How Long Will A Wheel Bearing Last After It Starts Making Noise? (explained)

how long will a wheel bearing last after it starts making noise

Hey there, DIY enthusiasts! Ever heard a strange noise coming from your wheels and wondered what the heck it was? Well, it might be your wheel bearings crying out for help. These little guys are crucial to your vehicle’s operation, and understanding their lifespan can save you a lot of trouble down the road. So buckle up, and let’s dive into the world of wheel bearings.

What is a Wheel Bearing?

Imagine a set of steel balls held together by a metal ring. That’s what we call a wheel bearing. These vital components allow the wheels of your vehicle to spin with minimal friction, making your ride smooth and enjoyable. They connect the wheel to the axle, bearing the entire weight of your vehicle. Talk about carrying a heavy load!

Wheel bearings are tough cookies, but like any part of a vehicle, they can wear out over time. The lifespan of a wheel bearing depends on its quality, the conditions it operates under, and how well it’s maintained. So, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of it.

Average Lifespan of a Wheel Bearing

On average, a wheel bearing should last between 85,000 to 100,000 miles. But hey, that’s just a ballpark figure. The actual lifespan can be significantly longer or shorter, depending on a few factors:

  • Driving conditions: Rough or uneven roads can stress out your wheel bearings, causing them to wear out faster. If you notice a grinding or humming noise coming from your wheels, it’s time to have the bearings checked.
  • Load carried by the vehicle: Regularly hauling heavy loads? That can shorten the lifespan of your wheel bearings. It’s important to maintain regular maintenance to extend the life of your wheel bearings.
  • Quality of the bearing: Not all wheel bearings are created equal. Some are just built to last longer than others. The type of vehicle you drive can also affect the life expectancy of your wheel bearings.
wheel bearing with hub

Signs of a Failing Wheel Bearing

Recognizing the signs of a failing wheel bearing can save you from a potential breakdown or even a serious accident. Here’s what to look out for:

  1. The Noise – Do you hear that distinct growling, rumbling, or chirping noise? It’s not your stomach growling after skipping lunch, but a sign your wheel bearing might be on its last legs. This noise, which seems to harmonize with your speedometer and grows louder as you accelerate, is a tell-tale sign of a worn-out wheel bearing. It’s a shout for help as metal grinds against metal, causing your vehicle to make noise.
  2. Loose Steering – Ever feel like your vehicle’s got a mind of its own, steering where it pleases? That’s your ride telling you something’s off. If your steering wheel feels like a wet noodle, it’s time to have your wheel bearings checked. Remember, your wheel bearing keeps everything running smoothly. When it goes AWOL, you lose that tight control over your vehicle, leading to steering problems.
  3. ABS Malfunction – Are warning lights flashing on your dash like it’s Christmas? Especially that ABS warning light? This could be your wheel bearing waving a white flag. Many vehicles have the ABS sensor snug with the wheel bearing. If the bearing goes haywire, the ABS gets the jitters. This could cause your ABS light to come on.

If any of these symptoms sound familiar, it’s time to bring out the big guns. If you’re the “roll up your sleeves” type, grab your tool kit and get to work. Your vehicle will thank you for it.

But if DIY isn’t your thing, it’s cool, mate! There are a ton of good mechanics out there who will help you. But remember, not addressing a faulty wheel bearing can cause a domino effect on other components. Think: increased repair costs, wheel hub damage, or worse, a full-blown breakdown.

In the DIY world, knowledge is power. Now that you know the signs of a failing wheel bearing, you can prevent the inevitable breakdown. You’ll need the right tools for the job, like a reliable torque wrench. So keep these tips in your back pocket, and your ride will stay smooth, just the way we like it!

Want to dig deeper into the wonderful world of DIY and car maintenance? Check out these articles on how to load a grease gun and how to remove stuck axle nut. Trust me, folks, once you’ve got the hang of this, you’ll wonder why you ever considered taking your car to the shop in the first place!

wheel bearing on car diagram

So, How Long Will A Wheel Bearing Last After It Starts Making Noise?

