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Will slightly loose bearings result in damage?

6 min read

Asked by: Tony Harden

A little loose will not cause damage, though it may cause handling to be less than perfect.

Is it safe to drive with a loose bearing?

Q: Is it safe to drive with a bad wheel bearing? A: No. It can, in fact, be very dangerous to drive if one of your bearings is worn out, especially since it may cause the wheel to stop while driving. Additionally, a damaged wheel bearing puts a lot of stress on the hub, the CV joint, and the transmission itself.

What happens if a bearing is loose?

Wheel looseness, or also called wheel play, is another common symptom of a bad wheel bearing. As the bearing begins to wear down, they become loose inside the wheel hub and spindle, which makes your vehicle feel loose while steering. Are you doing the steering, or is the car driving where it wants to?

How loose should wheel bearings be?

For context, the tolerable end-play for truck wheel bearings is the same: 0.001 to 0.005 inches, also expressed as 1 to 5 mil or 0.025 to 0.127 mm. In other words, it’s perfectly acceptable to adjust wheel bearings so that they are just a little bit loose, but not too loose.

How do bearings get damaged?

Dirt, sand, and water are the most common ones that you run into, but chemicals and corrosives can also damage bearings. These contaminants reduce viscosity which causes corrosion to the bearing surfaces, disrupts the oil film, and causes erosion, leading to the creation of countless abrasive particles.

How long can you drive with noisy bearings?

1,000 miles

Typically, you shouldn’t exceed 1,000 miles on a bad wheel bearing. Driving for distances longer than 1,000 miles could lead to serious complications with your vehicle. Continuing to put stress on this wheel bearing will also hurt the hub, CV joint, and even the transmission.

How long will a wheel bearing last after it starts making noise?

The average life expectancy of a wheel bearing is around 150,000 miles. However, if it starts making noise, it may only last for a few thousand miles. If you notice a grinding or humming noise coming from your wheels, have the bearings checked as soon as possible.

How much wheel bearing play is too much?

One way to check wheel-bearing play is to raise the wheels off the ground and rock the tires in and out while watching for any looseness. As a rule, there should be no play on most FWD cars, but up to . 010 inch of play in the front bearings may be acceptable on RWD cars and trucks with adjustable bearings.

How much does it cost to fix a loose bearing?

The national average is about $350 to fix the wheel bearings at one wheel. As you might imagine, however, luxury brands cost more. Please note: If the wheel bearings need replacing at one wheel, you don’t necessary need to replace the bearings at the other wheel on the same axle. It’s not like matching a pair of tires.

What does a loose wheel bearing sound like?

A worn wheel bearing can cause a howling noise. If you’re also hearing a rumbling noise when turning, then it’s likely a bad wheel bearing. You may also trace this noise to a loose pinion-bearing preload. It’s likely the case when you only hear the noise when decelerating.

Does a loose wheel bearing need to be replaced?

Another good sign that you’re wheel bearing need to be replaced is if your vehicle feels loose while you’re driving it. Basically, if your car, truck, or SUV feels less responsive to your steering than normal, it could be the result of a bad wheel bearing.

Should there be any play in wheel bearings?

As a rule, there should be no perceptible play in the wheel bearing if you are pulling and tugging on a wheel 12 and 6 o’clock, but up to . 010 inch of. play in the front bearings may be acceptable on some old vehicles cars and trucks with adjustable bearings.

Why do wheel bearings come loose?

Driving conditions – driving through deep water or mud can cause your wheel bearings to fail. Water, mud or other contaminants such as dust or road salt could get past the seals and enter the bearing, polluting the grease and wearing away the bearings.

Can a wheel bearing break while driving?

Ultimate damage: If you don’t replace a damaged wheel bearing before it fails completely, the wheel will completely seize up. If this happens while you’re driving, the results can be catastrophic. This is not a component to take chances with.

What are the signs that a wheel bearing is failing?

Squealing, Growling



The typical sounds of worn-out wheel bearings are squealing and/or growling. The sound intensifies as vehicle speed increases. Try to pinpoint the location of the noise because it will identify the location of the worn-out wheel bearings.

Do you have to change both wheel bearings at the same time?

The decision to replace both wheel bearings simultaneously is totally up to you. Only replacing the one that failed will save you some money, while replacing them at the same time can potentially save you the hassle of having to return to the repair shop soon.

Can a wheel bearing break while driving?

Ultimate damage: If you don’t replace a damaged wheel bearing before it fails completely, the wheel will completely seize up. If this happens while you’re driving, the results can be catastrophic. This is not a component to take chances with.

How expensive is it to fix a wheel bearing?

The national average is about $350 to fix the wheel bearings at one wheel. As you might imagine, however, luxury brands cost more. Please note: If the wheel bearings need replacing at one wheel, you don’t necessary need to replace the bearings at the other wheel on the same axle.

Is wheel bearing expensive to fix?

The labor cost for a wheel bearing replacement also varies and will generally cost anywhere from $60 to $300. It should take between 1 to 1.5 labor hours to change the wheel bearing. In total, the cost to replace a wheel bearing is around $150 to $800.

How do I know if my wheel bearings are loose?

If you’re hearing unusual noises, this guide will help you determine which wheel hub is bad.

  1. Loose Steering Wheel. When a wheel hub bearing goes bad, you may feel some looseness in the steering wheel. …
  2. Vehicle Pulling To The Side When Brakes Are Applied. …
  3. Uneven Tire Wear. …
  4. Wheel Vibration And Wobble.


How tight should a bearing be?

tight to 0.004 in. tight. For a tight fit, the wheel hub inside diameter (ID) should be smaller than the outer race OD by the fit values shown on the tables. For inner race fits, the spindle OD should be smaller than the inner race bore within the loose fit range.

What does a loose wheel bearing sound like?

A worn wheel bearing can cause a howling noise. If you’re also hearing a rumbling noise when turning, then it’s likely a bad wheel bearing. You may also trace this noise to a loose pinion-bearing preload. It’s likely the case when you only hear the noise when decelerating.