A wheel bearing is a set of steel balls or rollers that helps reduce friction as the wheel spins. Each wheel has a bearing and they take a lot of abuse, so a bad wheel bearing can be a common occurrence.
Wheel bearings come in different styles and sizes to accommodate different needs. A full-ton truck built for hauling has different needs than a compact car. And the cost of parts to replace a wheel bearing vary just as much.
The average cost to replace a wheel bearing is $298 to $390 including parts and labor. Front-wheel bearings cost more, often between $250 – $500.
Rear-wheel bearings cost between $200 – $400. In most cases, you will replace wheel bearings two at a time. While only one wheel bearing will be bad, it is important to replace in pairs on the front or back to maintain even suspension.
Poor driving habits and poor roads, along with the eventual end-of-life from normal use are all reasons that a ball bearing might go bad.
While you can usually drive with a bad wheel bearing for the short term, the part should be replaced to maintain a safe driving experience. As the lining continues to wear down, the bearing cannot reduce the friction resulting in smoking or worse.
- Types of Wheel Bearings
- Cost by Type of Wheel Bearings
- Signs of a Failing Ball Bearing
- Cost to Replace a Wheel Bearing by Make and Model
- Cost to Replace a Wheel Bearing by Service Provider
- Choosing Between OEM and Aftermarket Parts
- How to Check for a Bad Wheel Bearing
- How Long do Wheel Bearings Last
- Front Wheel Bearings
- Rear Wheel Bearings
- Rear Hub Bearings
- Complete Replacement
- Diagnosing a Problem With Your Wheel Bearings
- Is it Worth It to Repair or Replace Wheel Bearings?
- Can You Drive With a Failing Wheel Bearing?
- What Causes Wheel Bearings to Fail?
- The Bottom Line
Types of Wheel Bearings
A ball bearing is a common type of wheel bearing that is found in most standard cars. These bearings are versatile and feature the most simplistic design.
Ball bearings aren’t just limited to car wheels, you will likely find them in everything from roller skates to bikes as well. Another type of bearing that is similar, but designed for heavy-pressure loads is a precision ball bearing.
These are used in high-performance cars. Roller bearings are common in hand trucks and shopping carts, but not common for automobiles.
This type of bearing doesn’t handle cornering pressure well and would not hold up well to the demands of automotive use. However tapered bearings are used in cars and trucks.
This type of bearing is cone-shaped instead of ball-shaped. The cone shape performs better than standard ball bearings when it comes to cornering pressure and is increasingly more common in cars and trucks.
Cost by Type of Wheel Bearings
|Ball Bearings||$60 - $150|
|Precision Ball Bearings||$154.99 - $476.99|
|Roller Bearings||$14.99 - $671.99|
|Tapered Bearings||$124.70 - $399.98|
Signs of a Failing Ball Bearing
A wheel bearing plays an essential role in reducing friction by bearing some of the vehicle’s road wait to create a smooth ride. When this key part begins to fail, drivers will notice a range of problems related to the wheels and steering.
Common signs include
- Groaning, whining, or grinding noises that worsen on curves or when turning.
- Vibrations were felt through the steering column.
- Random pulling to one side.
- Uneven wearing pattern on tires.
- Loose or wobbly steering.
If the warning signs of a failing ball bearing are ignored, the problem will worsen and may result in very unsafe conditions like a smoking wheel or a wheel that falls off of the vehicle while it is in motion.
Cost to Replace a Wheel Bearing by Make and Model
|Chevrolet Silverado||$100.99 - $224.99|
|Toyota Camry||$254.00 - $404.00|
|Ford Explorer||$232.00 - $292.00|
|Honda Pilot||$260.00 - $370.00|
|Nissan Altima||$196.00 - $340.00|
|Honda CRV||$179.00 - $225.00|
|Toyota Rav4||$196.00 - $247.00|
|Dodge Ram||$535.00 - $558.00|
|Ford Mustang||$214.00 - $235.00|
|Toyota Sienna||$208.00 - $262.00|
You can drive with a bad wheel bearing, but there is always a risk that you will cause damage to other parts of the suspension system or even lose a wheel on the road which can be an incredibly unsafe situation so replacing a bad bearing should be a priority.
