Al Bundy

Correct way to test/check wheel bearing??

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6 months ago I took apart my rig and replaced the bearings and races due to tire rotation place telling me the bearing was likely bad.  The wheel did move pretty good on the ground when I pulled on it. I got 195K on it so figured it was time. Fast forward now I took the car in for a recall. Dealer told me the bearings are loose and needed repacking.  WTF??  I got the car back from them and the wheel did move some. Enough to convince me to open it up. I jacked it, took the wheel off and tried to move the hub. No play.  But with the wheel on, jacked up, there is some small movement. The question if anyone knows.. what is correct to test? Wheel on jacked? Wheel on, on the ground? Wheel off??

I put the wheel back on, lowered it down and tried pulling the wheel again. The slightest amount of movement. It was different than before I took the wheel off and put back on. Almost no movement... So could the wheel have been loose from the dealer? Lugs were good and tight, except one was slightly loose.  Any thoughts??

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Are you sure it is the wheel bearing giving you the play and not the ball joints? In my experience you can hear wheel bearings long before they have play in them and the sound of the bearing will change as you load and unload it going around corners. 

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19 minutes ago, ApexerER said:

Are you sure it is the wheel bearing giving you the play and not the ball joints? In my experience you can hear wheel bearings long before they have play in them and the sound of the bearing will change as you load and unload it going around corners. 

Agreed! A bad wheel bearing will be very audible if your radio isn't too loud. :sorry:

If there is any play at all when you try to move the jacked-up wheel, you probably have a problem. That shouldn't happen, and should be fixed.


"It's fun to win elections." -- Bill Whittle

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21 minutes ago, ApexerER said:

Are you sure it is the wheel bearing giving you the play and not the ball joints? In my experience you can hear wheel bearings long before they have play in them and the sound of the bearing will change as you load and unload it going around corners. 

Agree'd x3.usually get a humming noise or such from bad wheel bearing.sounds like ball joint IMO.could b wrong.definatly not ok though!

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jack it up , pull on wheel and check for any play.  Vehicle in neutral (make sure its chocked) and turn wheel and listen for grinding.  

Edited by Robhuntandfish

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i have personally never heard of checking the bearings to be honest.  As previously mentioned, and in my own experiences, you will hear bearings fail long prior to them being a safety issue in need of repair.  Typically, in my experience you hear a “whirring” type noise, that gets louder, and deeper as you round a bend....

If it were me, jack up the truck, and put one hand at 12, the other at 6, put pressure on one hand, and then back at the other hand, see if it rocks...have someone watch the ball joints.  3 and 6 o’clock Checks tie rod ends I believe....

is the axle nut snugged enough? Sometimes i see wheels have a bit of slop due to the axle nut not snugged just enough. Also, was the race seated fully during install? Obviously, you thiught it was, but maybe it was not, and over the miles did it fully seat, giving some bearing slop...eh probably not due to a snap ring?

But what do I know, this is all vague info

Edited by Bionic
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Agreed with pretty much everyone. you can hear a bearing before you can notice play in the wheel. I would guess the play in the wheel is a ball joint 

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Most times you can just drive it and hear any bearing issues. Drive down the road, if there is bearing noise going straight turn the wheel slightly left and if the noise gets louder it's your right bearing bad...Turn right and it gets louder it's you left side bad. Drive down a quiet road of course or a cop might think your drunk turning left and right back and forth going down the road.


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Was a auto tech for over 10 years.  When you set a wheel bearing you tighten the adjusting nut fully then spin the wheel to check for additional play.  If it is tight the wheel should stop after a few rotations then you back the nut off a 1/4 turn to allow for some play in the bearing.  This will cause a slight amount of movement when the wheel is on(Off the ground) this is normal.  

Usually a ball joint can be checked with a pry bar under the wheel to see if excess play exists.  (Make sure you use jacks stands for safety!)  Make sure you lub every grease fitting when doing the oil change and usually they will last, no lub they wear out quickly.  Any excessive play or worn boots indicate replacement is needed.  This is a bit  harder to tell and helps if experienced. 

Testing bearing for noise can be done at high speeds and also just free spinning if they are bad you will hear noise.  Any noise take them out and inspect, sometimes they just need to be repacked, any damage then replace.  

Trailers:  I always carry extra bearing for my trailers along with races.  Simple to do on side of road if needed.  I always use bearing buddies and lub after getting the boat out of the water and usually at a stop I will give one pump of lub after a few hours of driving and feel the bearing for excessive heat indicating an issue.  Some heat on long drives is normal. 

Edited by NFA-ADK

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2 hours ago, Moho81 said:

Agreed with pretty much everyone. you can hear a bearing before you can notice play in the wheel. I would guess the play in the wheel is a ball joint 

Ball joint will not usually show play in the wheel unless it is really gone!  But they can cause stiffness in turning.  Steering wheel play is usually an Idler arm, tie rod or steering rack.  If a ball joint is bad sometimes you will hear a clunk on hard turns then sometimes another when straightening out. 

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If the dealer told you the bearing was bad and it needed repacking then go to a different dealer , packing the bearing with grease is to be done before installation ,it will not correct a worn bearing, thats hack job stuff.

