Diagnosing Wheel Hub and Bearing Damage

Wheel bearings reduce friction and create a smooth ride for your car as the wheels rotate. Rolling within two circular metal tracks or “races” inside the wheel, these round steel balls support the weight of the car in motion. Basically, wheel bearings are what allow the car to roll. Diagnosing wheel hub and bearing damage is critically important to auto safety. A damaged or missing bearing can cause excess wear on the tires or even cause the wheel to fall off entirely when the car is in motion. Not good.

So how do you know if your wheel hub and bearings are worn or damaged? There are several classic signs that warrant an immediate trip to the shop.

Noise: The classic sign of a wheel bearing gone bad is loud noise emanating from the wheel. It will sound like metal grinding and typically gets louder as the car accelerates. If you notice noise from the wheel that seems like it grows louder as the car goes faster, take the car in to your mechanic immediately. The noise may sound like grating, squealing, chirping, humming, or knocking, but it will usually sound “cyclical,” as if it is related to rotation and changes in speed. Any constant or cyclical loud sound from your car requires a visit to the mechanic.

Loose steering: This is one of those “you know it when you feel it” symptoms. When you’re driving your car and the steering feels less responsive, like there is a delay between moving the steering wheel and the car changing direction, or the steering wheel itself feels less “catchy,” the wheel bearings may be worn or damaged.

Uneven wear on the tires: If your tires are worn in a noticeably uneven way, even if you’ve been keeping up with having the tires rotated, you may have a wheel bearing or hub problem.

Pulling: That sensation that the car is arguing with you about which direction it should go, or if you find yourself imposing frequent course corrections, may indicate a problem with the hub or bearings.

If your car is suffering any of these symptoms, take it in for a checkup. If your mechanic diagnoses wheel hub and bearing damage severe enough to warrant wheel replacements, you will find what you need at the WheelerShip. We carry everything from 2004 Acura TL rims to wheels for recent model year Hondas and most other domestic models and imports.

Carlos G. Hill

Carlos G. Hill

Carlos joined TireReview in 2019 after seven years of living and working in Dubai. He has been a journalist for over a decade and has worked for a wide range of publications, including Rolling Stone, Time Out, iQ and Loaded. After starting out on the automotive team as deputy editor of Engine Technology International, Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International and Transmissions Technology International, he has been an editor since 2015, and began editing Tire Technology International in 2018. In 2020, he was appointed editor-in-chief of Tire, Professional Motorsport World, Electric & Hybrid Marine Technology International and Crash test Technology International

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