Cost to Replace a Wheel Bearing by Service Provider
|Your Mechanic||$400 - $1200|
|Midas||$440 - $1030|
|Mr Tire||$420 - $1160|
|Napa Auto||$480 - $1240|
|Walmart||$145 - $880|
|Amazon||$160 - $790|
When you replace a failing wheel bearing, you will also need to replace the wheel hub assembly. Similar to how your brakes work, pairing a worn hub with a new bearing will shorten lifespan of the new bearing.
Depending on your vehicle, you may need to make additional repairs along with replacing the wheel bearing. At the very least it is recommended that you replace both front or rear bearings at the same time so that both sides of the car has new parts for a balanced ride.
Newer cars also feature what is called a non-serviceable hub assembly that contains the wheel bearing. This means that the entire unit has to be replaced.
Choosing Between OEM and Aftermarket Parts
When you replace wheel bearings, you will have a choice between budget, mid-range, and high-end parts aftermarket parts or the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts that come from the same manufacturer as the original factory parts.
There are many aftermarket parts that match the quality of OEM parts, but you do have to do more legwork to find a comparable part. With that being said, many car owners choose aftermarket parts to save money, reducing the cost of replacing wheel bearings by $50 – $100.
How to Check for a Bad Wheel Bearing
If you suspect a bad wheel bearing as a result of loose handling and funky noises coming from your wheel, you can pay a mechanic $100 to diagnose it or you can take a look yourself and check for these common signs.
Listen to your wheels. If a whining or howling sound is audible while driving at speeds over 15 miles per hour and worsens as you accelerate or turn, this is a tell-tale sign of a bad wheel bearing.
If you want to check another method to solidify your diagnosis, try physically pulling on your wheel. If there is a wiggle, this confirms the bad wheel bearing theory.
For newer models, there are sensors in the wheel bearings that can provide a definitive diagnosis. In these cars, an OBD scanner can check the sensor for failure readings.
This is the method that dealership mechanics will use if it is available.
How Long do Wheel Bearings Last
Most wheel bearings will last an average of 80,000 – 125,000 miles. This means that replacement is more common in higher miles, but not completely out of the question before the 100,000 mile mark.
It also means that many vehicles may never require a wheel bearing replacement. Wheel bearings tend to fail as a result of damage from an accident, high-mileage use, frequent driving on poor road conditions, or moisture build-up.
Plus there is always a chance that a defective part or faulty installation can cause premature failure. This is why it is important to shop for parts and labor that provide ample warranty coverage.
Front Wheel Bearings
Front-wheel bearings may be either traditional cone or roller style, or they could be the more common hub style bearings. If you have an older two-wheel-drive vehicle, you probably have the traditional cone or roller style bearings.
These are cheaper and easier to replace, and they’re usually replaced along with the rotor when necessary. To replace the rotor and wheel bearings typically costs around $150 per wheel.
In four-wheel-drive vehicles, the traditional-style bearings are inexpensive to buy but are more labor-intensive to replace. Because of the difference in labor, the whole job usually costs more than doing it on a two-wheel-drive vehicle. You should expect to pay $175-$250 per wheel for a 4WD.
The average cost to replace the front wheel bearings is $250 – $500.
Rear Wheel Bearings
Rear-wheel bearings may be typical complete units or they may be housed inside the axle. Unless you have an older rear-wheel-drive car, you probably have the complete unit for your rear wheels.
Replacing the rear wheel bearings should cost between $200 – $400.
Rear Hub Bearings
Many cars equipped with ABS have a special rear hub bearing with an installed speed sensor that drivers up the cost. With a more complicated assembly, expect to spend $400 – $800 for replacement on a rear hub bearing assembly.
Although it is rare, frequent driving on poor roads in rural areas with aggressive driving habits might strain all of your wheel bearings. If you need to replace all wheel bearings, the parts and labor alone will run $800 – $1000.
