When are noisy rear wheel bearings NOT a problem?

Two different Subaru dealership repair shops told me that i have loose rear wheel bearings on my 2003 Outback. My car does sound like a VERY loud airplane all the time now, but the noise is the only symptom i have noticed. My shop has told me that they will fix it for a discounted price, but they are not pushing me to get it fixed, and have told me that it shouldn’t cause any actual problems besides the loud noise being very annoying. All internet research to the contrary, though. I have to drive about 1000 miles round trip next month – is it just going to be a noisy trip, or is something horrible going to happen if i don’t get the bearings taken care of?

NEVER…Get it fixed…there is no upside to running this way and you are only begging for trouble… What will most likely occur first is that your rear brakes will begin to drag because your rotor will no longer be in a straight line and centered within the brake caliper…they will then drag and burn up your pads…and your fuel mileage will suffer… The next thing that will happen is that the wheel will either bind up and not rotate…OR it will BREAK OFF of your vehicle…NONE of these scenarios do you want to experience.


While I don’t know about Subaru bearings in particular, any time a bearing is noisy it typically means it’s failing, and final failure is accompanied by one of two events: either the bearing siezes, locking it up, or the bearing overheats leading to failure of whatever it’s connected to. Neither option is a good one, I’d get it fixed.

p.s. - no, HB and I don’t trade notes before answering questions…

Rent a vehicle for the trip.

Until this gets resolved, the bearings stand a very real chance of seizing. And you could be driving down the highway and see your own wheel passing you in the other lane. Just before you crash. Hopefully the crash won’t be too firey.

Bad bearings are bearings that are on the verge of sudden and catastrophic failure. You should get this fixed as soon as possible. This is not safe to drive on above parking lot speeds.

Count me in with the crowd. Definitely fix it.

Okay, i’m convinced. Thank you all very much! Now i just wish i knew what my usually-very-good-to-me (and wouldn’t you think they’d push me to do the repair to get my money?) car guy is smoking when he tells me it’s not a problem besides being noisy. Grrr.

LOL…All good mechanics on here seem to trade notes dont we? It just goes to show the guys on here with a proper mechanical knowledge of engines and the like are going to inevitably have the same answers… Happens all the time here… I see all of us seemingly writing the same things…

Great minds think alike Tex…

Also your mechanics lax stance on this issue is more than disconcerting… Now he does have a point…a failing bearing can make noise for a very long time before catastrophic failure… The thing is…why do you want to risk this? Because it is an inevitability…its a matter of WHEN and not IF in this case…same as with any Bearing that is talking to you.

Bearings that are making noise are indeed talking to you. They are saying " PLEASE replace me…I’m tired and I’m about to get really pissed off…Dont make me show you what I mean "…


I recently had a rear wheel bearing fail while on a road trip in a Crown Vic. When they fail completely it disables the car…Mine failed out in the middle of nowhere on a Friday afternoon…Total tab, $1000 and four lost days…Have them replaced…

I don’t know how you can have “loose” wheel bearings without tightening the cones and have it not be a problem. Even if wheel bearing failure was not an immediate concern, I would think drivability problems (vibration) might be especially to an awd car. I agree…get them fixed.

I might just keep this one around for whenever this question comes up:

Wow. If that doesn’t illustrate how dangerous the car can become, I don’t wnow what would.

Maybe a dashcam that was running when that actually happened?