel bearing.
This is a measure to additionally insure that the wheel bearing is the problem. It’s best done while the car is still raised.
Again make sure that the car is properly secured so it doesn’t fall off the car jack.
Grab the tire on each side and try to push and pull it from side to side, try to wobble it.
The point is to check if the wheel has any extra play. When everything is OK, the wheel should have no play at all.
If it does, something is wrong.
Know that there might other things wrong like bad links, tie rods, steering knuckles, or else.
A good way to determine if the wheel bearing is the problem is to grab the wheel on the top and bottom and wiggle it. If it has extra play on this axis, then the wheel bearing is probably the cause.
If it has play from left to right, then there may be other things wrong that you should check as soon as possible.
So, to recap the whole procedure for how to check a bad wheel bearing once more.
First, listen, then raise the car, spin the wheels and check if they have an extra play.
A fairly simple DIY task and one that doesn’t take much time to do.
Within half an hour or less, you should be able to spot the problem and more importantly, start solving it.
In the end, I would recommend trying all of this the moment you hear any noises. The sooner you recognize the problem the sooner you’ll solve it.
Even if it’s not the wheel bearing, this way you may spot other causes of the problem.
Written by: Sibin Spasojevic
Former car technician, life-long car and DIY enthusiast, author for Despairrepair.com
HOW TO CHECK A BAD WHEEL BEARING? YOUTUBE VIDEO