All vehicles make some noise when driving down the road. However, some noises are serious and should be checked out before heading out on a long journey. A humming noise can be potentially serious. If you've noticed a humming sound when you drive, you may have a bad wheel bearing. Here's what a wheel bearing is, how you can tell that you have one that is going bad, and when you should have it repaired.
What does a wheel bearing do?
A wheel bearing is a metal ring that has steel balls inside. The wheel bearing fits inside the hub of the wheel and rides on the axle. The hub is what your tire bolts on to. Wheel bearings allow for a friction-free rotation of the hub assembly, at least they are supposed to when they are not worn. Wheel bearings are not typically considered to be parts that wear out. Usually, they last the lifetime of the vehicle. However, contaminants can get into a wheel bearing and cause failure.
How can you tell when a wheel bearing is going bad?
The most common sign of a wheel bearing going bad is a loud hum when driving and particularly when turning in the opposite direction of the bad wheel bearing. The reason for this is because the weight of the vehicle moves to the opposite side of the turn, which increases pressure on the bad wheel bearing. If you hear the hum more loudly when turning left, the faulty wheel bearing is on the right.
Another sign you may notice is the uneven wear of the tires. One way to tell if a wheel bearing is bad is to check your tires for cupping and other types of abnormal tire wear. Tires should wear evenly, not on either edge. You may also feel a grinding or vibration in your gas pedal at higher speeds. Should this be the case, your wheel bearing failure is more progressive.
When should you have the wheel bearing repaired?
You should have the wheel bearing replaced as soon as possible. It's important to understand that a failing wheel bearing can lock up, which would cause the differential on that axle to get confused. If this were to happen, your vehicle would pull hard to the side of the bad wheel bearing since the opposite side will still be rotating. Imagine what this would cause when driving in traffic or on the highway.
Contact an auto repair company today to learn more.