Wheel Bearings Going Out

2009 Honda Civic, 54k miles, new tires (<10k miles), loud roaring when driving. Tire dealer says wheel bearings on front left tire are going out. Should this be happening on this car? Drove a Toyota Camry for 14 years and never replaced wheel bearings.

Normally no, but once in a while a bearing can have a defect that doesn’t show up immediately. The usual advice is to replace them in pairs, but in a case like this, you can just replace one.

BTW, one way to verify that it is the bearing is to note whether the noise gets louder when turning either to the right or the left. In your case, it should get louder when turning to the right and quieter when turning to the left. If the noise level doesn’t change, then get a second opinion.

If the tire is making the noise, or tires, rotating them will change the noise level. Noisy tires sound louder when on the front. Noisy tires usually have an unusual wear pattern on the treads such as cupping or feathering.

Brakes can also make noise but they will either make noise when the brakes are applied, OR they stop making noise at the slightest application of the brakes.

Here’s the 1 million dollar question, did the noise start when the new tires were installed? If so, then it’s the tires. Some tires are noisier than others. Reviews of tires will rate road noise.

A good whack in a pothole can start a wheel bearing on its way to failure.

Both front wheel bearings on my 2000 Blazer started making noise after I had new tires installed (~50k miles). I’m assumed it was the new tires and drove about 4k. After 4k miles the noise got a little worse and my mechanic said it was the wheel bearings. A change in the pitch/volume of the noise when the steering wheel is turned off-center (i.e. changing lanes) indicates failing bearings. Once the bearings were replaced the noise went away.

Ed B.

Is this tire dealer a qualified mechanic?? Or is this some tire chain.

I went to NTB (National Tire and Battery) for a wheel alignment (they had a special)…and the alignment guy said I needed new ball-joints. I said show me…he couldn’t. And when I sold the truck some 250k miles later…the original ball-joints started to show some wear.

Something I’ve noticed when front wheel drive wheel bearings fail is that when the stationary race fails the groan is steady. When the rotating race fails the groan pulsates with every rotation of the wheel. BUT - (and this is almost always the case) when the bearing itself fails the groan will pulsate with every second rotation of the wheel. This is what nails it as a wheel bearing. I also agree that if it’s louder when curving left it’s the right side bearing and vice-versa.

Usually, when a wheel bearing is failing, you can jack up the suspect wheel and see if there is any play in the bearing…Hold the wheel top and bottom and try to rock it in the vertical plane (from top to bottom) . If you notice any, ANY play in the wheel hub, the bearing is the likely cause (in today’s cars)… I say that because in older cars that use tapered roller bearings, a SLIGHT amount of play is normal…

The bearing failure is premature but it does happen from time to time. My sister-in-law’s 2002 Accord had a right front wheel bearing failure after about 47,000 miles. I replaced it myself. All of the other wheel bearings are still fine, however.

Especially when potholes are involved…
Modern cars use ball bearing sets instead of tapered roller bearings to take advantage of the inherent lower rolling resistance, but they don’t stand up to potholes as well as the rollers.