A bad wheel bearing can be tricky to diagnose, but with a little patience, you can get a good idea whether or not a wheel bearing is a problem with your vehicle’s ride quality. When it comes to diagnosing your vehicle, it takes an experienced mechanic. You may not be able to tell exactly what is wrong with your suspension, or where the problem lies, but nobody knows better than you do if things aren’t sounding or feeling right as you drive down the road. Your vehicle relies on a complex system of springs, shocks, joints, and bearings to keep it going straight down the road as smoothly as possible. When every instrument in this complicated orchestra of balance is working together, you barely know the system exists. Steering is responsive, ride quality is velvety, your brakes are smooth and strong — this is when all is well. 

Any problem with suspension or steering has a good chance of starting out small. Again, you know your car, so if something just doesn’t feel right to you, it could be the beginning of a suspension problem. Things like wandering steering, clunks as you go over bumps at low speed, or vibrations are all signs that something in your suspension system may be wearing out or need servicing. 

Signs That You May Need to Replace a Wheel Bearing

1. Clunking noises coming from the front suspension

One of the most common symptoms with bad ball joints is clunking noises coming from the vehicle’s front suspension. As ball joints wear out they become loose in the socket. Worn ball joints may knock or clunk when traveling on rough roads, speed bumps, or when turning. Usually, the clunking will get continuously louder as the ball joints wear, or until they eventually completely fail and break.

2. Excessive vibration from the front of the vehicle

Another symptom of problematic ball joints is excessive vibration. Worn ball joints will be loose in their sockets and vibrate excessively from the right or left side as the vehicle is in motion. In some cases, the vibration may be felt through the steering wheel as well.

3. Steering pulls to the left or right

Another symptom of worn ball joints is when the steering pulls from left to right on its own. Worn ball joints will cause this which will require the driver to compensate for the issue.

Can I Drive If My Car Has a Bad Wheel Bearing?

It’s never a good idea to take a “wait and see” attitude with your wheel bearings. On many cars, the bearing can go from bad to really, really bad in a hurry, resulting in a wheel and hub assembly that falls off, often at high speed. This can be catastrophic and life-threatening. Wheel bearings are auto parts that allow the wheel to spin properly. They are crucial elements in a car’s wheels and help to turn the car effectively. Wheel bearings generally last about 100,000 miles.