How Long Can You Drive On A Bad Wheel Bearing – A Guide

Bad wheel bearings cause random wheel vibration and loud noise like lawn mowers, severely damaging the car’s overall speed and performance.

No seasoned drivers (or even average ones, mind you) want their precious vehicles to undergo such bothersome troubles!

Nevertheless, sometimes, packed schedules and other reasons prevent us from bringing the car to a repair shop for instant treatment. How long can you drive on a bad wheel bearing?

The insightful article from Bryan’s Garage will answer your inquiry in excruciating detail.

An Overview of Wheel Bearing

Overview of Wheel Bearing

What Is It?

Before we discuss the question, Can you drive with a bad wheel bearing?, it’s important to learn what a wheel bearing is first.

It’s a set of tapers or steel balls tied together by metal rings. These devices allow the car wheels to perform smooth rotations with barely any friction.

Look closer at the middle of the wheels, and you can see some metal, hollow pieces called “hubs”.

A bearing is supposed to fit snugly within these hubs and function on the axle metal shafts, which reduces excessive friction during the wheels’ spinning.

Drivers must learn the basic differences between engine bearings and wheel bearings.

For the latter, there are no constant lubrication sources, meaning the bearings must sit tight to keep dust, water, and debris at bay. 

Furthermore, the wheel bearings serve as the ground for the whole vehicle weight throughout the operation; hence, compared to engine bearings, they are more vulnerable to tear and wear.

The Importance of Wheel Bearings

You certainly don’t need us to tell you how crucial they are to the car’s consistent and smooth operation.

As you might guess, the wheels will rotate continuously and generate friction, which leads to detrimental tear and wear on the system over time.

Hence, bearings are of practical help here, reducing such friction by enabling the car wheels to spin more freely.

That’s why it’s not an exaggeration to claim that they are the key factor of any automobile’s performance, essential to the vehicle’s healthy function and streamlined operation.

Not to mention, it strengthens the drivetrain systems by cutting off unnecessary forces and pressure created by other engine parts.

Ignoring bad bearings, therefore, is not advised. When it’s time for them to get fixed or replaced, do so as soon as possible; otherwise, that might result in worsened warning signs that call for expensive repairs.

Also, remember to count on trusted/professional mechanics only. Improper tools will make the damage more severe.

Still, what will happen if you cannot treat the issues on time? How far can you drive on a bad wheel bearing? Check the next section for our analysis.

Can You Drive On Bad Wheel Bearings? How Long Can You Drive On A Bad Wheel Bearing?

How Long Can You Drive On A Bad Wheel Bearing

How long can I drive with a bad wheel bearing? In most cases, the car can still run fine if it has only run below 100,000 miles.

Over a few months, internal and external variables will wear your wheel bearings down – which is natural.

After all, bearings are built to be durable, meaning they don’t call for much care or maintenance.

Nevertheless, once the vehicle has exceeded 100,000 miles, it’s time you paid it more attention.

Keep a close eye on unusual symptoms (such as strange sounds), which we will return to later in the latter half of the article.

Still, what if the car generates noises and you have no time to bring it immediately to a repair shop? 

If your car is high-end, there’s still some time left before the car breaks down entirely. Depending on the car model and year, you may run about 100 to 500 more miles!

But after 1500 miles, ignoring the issue is no longer encouraged for all automobiles – whether low or high quality.

Strange noises from the bearings mean something has gone terribly wrong with your engine system, after all.

Stop avoiding the problem and bring the vehicle to a professional facility right away! If you do not do that, some problems below might arise:

Safety Issues

Although the sounds themselves are not that concerning, we still suggest you pay them close attention – since they indicate faulty mechanical systems.

As mentioned above, the car will start vibrating violently, making it difficult for you to control its operation.

Worse, the wheels cannot stop moving, especially on slippery roads. And that’s dangerous! Eventually, the tires will fall apart, leading to serious injuries or even deaths.

Other Problems

Other than tire wear, the issues can lead to compound problems and defects in other car parts, such as the hub and CV joints. The overall transmission is also reduced, wearing down the car’s performance even faster.

For some car models, the steering will stop being responsive. You might find it hard to react in time, especially in situations that call for quick movements and reflexes!

How Can We Recognize Sounds of A Wrong Bearing?

Wrong Bearing

Can you drive on a bad wheel bearing? Yes, but we don’t recommend doing so. That’s why you should detect the problem soon.

As we have stressed numerous times in this article, strange sounds and noises are the most transparent signals of faulty wheel bearings. However, the only problem here is that some other parts of the cars also generate noise. How can we differentiate noises from bearings and other devices?

This section will detail some common cases where bearings create distinctive sounds.

Keep an eye on your car under these circumstances to quickly identify/assess the problem before it is too late! For more tips to distinguish these sounds with tire and wheel bearing noises, click here.

The Sound When You Corner

The first (and easily recognized) signal is the clicking or snapping sound whenever the car starts cornering. Check to see whether your car only makes those sounds when they decelerate to take turns. If yes, inspect its bearing right away!

The Sound When Braking

Likewise, while turning, the vehicles might make a cracking or grinding sound after braking. In that case, you must put the bearings under further inspection!

The Sound When Accelerating or Running Straight

One common situation is that drivers can hear buzzing or rumbling sounds whenever the vehicle heads straight.

Those sounds increase during acceleration and only stop when the car ceases running. Similar to the previous two cases, find a repair company as soon as you can!

Causes Of Bad Wheel Bearings and Suggested Solutions

Intrinsic Causes

Heat and friction generated when you operate the bearings will slowly wear their steel balls down. Not to mention, all the lubricants within their directions also deplete after some time.

Your best bet, in this case, is to replace them with newer ones, extending the car’s average lifespan!

Unfavorable Weather

Aside from friction and heat, water damage is another destructive factor that brings death to the car’s metal balls. Snowmelt or rain within the bearings leads to rusted metal after a while.

Worse, environmental road salt, dust, and soil – when combined with liquid – speed up the corrosion.

If you cannot bring the car to repair services right after the issue is detected, we suggest you refrain from driving in harsh weather conditions for the time being.

Bad Roads and Driving Styles

Driving on rough streets at great vehicle speed makes your car hit harder, fluctuating the axle significantly. That’s also a common cause of bearing damage.

So aside from changing the bearings, it’s a must to pay more attention to your driving styles from now on.


And how long can you drive on a bad wheel bearing? Our article has dived deep into these questions.

While the problem does not require an immediate fix, you should not neglect its treatment for too long (more than 1500 miles).

Replace or change them to increase the car’s performance!For more inquiries regarding the question, How long can you drive with a bad wheel bearing?, feel free to write to Bryan’s Garage.

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