Wheel Bearing Failure

I have a 2005 Toyota Highlander. Yesterday I took it for a brake job. I am new in the area and do not know the mechanic. The mechanic told me that the brakes are fine, but that my problem is larger. He said the wheel bearings in both front wheels need to be changed. He said that he will do the job for 1K and through in a much needed trans flush.

How can I confirm that he is being upfront about the need to change the bearings? I have had no symptoms, though when I drive the car above 70mph the steering wheel seems to vibrate - something which I have not noticed before.


“Above 70mph the steering wheel seems to vibrate” = classic symptoms of rims that need to be balanced. This is a cheap repair.

How many miles?

What is the reason for the wheel bearing replacement?

Can he feel that they’re rough?

Are they making noise?

I really can’t fault anyone at this point, because only you and the mechanic have driven the car.

He did not drive the car. He took off the wheel to inspect the brakes. They are not making noise, though I did hear a slight rubbing sound that suggested to me it was time for new brake pads.

What seems odd to me is that it is both wheels that he claims need bearings. The car has 115K miles on it.

You do what you would do for any other business deal, you get more opinions. Try other shops and get opinions and estimates. Also ask around for recommendations and check with the BBB to see if this shop or any other shops you visit have any unresolved complaints.

It’s just business.

I would get a second opinion from a Toyota Dealership…

Nobody seems to have picked up on “and through in a much needed trans flush.” As I recall, most experts here say that this is not needed – just drop the pan and drain trans. (I believe they call this a “wallet flush.”)

It makes me wary of the mechanic.

Flush may be a generic term used by the mechanic, any trans fluid change is a good change, and if flush is the way the dealers do it, I would be ok on that one. Second opinion for sure on 2 wheel bearings.

Okay… so I bring the Highlander to another mechanic.

I tell him that I may have a wheel bearing issue and ask how much he can fix the left and right front. He comes in at around $500. This is red flag number one - remember the other guy wanted 1K and offered to toss in a trans flush.

I ask the new guy if he too would add in a trans flush. He immediatly asks why I would have the trans flushed on a car with over 100K miles, particualry when it has not been done before. I tell him that I think the wheel bearings are going and that I need an estimate. I authorize an inspection and tell him that before putting the wheels on, let me take a look.

20 minutes later he returns. “You need some alignment work, but nothing is wrong with the wheel bearings” he says. Is it possible that anything was missed and I mention that another mechanic had insisted on doing a wheel bearing job. He talks with the mechanic and reiterates that the bearings are fine and that all had been inspected.

I should write up the first garage in a rip-off report. This is not even just upselling, this is a real rip off that was attempted.

You don’t know that. The second garage could be ripping you off by lying about what needs to be done. By going in and telling the guy that another mechanic said it was a wheel bearing and you’re getting a 2nd opinion, you opened the door for him to get your money by saying the other garage is full of crap, here’s what’s really wrong, and I’ll fix it for you.

What you want to do when getting a 2nd opinion is to take it in, not tell them what you have been told is wrong or that you’re going around asking different mechanics, but tell them what the symptoms are and let them diagnose it.

I don’t like that the new guy doesn’t want to do a fluid exchange on your transmission. It should have a fluid exchange done, even if (especially if!) you’ve never done it in 100k miles. Note “exchange,” not “flush.” Do not let them use a power flushing machine on it. Have them drain the fluid, drop and clean the pan, and replace. Because your transmission fluid is especially dirty since you’ve neglected its maintenance, it’s probably a good idea to do a 3x3, which means drain the fluid, replace, and drive for 5 minutes. Then do it again for a total of 3 times. On the 3rd time, drop and clean the pan and replace the filter.

Now, all that said, generally when bearings start to go, you know it. They make noise. It can sound like a low-pitched, growling grind, or sometimes kind of like a jet engine. That slight rubbing sound doesn’t sound like a bearing to me. Sounds more like maybe the dust guard on the back of the rotor got slightly bent and is rubbing against the rotor.

Yes, it was a mistake to tell the new shop you need wheel bearings. The only thing you tell the shop is your symptoms, not other folks diagnoses. Now you need to find another shop and let THEM tell you what is wrong. Like has been said, get the wheels balanced before you have a shop fix anything, it’s a cheap check. You can click on ‘Mechanics files’ above to find shops in your area, or ask around.

Now you need to defend your wallet by asking the dealer what is meant by “some alignment work”. Did he put it on the alignment machine or did he look at the tire tread wear? Odd tire tread wear can be a good indicator but not always; overly fast cornering can do that too. Did he mean a front alignment or four wheel alignment?

Well I choose mechanic 2 over mechanic one, what are your symptoms and what work was recommended?