How to Check Rear Wheel Bearings – Simple and Quick

Wheel bearings are an important component of your car. The primary purpose of wheel bearings is to rotate your car’s wheels with minimum friction. The rear wheel bearings are designed to perform for around 150,000 miles, but improper adjustments, loss of grease, or contamination from foreign objects can wear down the bearings in a short amount of time.

Mostly, the drivers notice rear wheels damage after the rear wheel bearings start making weird noises. In this guide, I will provide you with detail on how you can keep a check on your vehicle’s rear wheel bearing.

How to Check Rear Wheel Bearings?

As we begin the discussion, I will first describe how you can check the rear wheel bearings of your car. For this, you should follow the steps below:

  • Jack the wheel up
  • Grab it at 3 and 9 O’Clock
  • Rock it side to side
  • Do it from 12 and 6 O’Clock
  • Check if you feel any play
  • It should be tight, but if you hear a thunk while you rock it, then it isn’t good

Usually, your car’s wheel bearing will produce a grinding or growly noise, but if your car’s bearings have gone bad, they will produce a grinding, growling, or whining noise in the first stage. As the situation gets worse, in the second stage bearings start getting loose, and in the last stage, it won’t turn anymore.

How to Check Rear Wheel Bearings on a Truck?

Wheel bearings are equally important for a truck as they are for a car. The major sign of bad bearings in a truck is a humming sound that gets louder with the truck’s speed. Now to check the rear wheel bearings of your truck, you will have to do the following:

  • Jack the truck
  • Hear closely which tire was making the sound
  • Pull off the tire and check them
  • Take the brake off to access
  • Get a wrench, a socket, and a hammer, and whack off the brake
  • Hit the bolts on the back for some time to take them off
  • Pull the brake disc
  • Get a screwdriver and remove the bearing cover
  • Use a socket and a cheater bar to pull out the whole bearing assembly
  • Look inside the bearing assembly, and if you see any metal flakes there, then this means your truck’s bearings are wearing out and need to be replaced

How to Tell if Rear Wheel Bearings are Bad or Need Replacing?

It is a very common question that is: how do we know if we have to replace the wheel bearings. Now, there are two ways of telling if the rear wheels need replacement or not. The first is to check visually, and the second is to check by hearing the sound of the bearings (audibly).

Visually

  • Bearing rollers are rough
  • It can be rotated by hand
  • The bearing assembly isn’t smooth
  • Sparks from suspension rubbing the road (can be seen in the rearview mirror)

Audibly

You will hear low-pitched, metal-to-metal noise from the offending wheel, which increases with the vehicle’s speed. This noise becomes louder if you place a load on that corner.

How to Tell if the Rear Wheel Hub Assembly is Bad?

The wheel hub assembly is an extremely important component of your vehicle. Its purpose is to keep your wheel attached to the vehicle and allow the wheel to turn, allowing you to steer safely freely. Now two major signs tell whether your rear wheel hub assembly is bad or not.

  • Loose steering wheel
  • Weird whirling noise

How Long do Wheel Bearings Last?

Different factors determine how long wheel bearings may last. For instance, proper maintenance, correct bearing preload, and applying the grease regularly will make them last forever. But many of us do not bother with its maintenance if they are silent and not making any odd noises.

The average life of wheel bearings is 30k miles, whereas trunnion bearings’ average life is 80k – 90k. If you clean, repack, and torque the wheel bearings properly after every 30k miles, they can easily last for 250k miles. 

How Long will a Wheel Bearing Last After it Starts Making Noise?

There is a simple rule that you must know that if the wheel bearings have started getting worse, they will worsen in no time. Once wheel bearings have started making noise, they will only be used for 500 miles. It all depends on how bad your wheel bearings are.

It is a fact that some people drive on bad wheel bearings for an extended period, whereas some don’t even know that their wheel bearings are bad. To keep it short, driving with a bad wheel bearing can be extremely unsafe because as it heats up and locks up while driving, it will smash your car in anything, and you won’t be able to do anything.

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How to Diagnose a Bad Wheel Bearing?

Diagnosing a bad wheel bearing is not very difficult and tricky. Now what you can do is take your truck for a test drive and closely listen to any humming while you turn left or right.

  • After that, use a floor jack to raise one wheel at a time. After that, spin the wheel by hand, and if the bearing is bad, you will feel roughness.
  • Sometimes, they make a loud and crazy roaring noise. In such a case, you will have to lift the vehicle on jack stands. Then put it in drive, block one front wheel at a time, and let the free wheel spin, and notice for any sound. Repeat the same with other tires as well. 
  • Another way of diagnosing a bad wheel bearing is by doing a shakedown test or a spin test.

In a shakedown test, you will have to shake a wheel down on its y-axis and the x-axis to detect any abnormal play in the tie rod ends, wheel, suspension, or ball joints. 

In a spinning test, you have to spin the wheel in either direction. This is usually the best and the fastest way of diagnosing a bad wheel bearing.

Can a Bad Wheel Bearing Affect Acceleration?

Yes, it can affect your vehicle’s acceleration because it will increase the friction due to the rusting of bearing, create vibration, and will wear the tires of your car. A bad wheel bearing won’t just affect the acceleration but will affect the stability and speed of the vehicle as well.

The primary purpose of a wheel bearing is to reduce the friction, so if it goes bad, the friction increases adversely, affecting the car’s acceleration, mileage, and handling.

How to Check Rear Axle Bearings?

If you don’t keep your rear axle bearings lubricated, they will eventually fail. To check the bearings, you will need the following:

After you have gathered those mentioned above, you will have to follow these steps:

  • Park the vehicle on a solid level surface and chock the front wheels
  • Raise the rear of the vehicle and support it with a jack stand
  • Remove the rear wheels and set them aside
  • Place the transmission in neutral
  • Remove the rear differential fill plug and check the oil level
  • If the oil level is low, there may be a warrant axle bearing and a damaged seal
  • Remove the rear brake drums and inspect the axle for leaking oil
  • Move the axle hub from side to side to check for play
  • If the axle has played, the bearing is worn
  • If the axle play is minimal, rotate the axle and listen for bearing noise
  • Replace the axle bearing if you hear any bearing noise

Conclusion

To conclude, I would like to say that although wheel bearings are low maintenance parts, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care for them. Despite being low-maintenance parts, they require proper maintenance. If you don’t keep them maintained, they are going to affect your vehicle badly.

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