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Bad wheel bearing after just 22,000 miles?

We love our 2006 Forrester, but were quite surprised when one of the rear wheel bearings went at just 22,000 miles. The dealer replaced it under warranty, but when asked how a wheel bearing could go that soon, said it was either a “bad design” or “excessive wear”. Excessive wear after 22,000 miles? We really don’t drive like maniacs (at least my wife doesn’t), although we have certainly hit the occasional pothole. (The alignment was also off.) Now do I have to be paranoid about the other 3?

We had one go out around 35K in our 1999 Legacy, so I would put this in the “stuff happens” category. None of the others on the 99 and none of the wheel bearings on my wife’s 03 have failed.

Better that, than someother major assembly failure, statistically speaking.

Stuff does happen…A design problem would be if a large amount of failures were occurring for this vehicle. Not sure if it’s true.

What was the sympton that the bad bearing showed?

It’s possible a severe enough pothole could start the ball rolling when it comes to damaging a wheel bearing or you just happened to get the one bearing in the batch that suffered a metallurgy problem during production.

Some more likely causes could be that if you did not buy the car brand new (as in 4 or 5 miles on it) the vehicle could have been in deep water at some point (hurricane, floodwaters, etc.) or it’s possible that if you’ve driven through high water due to heavy rains that water could have been absorbed into that bearing and it finally decided to let go.
(Similar to what happens all of the time with boat trailer wheel bearings.)

If the last paragraph applies then yes, I’d be concerned about the other bearings and some suspension components too.

Unusual? Yes.

Unheard of? Definitely not!

As an example of what can happen at an early mileage, I had one of the rear wheel bearings replaced, under warranty, at approximately 8,000 miles on an '81 Chevy Citation. That was just the first of many problems with that car. Consider yourself fortunate that you own a car known for its reliability–unlike that Citation.

It just got very very noisy. When our regular mechanic heard it, he said “bad wheel bearing” and
the dealer agreed, then replaced it under warranty.

Interesting, but not relevant in this case. We bought it brand new. We’re in Arizona, and it was
spring time, so none of the weather issues applied…

I wouldn’t be too paranoid about the other wheel bearings failing. Surprises me that Subaru vehicles are still having issues with wheel bearings. The problems are well-documented. The right rear bearing failed at around 20,000 miles on my 1997 Impreza AWD wagon, under warranty…but recently had to replace the same bearing at 75,000 miles. All the other wheel bearings are still good…never been replaced. Makes me wonder if the installer or installation procedure is the problem, not the bearing itself.

I was not aware that there are “issues” regarding Subaru wheel bearings. Between my two Outbacks ('97 & '02), there have been no wheel bearing problems in an aggregate mileage total of 250,000 miles.

Yep stuff happens, don’t worry about it. I had a bearing go out on my new 74 Olds at about 20,000 miles. They replaced it and never had another one go out in the 240,000 that I drove it. Could have been a manufacturing issue on that one bearing, didn’t get grease for some reason, the machine operator got some grit in it, etc. etc. That’s what warrantees are for.

Stuff does wrong.

I will say though there is an extended warranty (send via mail) for our 2005 Legacy GT on rear wheel bearings for 8yrs/100,000 miles due to a higher failure rate or something like that.

I don’t think you’re following me on this. The car is approximately 3 years old and Arizona does get heavy rain and standing water.

My point is that the car could have been driven through standing water (3-6" deep) several years ago and this could have started the process.
My analogy about boat trailers applies in this case also; UNLESS your car is one of the rare ones that has never been on anything except a wet street at most.

This can happen. It may very well be an infant mortality type failure caused by a manufacturing defect. In the case of a wheel bearing it could be a metallurgical or machining defect in the bearing or an assembly error. If the failed bearing was given to a metallurgist for analysis, he/she could quite possibly determine what went wrong. It also could be that Subaru is already aware of this failure due to the quantity of replacement parts being sent to dealers. Such a failure, if relatively infrequent in nature could be something that Subaru will not readily admit to the world but will have already resolved with their bearing vendor, anticipating that the problem will quietly go away. You could ask your dealer if there is a service bulletin on this if you want to pursue the truth.

Manufacturing defects happen. For more, Google “Bathtub Curve Wikipedia” Ignore the formulas but read some of the text and you will get the idea.

OK, this link is great, and I recommend it to all readers. Thanks to all for the thoughts.

I have a 2006 outback w/34,000 mi. Thought I had a tire issue so took it to Tires Plus for tire inspection. They told me the wheel bearings on both rear wheels are going. I just took a skiing trip to the Iron Range in Mn from the Twin Cities. The roads were wintry and unless clear and dry the car handled horribly! i will be getting repairs done asap and am glad to read of your experience.