The wheel bearing is a robust component of your vehicle, but once it starts making noise, it’s a sign of significant wear or damage. In fact, it could potentially last anywhere from 200 to 1,500 miles before complete failure.

However, keep in mind that hearing those sounds is your car’s way of saying, “Hey, something’s not right here!”. Once these noises begin, it’s usually a sign that the wheel bearing is already significantly worn or damaged.

While your car doesn’t come with a crystal ball to predict exactly how long the bearing will hold on after the noise starts, what we do know is that wheel bearings rarely fail immediately and completely right after you first notice that growling, grumbling, or chirping. They don’t just tap out without any warning signs. But here’s the kicker – driving with a worn-out wheel bearing is a risky game you don’t want to play

The wheel bearing plays a crucial role in connecting your wheel to your car. If this connection weakens, it can wreak havoc on your drive-axle and steering assembly. Picture this – a weakened wheel bearing can cause the wheel to loosen or, in severe cases, even detach while driving. Now, that’s a horror show you want to avoid.

So, for your safety and the well-being of your ride, it’s best to not test your luck. Once you hear that noise, consider it your car’s SOS. Don’t delay – roll up your sleeves or take it to a pro. Acting fast can save you a lot of headaches down the road, and ensure your ride stays smooth and safe. After all, as we DIY-ers know, there’s no replacement for peace of mind.

For more about wheel bearings and other car maintenance topics, check out our other guides, like how to tighten lug nuts and how to use a socket wrench like a pro.

The Impact of Noise on Wheel Bearing Lifespan

When a wheel bearing starts making noise, it’s like an alarm bell ringing. The noise is caused by the metal surfaces inside the bearing rubbing together due to lack of lubrication, or because the bearing has become damaged.

Once a wheel bearing starts making noise, it’s only a matter of time before it fails completely. The exact amount of time can vary, but generally, a noisy wheel bearing should be replaced as soon as possible to prevent further damage to the wheel assembly.

Remember, the key to extending the lifespan of your wheel bearings is regular maintenance and prompt attention to any signs of trouble. If you’re in doubt, it’s always best to consult with a professional.

What Happens If You Don’t Fix a Noisy Wheel Bearing?

Ignoring a noisy wheel bearing is like playing Russian roulette with your vehicle. You might get lucky and nothing happens, or you might end up with a wheel that literally falls off while you’re driving. Not exactly the kind of surprise you want on your morning commute, right?

A failing wheel bearing can lead to uneven tire wear, poor handling, and even a breakdown. If left unchecked, it can cause serious damage to your vehicle’s wheel assembly and suspension system. In the worst-case scenario, the wheel could come off entirely, leading to a dangerous situation on the road.

How to Extend the Life of Your Wheel Bearings

Want to keep your wheel bearings purring like a kitten for as long as possible? Regular maintenance is key. Here are a few tips:

  • Keep your wheels and tires properly aligned.
  • Regularly check your vehicle for signs of wheel bearing damage, such as unusual noises or loose steering.
  • Have your wheel bearings professionally serviced at regular intervals. This typically involves cleaning the bearings and replacing the grease.
  • Avoid driving through deep water or mud, which can contaminate the wheel bearings.

Remember, a little bit of prevention can go a long way in extending the lifespan of your wheel bearings.

When and How to Replace a Wheel Bearing

So, your wheel bearing is making more noise than a rock concert, and you’ve decided it’s time to replace it. Good call. But how do you know for sure when it’s time to replace a wheel bearing?

One clear sign is persistent noise coming from the wheel area. If the noise gets louder or changes pitch when you turn the vehicle, that’s a pretty clear sign that your wheel bearing is on its last legs.