However, if this happens, there are likely other affected components in the suspension system that need work. In addition to the wheel bearings, you might also need to replace steering control arms, brakes, or more.
If your suspension system is in trouble, you will feel it when your drive in the form of loose steering with heavy vibration.
Diagnosing a Problem With Your Wheel Bearings
If one or more of your wheel bearings is starting to fail, there are some signs and symptoms that you’ll likely notice. If you experience any of these while you’re driving, you should take your car to have it checked out as soon as possible.
Symptoms of Bad Wheel Bearings
- Squeaking sound
- Humming sound
- Clicking sound
- Wheels feel “wobbly”
- Problems with the ABS
- Uneven wear on tire tread
- Vehicle pulls to one side while driving
- Vibrations in the steering wheel
- Steering wheel feels loose
- Difficulty turning the wheel
Is it Worth It to Repair or Replace Wheel Bearings?
Repairing faulty wheel bearings involves replacing them with new ones. However, this is a straightforward job that may only cost a few hundred dollars. As with any vehicle repair, it’s important for you to weigh the cost of the work against your car’s value. Still, with a repair as simple as this one, it’s almost always worth it to repair your bad wheel bearings.
Eventually, all-wheel bearings will wear out or fail due to normal wear and tear. However, most people won’t have to deal with that because they last for so long. You should only have to consider replacing your bearings if your car has over 100,000 miles.
Another reason that it’s usually worth it to repair a wheel bearing is that you don’t have to replace multiple if one of them fails.
Unlike some other parts of your suspension system, just because one of your wheel bearings is bad doesn’t automatically mean you have to replace the bearing opposite the faulty one. So, you can save some money by only replacing the bearing that’s failed, rather than replacing two or four of them.
Can You Drive With a Failing Wheel Bearing?
You may be able to drive for a short time with a bad wheel bearing, but it should only be as a last resort or to get the vehicle to the shop. As the bearing continues to wear out, it will increase the chances of damaging other parts of your vehicle or failing altogether.
If you can avoid it, you should not drive your vehicle with a failing wheel bearing. Doing so could be very dangerous and could even result in your wheel stopping working properly or even coming off while driving.
Even if you don’t have a catastrophic result, your vehicle could still be less responsive than it should be, which puts you at greater risk of an accident.
Driving with bad wheel bearings also puts a lot more stress on your steering and suspension systems, including your CV joint, hub, and even your transmission. Not to mention, you may experience faster and uneven wear on your tires, which could result in more expensive repairs later on.
What Causes Wheel Bearings to Fail?
Wheel bearings last for a very long time, which is why most people never have to deal with replacing them. However, there are some situations that cause these components to wear out and fail prematurely.
In most cases, wheel bearings fail due to impact. If the vehicle hits a curb, object, or something in the road like a pothole, it can cause damage to the wheel bearings. If the wheel bearing seals get broken or wear out, it can allow moisture or dust and debris to get into the hub which will cause the bearings to break down.
Driving on wheels or tires that are out of balance can also cause the bearings to wear out faster, or driving with worn or damaged suspension systems. Another factor is the type of tire. If you have low-profile, high-performance tires it can cause more wear and tear on the bearings.
If the bearing hub gets worn out, it will lead to wheel bearing failure as well. Another less common issue is the friction caused by faulty electrical wiring that causes transient current flow.
This causes static electricity to build up and cause excess strain on the moving parts on the vehicle’s chassis. Eventually, this will cause the wheel bearings to wear out prematurely.
The Bottom Line
A wheel bearing is an essential component of the suspension system that is responsible for the smooth ride that you experience in your car or truck.
When this part begins to fail, around the 100K mile mark or as the result of an accident or defect, you will begin to hear wheel noise and notice changes in how the car handles.
If you suspect a wheel bearing problem, the cost to replace is between $250 – $500 in most cases. The repair should be addressed in a timely manner to prevent an unsafe driving situation like a loose or smoking wheel.