Front Wheel Bearing Diagnosis


The front wheel bearings in your car or light truck allow the wheels to roll smoothly and support the weight of the vehicle. The most common symptom of a damaged or faulty wheel bearing is a noise that increases in pitch and volume as the vehicle's speed increases, and may also change as the vehicle is turning corners. Diagnosing noise and problems caused by front wheel bearing damage or failure takes just a few minutes using basic tools that most home mechanics already have at their disposal.

Things You'll Need

  • Wheel chocks
  • Floor jack
  • Jack stands
  • Place wheel chocks behind the rear wheels and apply the parking brake. Slide the floor jack under the frame or lifting point of one front side of the vehicle. As a rule, cars that do not have a full frame (most front-wheel-drive cars fall into this category) have a reinforced area -- located a few inches behind the wheel on the lower edge of the body -- that is designed as a lifting point. Refer to your owner's manual for the specific location of the lifting point for your vehicle.

  • Lift the vehicle until the front wheel is off the ground, and place a jack stand under the frame (on trucks and older rear-wheel-drive cars) or front sub-frame (on front-wheel-drive and unibody cars) and lower the vehicle onto the stand.

  • Check the tires for uneven or choppy tread wear that may cause road noise similar to a bad wheel bearing. If uneven tread wear is present, rotate the tires according to the instructions in the owner's manual, and perform a test drive to verify the tires are not making the noise. If tread wear is not an issue, continue on to the next step in the procedure.

  • Grasp the tire firmly at the top and bottom of the tread. Attempt to move the wheel in and out from the top and bottom. Replace the bearing if there is any perceptible movement while attempting to move the wheel with reasonable hand force.

Tips & Warnings

  • Most late model vehicles (post 2005), including light trucks, use a sealed wheel bearing and hub assembly that cannot be repacked or adjusted, and must be replaced as a unit.

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