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Thanks for the advice everyone. 1998 Nissan Pathfinder. I seated the race with a race seating tool kit from the auto store. It felt and looked to be done correctly.  I paid attention to where the old ones seated and got the new ones right on. I did both inner and outer bearings and races. Took the bearings to a shop and asked them to grease for me as I dont have the grease tool.  This was April. Few thousand miles ago.

What led to this was I was getting clunking noises going over bumps at low speed. I thought ball joint. While in for the recall, I told the dealer about the noise and asked them what they thought while it was in. They said sway bar links and repack wheel bearings. I had a discussion with the service manager who told me bearings can make that noise. I didn’t put much stock in that. They said no on ball joint being bad as well. I replaced the links and also front bushings, though they didn’t mention that. Clunking noise gone. I’m wondering they just arbitrarily said 195k in this old girl, it needs  bearing repack. They wanted 250.00 for that btw. 266 to replace sway bar links. 

Now I get no bad sounds.  Original clunk is gone.  I’ll listen close for whirring or grinding. Hopefully won’t hear it.

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Some responses are for the 2 part cup and cone style bearing (Tapered cone style). They needed a set amount of clearance.     Ball bearings, (  a rolling element enclosed between 2 races, one that rotates, one that remains still designed for radial force and are cylindrical for thrust loads. In wheel bearing application, they need pressed on the shaft by the inner race, not to shorten the life.  In some applications, like transmissions, roller bearings need a  set preload .

Both bearings types should  have a good form of lubrication. When that lubrication breaks down, heats develops and  will start the breakdown process of the bearing. Prior to what most tell you, The shields can be carefully removed on a ball bearing, cleaned, and repacked with a good style grease, to this poster still is in search of,   Done this many times. 

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As said wheel bearings  will make noise long before play... most of the time . Spindle nut lose can be a cause. Upper and lower  can be checked by jacking up a side   and putting a long pry bar under tire and lifting . Watch for any play up or down . Turn wheel in  and out  to check for play on both directions of travel .

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Ya I’ve had them flunk cars on inspections ,only to drive to the next place and they pass it , say all is fine . My buddy got a call, they  told him he needed a tie rod I believe ,passenger side, he told them they better check their records ,because they just replaced that....

I could go on all day but I think you get my drift .

Edited by Stay at home Nomad

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8 hours ago, Al Bundy said:

 Took the bearings to a shop and asked them to grease for me as I dont have the grease tool.  This was April. Few thousand miles ago.

 

Not that it's a big deal but packing bearings by hand is a very simple procedure.  I did hundreds of them by hand years ago years ago when working as a mechanic.  We used the parts washer and mineral spirits to clean them, dried them with compressed air then repacked.  All done before anybody ever thought of using rubber gloves in auto repair, boy would that have made life easier!

I still pack my trailer bearings by hand every year....

Good luck, OP.

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6 minutes ago, Nytracker said:

Bearing buddies  my friend

Got them too but still trust my system better.


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20 hours ago, ApexerER said:

Are you sure it is the wheel bearing giving you the play and not the ball joints? In my experience you can hear wheel bearings long before they have play in them and the sound of the bearing will change as you load and unload it going around corners. 

Not always.  I had a '97 Ram 1500 that had a bad front wheel bearing and the first indication I had was when the brake pads FELL OFF going down the road at 60 MPH!


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Jack the car up, so you can freely spin the wheel.  Once doing so reach in and grab a coil on the strut spring.  you can feel a faint "vibration" if the bearing is bad.  A mechanic showed me this once, one side that was bad, you could feel the vibration in the coil spring as you rotated the wheel.  Did it on the opposite side and the spring coil was dead in hand.  Also wheel bearings usually hum once past 30 MPH.  The humming changes going around a curve or bend, then comes back once straight on.

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10 hours ago, Al Bundy said:

Thanks for the advice everyone. 1998 Nissan Pathfinder. I seated the race with a race seating tool kit from the auto store. It felt and looked to be done correctly.  I paid attention to where the old ones seated and got the new ones right on. I did both inner and outer bearings and races. Took the bearings to a shop and asked them to grease for me as I dont have the grease tool.  This was April. Few thousand miles ago.

What led to this was I was getting clunking noises going over bumps at low speed. I thought ball joint. While in for the recall, I told the dealer about the noise and asked them what they thought while it was in. They said sway bar links and repack wheel bearings. I had a discussion with the service manager who told me bearings can make that noise. I didn’t put much stock in that. They said no on ball joint being bad as well. I replaced the links and also front bushings, though they didn’t mention that. Clunking noise gone. I’m wondering they just arbitrarily said 195k in this old girl, it needs  bearing repack. They wanted 250.00 for that btw. 266 to replace sway bar links. 

Now I get no bad sounds.  Original clunk is gone.  I’ll listen close for whirring or grinding. Hopefully won’t hear it.

Sway bar links can be so annoying! Lol i had a beater car that the links in the rear went bad, and it sounded like someone was randomly smacking the floor with a hammer.  That can drive a man insane until replaced.

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Y theclunking got to me. Taking those links off was no small task either. Sure.. two bolts, easy right? Wrong.. loosen with an Allen key holding it in place and get a wrench on and turn 1/8th turn if lucky.  It was rusted to hell but I used my hydraulic jack on the ratchet end and broke them free.  Also did the same on caliper bolts. Those were not coming off without serious persuasion.  Thanks for advice everyone. 

 

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