Auto Service Tip: Buying a New Battery

How a Simple Test Can Help You Find Out If Your Wheel Bearings Are Faulty

When you suspect that there's something wrong with your car's drive-train, you may immediately assume the worst and think that you need a transmission overhaul. However, it could be something as relatively simple as your wheel bearings. What are they, what do they do and how can you tell if they need attention?

What Bearings Deal With

Wheel bearings are an essential part of your car and they're very precisely designed to achieve several outcomes. They have to provide a 'bridge' between your vehicle and the road by connecting the wheel and tyre to the dynamic movement of your transmission. It's not surprising that they can wear out and fail.

Due to the fact that they revolve at high speed and move in a variety of different directions while doing so, they encounter a lot of friction. When this happens very small pieces of metal will degrade and this causes an uneven surface. This imperfection is amplified at high speed and causes a very peculiar whining noise.

As the wheel bearings operate in so many different driving conditions, it's not surprising that the noise generated will change accordingly. It can be a little more challenging to assess as all four wheel bearings operate under differing pressures at differing times. If only one wheel bearing is faulty, then this typically has to be assessed while under pressure and is difficult to determine when stationary.

How to Check

As a driver, you can nevertheless narrow it down to the suspect wheel by driving along slowly and moving the steering wheel left and right while listening and feeling for any sensation. If you notice a noise emanating from the direction of a particular wheel when you turn the steering wheel that way, then you may have your answer.

Once you have your suspect, return to your garage at home. Take your vehicle's jack and elevate that wheel off the ground. Shake the wheel back and forth from top to bottom and see if there is any movement. There shouldn't be any, so if you find any movement, this indicates that you need to get those bearings changed.

A Little Knowledge Is a Good Thing

A qualified mechanic will be able to confirm your suspicions and change the bearings for you. Nevertheless, you are now armed with some handy knowledge to help you catch the first sign of wheel bearing failure in the future. If the wheel bearings aren't actually the issue but you still suspect problems with the automatic transmission, make sure to take your car in.