Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Which wheel bearing is bad? Something else?

I need some help diagnosing what seems to be a wheel bearing issue. When driving I get this progressively louder “roar”. It’s “give you a headache loud” at higher speeds. I was pretty much convinced it was the back right bearing by listening but I was wrong. The sound is still there after replacing that whole hub assembly. Listening deeper, it makes a steady grinding type of noise on top of the roar when I turn left. When I slightly jerk to the right it goes away altogether for a moment. This noise happens at both low and high speeds. It still sounds like it is coming from the rear but its not more in stereo so deceptive I assume. Since it grinds when turning I assume its a front wheel. I also get varying levels of vibration in the steering wheel at times. I would call the vibration calm to moderate. I now feel it is one of the front wheels due to the grinding when turning. The sound seems like it could be coming from any wheel. It’s more in stereo vs squeaky brake pad or something that’s easier to pinpoint. I jacked up both front wheels and tried the wiggle test without much movement noticed on either. I had tried the back left previously as well. With it grinding while turning left, I assume it’s the right but I would like to feel more confident before throwing good money after another bearing without a higher confidence level.

Could it be something else? I first thought bad tires and that was a wasteful mess. The noise started after getting new tires a few weeks ago. When I left the shop it was noticed blocks down the road. I took it back for a rebalance and everything checked out fine and balanced. I then drove those tires for a week or so and couldn’t stand the noise. Some reviews I later read said those passenger tires sounded worse than mud tires down the road so I had them replaced with a completely different brand and model with no improvement so now it seems like a mechanical issue. I haven’t taken this second set back for a rebalance. The occasional vibration in the steering wheel seems much worse in frequency and intensity but since it isn’t 100% constant or consistent I don’t think its a balance issue. I’ve considered a possible suspension issue but not sure on that either. Could something have been damaged when the first set of tires were replaced? The sound wasn’t noticeable before the new tires.

Any help or insight would be greatly appreciated.

If you jack uo both front wheels,instead of checking for play, spin them by hand. You should be able to hear or feel the bad one.

Or, jack up 1 wheel at at time and idle in gear. Do it safely though.

Have a buddy sit down by the side of the road. Drive by going each direction. That should help pinpoint a side and maybe which end. Since you’ve already replaced one rear bearing, that side and end should be eliminated, in theory.

I replaced a rear wheel bearing one time… and got the wrong side… but I didn’t do the “buddy drive by”

Thanks for the input. I will try these out tonight.

Raise both front tires.

Place your hand on the strut spring and slowly rotate the tire.

A bad bearing will sometimes transfer its roughness into the strut spring where it can be felt.


I did not do it myself but the shop I use when I had similar issues used a stethoscope to determine which front wheel bearing was bad. Can do the same for any type axle I imagine.

Two words coming up . . .

chassis ears

Well, thanks for all the suggestions. I tried a number of these things without finding much. It ended up being the back left. Go figure. Using all the typical logic I ended up working my way around the car and the bad one was the last one. Oh well. About $400 in parts with 20% off auto store coupons. I would have paid that for one replacement at a shop I suppose. One side benefit was fixing my ABS/Traction Control/Tire monitor. This went out over a year ago and I never fixed it because I thought my car was nearing the end of its life (at least with me). Turns out it must have been caused by a bad electronic sensor in one of the hubs. I didn’t pay attention to which one caused it to go away but that was a nice additional fix. Thanks again for all the input.