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BOTH wheel bearings gone bad?

I was headed out of town when I realized my inspection was up in a few days, so I took my car to a shop in the town I was visiting (2.5 hrs. away from my reliable mechanic at home). The mechanic at the new shop told me that the rest of the car was fine, but that both front wheel bearings were bad. Because of the model (98 Honda Accord) he said that they would be expensive to fix, because they need to be pressed out and pressed back in (whatever that means). He gave an estimate of $488 for the repair.

I called my mechanic at home to ask if the cost was reasonable and he said that it was, but only if the bearings were actually bad. He questioned the fact that both would have gone bad at the same time. He and his mechanics regularly drive the cars they service, and it was his opinion that they would have heard the bearings if they were going bad. He recommended I call back the new mechanic to see if I could just get one of the bearings done to pass inspection, and if they had any good explanation for why both would have gone bad at once. I did so and the new mechanic told me, “If you needed only one, I would have sold you only one,” and when I asked why both could have gone bad at once, he said that it was just a mileage thing (I have just over 152,000 miles on it). He also said he was confident that I could take it to anyone else for a second opinion and they would give the same diagnosis.

Upon reflection, I have been hearing a humming noise from the car at high speeds for a little while (maybe a few months), but it was nothing that made me too nervous, and the car runs pretty well otherwise, so I hadn’t thought anything of it.

My questions are these:

1) Is it ethical for me to take this to another shop - say, a national chain - hoping that they aren’t as diligent in inspecting it and it will pass inspection? (I would do this so that I would be legal to drive the car back to my mechanic at home so that he can do the job, without risking a ticket.)

2) Is it safe to drive a car 2.5 hours (130 miles or so) with a potentially bad wheel bearing?

Thanks in advance.

If the bearings are bad you’ll notice them. Either you’ll hear a noise or you’ll feel it in the the steering wheel. I’m with your mechanic…I seriously doubt the bearings are bad. This sounds more like a mechanic trying to make a boat payment.

If they are bad they do need to get fixed. Take it back to your “trusted” mechanic. It sounds like he’s ethical. If they’re really bad he’ll fix it.

As for driving home…Again I seriously doubt they are bad. And if you can’t hear or feel anything I suspect you’ll be fine. Just make sure you get them checked as soon as you can when you get back home just to be safe.

While it is rare for both wheel bearing to require replacement at the same time, it’s not unheard of.

That humming sound you’ve been hearing for a few months could be pointing worn wheel bearings. Is it safe to drive? Anytime wheel bearings make noise you’re driving on borrowed time. If the bearing should completely fail, it can result in the wheel/tire seperating from the vehicle. There’s two ways to check for worn wheel bearings. One is to grasp the tire at 12:00 and 6:00 oclock positions and try rocking the top and bottom of the tire in and out. If there’s any play in the tire when doing this, that bearing is bad. The other is to place your hand on the strut spring, and then slowly rotate the tire. Sometimes the roughness of the bearing gets transfered into the strut spring where it can be felt.


High mileage and humming could very well point to failing wheel bearings and yes, both can fail around the same time.

Even if only one bearing failed, I’m a proponent of heading things off before they start. The way I look at it is that if one bearing has failed the other is likely not far behind. If one is going to keep the car for the long term then replace both.

I don’t have a problem with your taking the vehicle elsewhere to see if it will pass inspection and driving it for 130 miles should not be a problem. When a bearing starts growling instead of humming then it should not be driven for a long distance.

(The tire tread should also be inspected as erratically worn tire tread can also cause a humming sound and can be misinterpreted as a bad wheel bearing. It’s also possible for a worn wheel bearing to cause irregular tire wear and the humming could be both.)

I ended up taking the car to another shop, and - lo and behold! - they told me that only one of the wheel bearings had gone bad. So, I guess this other guy really was just trying to make a boat payment. I will definitely not be recommending him to anyone … exactly the opposite, in fact.

You may find that the one bearing may be the opposite bearing. It is sometime hard to hone into the specific wheel especially if it is localized during a test drive. My good independent mechanic told me this and gave me the price for two bearings but stated they thought only from one side. They test drove the car and were correct.

However like ok4450 state about 4 months latter the sound came back and it was the opposing bearing which I never replaced. I simply sold the car(Civic) with revealing the obvious noise to someone who I stated they should get a mechanics opinion on the entire car but chose not to.

Right. So the second guy tells you what you want to hear and this means the first guy is a crook. “Exactly the opposite” translates to a correct diagnosis?
Some wheel bearings can be a judgemental call if they’re borderline.

So I trust if you replace one only then you won’t be upset and accuse Mechanic No. 2 of “ripping me off because he was supposed to have fixed my wheel bearing(s) and it’s still making noise”.

I’m not really sure what you’re saying. My mistrust of what the first mechanic said was based on my gut feeling that he might be taking me for a ride - a feeling that was then reinforced by the opinion of a mechanic that I trust. When that opinion was further supported up by tests done by a trusted local shop, some additional evidence was found. There are now two professional opinions and a gut feeling on one side of the issue (both bearings are NOT bad) and one professional opinion on the other side (both bearings ARE bad).

Now, if the second mechanic had called me back and said, “you need both bearings done,” then the equation would have been a little different, and I would have had a different opinion of the first mechanic. But, since that isn’t the case, then I’m calling it like I see it - the first mechanic made a bad diagnosis of an expensive repair and so I won’t be recommending him to anyone. It doesn’t seem that that’s the wrong thing to do.

Besides, the car runs smoothly and quietly now, so I am happy with the work so far. We’ll see how it wears - I’ll post again if I have further problems with the bearings.