Wheel bearing noise symptoms and diagnosing — Ricks Free Auto Repair Advice Ricks Free Auto Repair Advice

How to diagnose a worn wheel bearing noise

Worn wheel bearing noise

Typical worn wheel bearing noise

humming that increases/decrease with vehicle speed
growlingthat increases/decrease with vehicle speed
roaring noise that increases/decrease with vehicle speed

Noise is typically louder during turns.

Testing a wheel bearing for play

Many sites tell you to wiggle the tire and check for wheel bearing play by moving the wheel in/out at 12 and 6 and 9 and 3. HOWEVER, most wheel bearing that make noise won’t show any play. In fact, a wheel bearing has to be VERY worn to show visual play. In other words, if you’ve been ignoring the wheel bearing noise for a long time, then yeah, try wiggling the wheel for play. Otherwise, it’s ok to skip this step and move on to real diagnostics.

The most effective way to diagnose which wheel bearing is worn

Use a mechanics stethoscope. Jack up the car and place it on jack stands. Locate the probe of the stethoscope on the wheel bearing flange, where it attaches to the steering knuckle. If you have a cartridge wheel bearing touch the probe to the steering knuckle. Then spin the wheel. Compare the sound of the bearing from one side to the other. The side that makes the most noise is the side with the worn wheel bearing.

Use Chassis Ears

If you can’t hear bearing noise with the vehicle on jack stands, you’ll have to use chassis ears and listen to the bearing sounds while driving. Clip the chassis ear microphones to a secure location on the steering knuckle or strut. Make sure the wires won’t get tangled up in any moving parts. Then take it for a test drive.

wheel bearing noise

Steelman Chassis Ear strapped to steering knuckle to detect wheel bearing noise

wheel bearing noise

Steelman Chassis ear wireless version

Check for heat to locate a worn wheel bearing.

After a drive, touch the wheel hub near the center (be careful, as it may be hot). If a bearing is going bad, it might generate more heat than usual.

©, 2023 Rick Muscoplat

Posted on by Rick Muscoplat

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