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Want to know how long will a wheel bearing last after it starts making noise? Well, this depends on various factors.
You will first need to figure out the nature and level of sound to determine the lifespan of the wheel bearing.
When it comes to your safety and the passengers in your car, we should never take chances. This is because what seems like a negligible problem may end up damaging your car or putting your life at risk.
According to an article published on NCBI website, mechanical failures is one of the contributing cause to motor vehicle accidents.
On the other hand, did you know that in case of an accident, your insurer may claim driver negligence, especially if the problem was evident, and you failed to have the car inspected before the accident. (Source)
In this guide, I’ll give you an approximate on how long a wheel bearing lasts after it starts making noise.
Why Do Wheel Bearings Make Noise?
Almost all wheel bearings are made of hardened steel that can withstand months or years of abuse.
Unfortunately, two of its worst enemies are water and heat.
Water that penetrates a sealed wheel earing will ultimately destroy it. The heat produced as a result of a lack of lubrication can also damage the bearing.
Modern wheel bearings come sealed. The seals help protect the bearing from debris, water and also help seal in high-temperature grease the wheel bearing needs. If a seal is broken or damaged, the bearing will fail and start making irritating noises.
What Kind of Noise Do Bad Wheel Bearings Make?
First, are you sure it’s the bearing making noises? At times there’s a small metal tab on your brake pads that will produce sharp-high pitched (chirp) noise when brakes are not in use.
This is an indicator sound warning you that one of the brake pads is worn out and needs replacing immediately.
So, what kind of noise does a bad bearing make?
A faulty bearing starts by producing a soft, high pitched chirp that you’ll probably hear when passing a concrete barrier or driving with the windows down.
It’ll get louder. However, the frequency will highly depend on the speed and completely stop when you stop the car.
Eventually, the bearing will squeal, and the grease smoke away. At this point, the wheel axle will be red hot and finally break swaying your car into the direction of the wheel with faulty bearing.
In the end, you may see your wheel and tire rolling off into the woods.
How to Find the Source of the Problem?
When bearings are faulty and start making noises, it becomes hard to diagnose since you have to drive the car to reproduce the sound. Below are some tips to help you find the source of the problem.
- If a wheel bearing seal is broken or damaged, the noise produces starts out very faint and eventually becomes louder after driving several miles. The noise produced is similar to that tires make on rubbles strips on the highway, but not quite as loud. Compare it to flapping poker cards against bicycle spokes.
- When driving at about 40mph, try and sway to the side gently and slowly to shift the weight of the vehicle from one side to the other. Be careful not to cause the car to spin out of control. Listen keenly whether the noise gets softer or louder. If the noise is softer if you turn left, the damaged bearing is on the right side or vice versa.
- Also, note that tires that are scalloped or chopped (worn in patches) will make sounds similar to a faulty wheel bearing. Make sure you inspect the tires just to be sure.
Replacing your Car Wheel Bearing
It’s important to note that bearings don’t fail immediately. You can drive around for some time before replacing them.
I’m guessing if a wheel bearing has failed completely, it may lock up and prevent your vehicle from moving. Then again, I drove on a noisy bearing for 4 months, and nothing serious happened except for it got louder and louder.
It’s not a must to have all the bearings replaced. Just because one bearing failed doesn’t mean others are faulty.
Bearing replacement is expensive because of the labors involved. Your mechanic needs to remove a lot of parts to get to the wheel bearing, especially on a front-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive vehicle.
On How Long Will A Wheel Bearing Last After It Starts Making Noise?
Well, the answer to this question can only be answered by a professional mechanic. But I’m guessing that they’d only give a time estimate.
To be on the safer side, it’s essential to have a mechanic inspect your car.
As mentioned in my previous article on oil additives to quiet a noisy engine, fixing a noisy bearing will not only quiet your car but will also prevent accidents caused by noise distractions.