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Bad Wheel Bearings- Limitations and Safety

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Bad Wheel Bearings

Every driver will experience a bad wheel bearing at some point. When it comes to this point, it is good to know if you can travel with a bad wheel bearing and for how long before it is classed as a hazard.

This article explores your options if you think your wheel bearing may be damaged and you are unsure how to safely resolve the issue.

Can You Drive With a Bad Wheel Bearing?

The short answer is yes, you can drive with a bad wheel bearing, but to a degree. 

If you notice your car starts to make a roaring or humming noise that sounds like it may be coming from the front rear wheels, then your wheel bearing is most likely beginning to fail. In this instant, you probably have time to take it to your local repair shop, on the basis that this isn’t too far away. 

It can be stressful travelling along roads knowing that your wheel bearing needs replacing imminently, but take your time and take a quieter route if possible. The slower you drive, the less damage you will cause to the already damaged wheel bearing. Driving at high speed causes more friction on the bearing which will heat up and damage the wheel and tires. 

How Long Can You Drive For With a Bad Wheel Bearing?

It isn’t recommended to drive your vehicle if you are aware of the bad wheel bearing. However, sometimes need is must, and if you are stranded in the middle of nowhere then you really don’t have a choice. 

If you have only just started to notice something isn’t right, you will be more than fine to drive it to an auto-repair shop. If you have persistently ignored the warning signs then driving is not a wise choice. 

It is not recommended to drive for more than 1000 miles with a bad wheel bearing.

Why is Wheel Bearing Important?

Wheel bearing connects the wheels to the axle and allows them to spin and turn freely with minimum friction. This is a vital part of the wheel assembly, so as you can imagine, bad wheel bearing plays havoc with the anatomy of a vehicle. A damaged wheel bearing can put stress on other areas of a car such as the transmission, the CV joint and the hub. Wheel bearings do wear out and are a common replacement during the lifespan of a vehicle. 


Warning Signs to Look Out For

A bad wheel bearing will not fail immediately. However, if you suspect it to be the problem then take it to a repair shop sooner rather than later as it will not fix itself. So what signs should you be looking, or listening out for?


Strange noises

Hearing your car make an unusual noise is the first part to diagnosing any problem. A bad wheel bearing will often make a growling or roaring sound which will be coming from the front or rear wheels. As the weight of the car shifts when turned, these sounds may become more pronounced or even disappear. They are mostly audible when travelling at speeds of around 20-50mph. Drivers often don’t realise there is a problem as these sounds develop over time. 

Dashboard warnings

If you are hard of hearing, you can of course rely on your dashboard. In this case, you may notice the ABS icon will illuminate. Other icons such as ‘check engine lamps’ or ‘traction control’ may also light up. 

Wheel wobble

Over time, the wheel bearing will naturally become worse. This eventually begins to affect other components of the vehicle. However, sometimes you may not notice anything is wrong until it’s too late. 

Another tell tale sign is a wobbly wheel. Grab the wheel you suspect has the bad bearing and shake it. In a ‘healthy’ wheel, movement should be minimal. However, if it does feel quite loose, it is time for a replacement as soon as possible. 

Wheel has seized up

If the wheel has completely seized up, it should not be driven under any circumstances. Driving with a failed wheel bearing can have devastating consequences so if you are unable to move the car, have it towed to your local repair shop. 

Replacing Wheel Bearing


Luckily, this is a common problem which is easily resolved. Individual repair shops will charge differently, and the make and model of a car require specific parts. The average cost of parts and labor can be anywhere between 300-500 dollars and the job itself can be started and finished within a couple of hours.

If it is just one wheel bearing that is faulty, then you only need to replace this one. There is no need to replace the others if they seem in good working condition. 

How Long Does Wheel Bearing Last?

The lifespan of replacement wheel bearing varies based on the price. A cheaper wheel bearing may save money, but will not last as long. So if you want to change it every couple of years then go for a cheaper option. 

Spending a little bit more on this car part to begin with, will save you money in the long run. Getting this part replaced will literally save lives. And what could be more important than that?

Bon Voyage

Driving with bad wheel bearing is not recommended but it is possible, providing the wheel hasn’t completely seized up. If you have concerns, or are worried about driving with a failing wheel bearing, then trust your instincts and don’t.  

The best thing to do if you suspect you have a bad wheel bearing is to take it to a mechanic as soon as possible where the problem can be sorted. You may not be happy to part with your money, but it is money well spent and you can enjoy driving safely again. Taking your car to a professional is the best option and you will be back on the road in no time. 


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