How much more can I drive with these bad wheel bearings?

I confirmed that I have a bad wheel bearing on my 2006 Ford Focus. I started hearing a faint rumbling or whining noise from the right rear a couple thousand miles ago. I first thought it was the tire going out of balance. The tire looked O.K., so I rotated them front to back. But the noise continued to come from the right rear. I concluded that it had to be the wheel bearing, so I periodically checked the wheels by lifting it up with a jack and trying to rock it side to side and front to back. I was told that when a wheel bearing goes bad, the wheel gets loose, so I should be able to check by rocking it. But all 4 wheels felt all right – that is, until someone suggested that a bad wheel bearing does not necessarily result in wobbly wheels, and that I need to rotate the wheel and hear for any grinding noise. Sure enough right rear wheel gave that noise. So, I am sure it is the wheel bearing.

My question is… how long can I drive it like this before the wheel falls off. I ordered the drum with wheel bearing and a spindle nut on the Internet, so I am expecting them to arrive by this weekend. So, I am hoping I can drive it until then. If it absolutely necessary, I can find other forms of transportation.

I begin to hear a really faint wheel bearing grinding noise beginning at about 20 MPH, and most people should be able to hear it at about 25, and the noise is difficult to ignore at 30. Do you think I can drive it another 100-200 miles? Do the wheels begin to wobble when the wheel bearings are about to fail?


"Did he fire six shots or only five? Well to tell you the truth in all this excitement I kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and would blow your head clean off, you’ve gotta ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?"

Is that wheel bearing still good for 200 miles or just 100 miles? Feeling lucky?

I don’t believe anybody would /should advise you to keep driving on it. However, I have done it before. I’m sure there are people that don’t even heed the noise or don’t hear the noise and drive for quite some time…

The problem is that when it gets really bad the heat created can literally weld the bearing/hub/spindle together (or apart). I suppose a wheel could depart or lock up.

I wouldn’t count on any big warning, like wobbling, etc. (think space shuttle disaster). Catastrophic failure is likely.

I hope you don’t get advice to keep on driving. Feeling lucky?


Sure. Just be sure your affairs are in order. :grin:
Truth is, nobody knows. Do you feel lucky?

Here’s a relevant quiz for you.
Which is more expensive, a new bearing or having the wheel lock up and driving into a bridge abutment?


“Which is more expensive, a new bearing or having the wheel lock up and driving into a bridge abutment?”

The cost isn’t in dispute. Roger ordered all the parts. He just needs to be able to get around until the parts arrive and can be installed.

I guess my question was not properly phrased. If someone were to ask me the same question, I would also tell the person not to drive the car. I am curious whether there is any obvious sign of imminent catastrophic failure. It was strange that the bearing was obviously bad, but there was no wobbling. So, does the bearing noise get louder and louder until it fails completely?

I’ve had to replace wheel bearings just one time before, on my late 70’s VW Rabbit, both front wheel bearings needed a re-do at 80K. The symptom was the front wheels started to make a growling noise that got louder the faster I drove. It sort of sounded like when you drive on a paved road, but one the road crew is working on, where they’ve ground off the top surface to expose the aggregate, prior to laying a new top surface on. You know how driving on that sounds?

In my VW’s case that sound, over maybe 1500 miles, kept getting louder and louder until it became impossible to ignore. How many more miles I could have got, hard to say. Like you say, for my VW there wasn’t any noticeable play in the wheel, but I did hear a slight grinding noise when spinning it by hand, with the wheel jacked up. There indeed may have been some play by the time I finally got it fixed, but a repair shop did the job for me then and they didn’t mention whether there was play or not. They did say the bearings that came out were in pretty bad shape, definitely needed replacement.

My only experience with a bad bearing was one that started to make a little noise. We drove about 50 miles on it, and then it started to grab and pull the car to one side. We pulled over quickly, of course, and it had to be towed from that point.

So, bottom line, it can freeze at any time, and it could freeze gradually, as in my case, or it could freeze all at once, causing you to lose control.

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Are these short trips? Less than 10 miles? If so, just feel that wheel’s lug nuts after each trip…if they’re not warmer than the other side’s…drive on…

My car was pulling to the right, except that it did it intermittently, and it hasn’t done it recently. I was figuring maybe the CV joints are on their way out with the odometer reading 133,000 miles. I guess the bearings were seizing when it is pulling to the right. Also, I have been feeling the lug nuts after just about every drive, but I have not felt one wheel to to be warmer than others.

Pulling to the right is making me scared, although it’s not warmer than others. I should seriously consider parking the car until the parts arrive. Thank you very much for your help everyone.

Parking the car is the prudent course. I am sure others like me have not been prudent in desperate situations and lucky, but if you are not in a desperate situation do not tqke a gamble.

How much more can I drive with these bad wheel bearings?

All the way to the scene of the crash. :wink:


You can fix this now for the low cost or wait and pay the higher cast when the bearing gets that bad, the wheel comes off and the body of the car dropping onto the tire and wheel, you losing control enough that you crash into a bridge support, the dash and firewall being pushed back crushing your legs.

Hopefully you will not take anyone else with you!!!

Take your pick;


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you ordered online . . yet it could fail at any moment ?
Why not just run to your nearest Auto Zone and grab one for $ 45.00 ?

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Another advantage of an earlier repair, the part the bearing is pressed into (e.g. the hub/brake ass’y) can get distorted from the bearing’s friction heat and torquing forces and that has to be replaced along w/the bearing if you wait too long.