Checking a wheel bearing by hand

Here is the background in a nut shell: My car got hit in the rear, drivers side. Made a humming noise that I thought was coming from the cosmetic damage that the car suffered. Got the damaged repaired; insurance paid. I am still hearing a “humming” noise that gets louder the faster I go. Took it to the place where I always take my alignments; they say it is a bad wheel bearing. By request from my insurance, because I want them to pay for whatever it takes to fix the problem, I took it back to where the work got done on my car. I told them what the alignment place said and they said no it was not the wheel bearing. They told me to go back. I went back. They stuck to their guns and said it was the wheel bearing. They replaced it (been coming here for years so there was some trust) I drove off and it is still making the same noise. I told the guy. He said no way. We road in my car together he heard what I heard and said that it was going to be my tires. I told him the noise is them same and no I doubt that it was ever the wheel bearing to begin with. He says no the wheel bearing was bad to begin with. My friend last night tried it by hand (I made them give me the old part) and he says that it is good. Now I feel taken advantage of and pissed off.

My question: is it possible to see if a wheel bearing is bad by hand? Few things to keep in mind; 1.) it is no longer on the vehicle. 2.) My friend said it is a closed unit (I cannot see wheel bearings). Why am I asking? Because I am going to demand a refund or sue them to get it if my wheel bearing is good. I do not think it matters but my car is a 4 cylinder 2005 Nissan Altima.

Well maybe they THOUGHT your wheel bearing was bad and made an honest mistake? Sometimes these things are tricky.

So what is the problem then?

It’s not always easy to determine by hand if a wheel bearing is bad or not. Much depends upon the amount of wear or slop in the bearing.

You can try to rotate the inner race while firmly holding the outer shell and applying a little pressure as you do so. If you feel any roughness on the inner race or even a slight “tick” feeling then the bearing is bad to one degree or the other.

Unless a bearing assembly is really bad, it can be impossible to verify its condition once off the vehicle without specialized fixturing and equipment. However, nothing stops you from trying to determine the manufacturer of the bearing and mailing it to them with a request for a complimentary evaluation. don’t get your hopes up, but you just might get lucky. Sometimes companies do things just for their image.

However, you still have a humming vehicle and no resolution. First, try jacking up each wheel and spinning it, as well as shaking it to feel for looseness. The sound may not be coming from where you think. Also, consider the very real possibility that you have internal tire damage. That can be proven or disproven with a road force balance. Many shops have this capability.

Whatever you find, or if you find nothing and it still needs resolution, you should talk with your insurance agent about filing an amendment to your claim.

“My friend last night tried it by hand (I made them give me the old part) and he says that it is good.”

He’s an expert? While I know you’re frustrated, your shop may have honestly thought it was the wheel bearing (sounds like the symptoms to me). If they’ve earned your trust in the past, don’t blow it up now.

And it’s not very likely the accident damaged the tire to cause a hum. Switching wheels around would answer that - if the noise moves, it’s the tire.

A good shop will use a stethoscope to hep determine a wheel bearing.

Thank you all for your posts. It is very helpful. I will be talking to my adjuster tomorrow to see if I can’t come to a resolution with her. Also, I will make sure not to burn bridges unnecessarily. Thank you.

a wheel with a broken belt can sometimes sound like a bad wheel bearing and it is really hard to tell if a wheel bearing is bad by hand unless its really really bad.

Rather than trying to sue for a good guess, you need to partner with these folks or others to try and figure out the problem. While the bearing may not have been bad, you did get a new one out of the deal. My first guess would have been that you have an alignment problem with that one wheel and need to have a 4 wheel alignment done. You may also have ruined the tire by driving on it by this point. I had a problem like that on a brand new Buick on the same wheel. Alignment shop swore it was alignment from the transport truck. Wore the tire to almost an octagon before I finally let them do a 4 wheel alignment. That was the problem and never had a problem after that.