A wheel bearing is exactly what it sounds like, it’s a bearing for a wheel. What’s a bearing you ask? It’s a bunch of steel balls held together by a metal ring, which is called a race. There are many different styles bearings but are all very similar and all do the same job, they help something spin with very little friction like a wheel, turbine, or a carnival ride.
The wheel bearing is located at the hub, the hub is located at the center of your wheel, when you are looking at a wheel on a car, the hub is located where the lug bolts come through the wheel. The lug bolts are pressed into the hub, and the wheel bearing is pressed into the hub as well, from the back side of the hub.
A wheel bearing noise gradually becomes louder with time and with speed, what I mean is when the seal is broken or damaged, the wheel bearing will not just start making a loud noise. At first, it will be a very faint noise and within a month, it will be very noticeable. When the wheel bearing is making a noticeable noise, the noise will be more obvious at faster speeds.
The noise that a wheel bearing makes is like the noise that your tires make when hitting a rumble strip on the highway, just not quite as loud, same noise at an 1/8 of the volume, or like the sound of playing cards in your bicycle spokes, remember that noise? It’s a rotating noise and it will gradually get louder in time. The only fix for damage wheel bearing is to replace it. If a bearing is noisy, repacking it with grease will not make the noise go away.
Be cautious, tires can make a noise very similar to a wheel bearing when the tires are chopped. The best way to find which wheel bearing is making noise is to raise the vehicle on a lift, have someone in the vehicle run it at about 40mph, using a long screwdriver or stethoscope, rest it on the hub near each wheel bearing, listen through the stethoscope or the handle of the screwdriver for the noise, I guarantee you will be able to determine which wheel bearing is bad.
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