Replacing a wheel bearing isn’t a job for the faint of heart. It requires specialized tools and a good understanding of your vehicle’s suspension system. If you’re not comfortable doing it yourself, it’s best to leave this job to the professionals.

How Expensive Is It To Replace a Wheel Bearing?

The cost of replacing a wheel bearing can vary significantly depending on several factors, including the make and model of your vehicle and whether you’re doing the work yourself or hiring a mechanic. If you’re the DIY type and feel confident enough to tackle the job, you’re only looking at the price of the new bearing, which usually ranges between $40 and $200.

However, if you’re taking it to a professional, labor costs come into play. According to the data from YourMechanic, here are some examples:

  • 2006 Dodge Caravan: $301
  • 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe: $265
  • 2009 GMC Sierra 1500: $426
  • 2016 Cadillac ATS: $257
  • 2016 Mini Cooper Countryman: $556
  • 2009 BMW M3: $388

These costs include both parts and labor. The mechanics from YourMechanic are mobile, which means they don’t have the overhead that repair shops have, and they can come to your home or office, providing convenience.

In a professional setting, you can expect to pay anywhere from $200 to $400 per wheel, and sometimes even more for high-end or luxury cars. Don’t forget to add in any additional costs for potential damage to related parts, like the hub, axle, or spindle.

Do I Need to Swap Out Just the Bad Wheel Bearing, or Should I Change Both of Them at Once?

As for whether you should replace one or both wheel bearings at the same time, it depends on the condition of the bearings. If the car has a substantial number of miles on the failed bearing (100,000 miles or more), it is a good idea to replace both bearings (driver and passenger) on the axle at the same time. However, if only one bearing is failing or has failed, and the other is in good condition, you may choose to replace just the one.

Remember, driving with a failing wheel bearing is not safe. If a failing bearing seizes or breaks while you are moving, you could experience loss of control of the vehicle. Once you receive a conclusive diagnostic that a wheel bearing has failed, replace the bearing promptly.

Temporary Fix for a Bad Wheel Bearing

While there’s no true ‘temporary fix’ for a bad wheel bearing, there are steps you can take to minimize further damage until you can get to a mechanic. First, slow down. Driving too fast with a bad wheel bearing can exacerbate the problem. Avoid hard acceleration and braking, and try to avoid driving on rough roads or in dusty or sandy conditions. However, these are just temporary measures. A faulty wheel bearing needs to be replaced as soon as possible to prevent further damage to your vehicle.


How long can you drive with a noisy wheel bearing?

It’s hard to say exactly how long you can drive with a noisy wheel bearing. It could be a few hundred miles, or it could be thousands. But one thing’s for sure: the longer you drive with a noisy wheel bearing, the more damage you’re likely to cause to your vehicle.

Can a noisy wheel bearing fall off?

In extreme cases, yes, a noisy wheel bearing can cause the wheel to come off entirely. This is a very dangerous situation and should be avoided at all costs.

Can you drive on a wheel bearing that sounds funny?

Driving on a wheel bearing that’s making noise is a gamble. You might be fine for a while, but eventually, the bearing will fail completely. It’s best to get it checked out as soon as possible.

Can you drive with old wheel bearings?

Old wheel bearings can still function, but they’re more likely to fail. If your wheel bearings are old and haven’t been serviced in a while, it’s a good idea to have them checked out.

Wheel Bearing Noise When Turning Left?

If you notice a grinding or humming noise that gets louder when you turn left, it’s a sign that your right front wheel bearing could be faulty. This is because turning left puts more load on the right wheel, causing the damaged bearing to make noise. It’s your vehicle’s way of telling you that something’s not right and it’s time to get your bearings checked.

Final Thoughts

Wheel bearings are a critical part of your vehicle that should never be ignored. Regular maintenance, prompt attention to any signs of trouble, and professional servicing when necessary can help extend the lifespan of your wheel bearings and keep your vehicle running smoothly. Safe driving, folks!

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