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Old 08-15-2018, 04:56 PM   #1
DonP1
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1999 SL2
Default How to tell if wheel bearing is bad?

My 1999 SC2 seems to have a fair amount of noise in the cab. It's quiet up to 40mph, then gets noisy and less noisy at certain speeds.

I bought the car with 138K on it; it now has 144K and has always made this noise.

The tires are new - $40 Walmart Douglas cheapies. I thought new tires would help, but the noise is about the same.

I get 30+ mpg in 40% city 60% hwy driving.

So is the noise bad bearings or just road noise from the tires?

Thanks.

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Old 08-15-2018, 07:10 PM   #2
Macgyver
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2001 SL1
Default Re: How to tell if wheel bearing is bad?

Bearing noise will increase as you go higher in speed. This can be similar to tire noise too, but if the pitch didn't change at all when you swapped tires then it could likely be the bearing. You can try slalom'ing (if that's a word) the car to see if the pitch changes as the weight of the car shifts, but that's hit or miss.

If you do need bearings, buy Timken. The cheap China ones they sell at stores will fail within the year.

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Old 08-15-2018, 08:55 PM   #3
Sc2Zr2
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Default Re: How to tell if wheel bearing is bad?

i would jack the car up and feel/listen for play/wear in the bearings with the tires off the ground. try moving the tire on the vertical and horizontal axis. spin the wheel and listen for bearing noise. any slop or grinding would indicate a bad bearing. like MacGyver said, while you're driving at speed you could try turning the wheel left and right, kind of driving in an s pattern to see if that affects the noise. (slaloming lol, did you watch that etcg also?) if you hear it while turning right id check the left bearing. if its worse while turning left check the right. it could also very well just be low quality tires.

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Old 08-16-2018, 12:23 PM   #4
hholbein
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Default Re: How to tell if wheel bearing is bad?

Here's a good video by Eric the Car Guy diagnosing a Saturn SL1 with a bad wheel bearing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdRpnK5MGQ8

Be cautious doing this, as Eric states in his video.

SKF is a Swedish brand with a decent reputation and quality control as well.

Last edited by hholbein; 08-16-2018 at 12:30 PM..

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Old 08-16-2018, 10:23 PM   #5
KDulcimer
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Default Re: How to tell if wheel bearing is bad?

Usually, a wheel bearing is a growling sound, and will increase with speed.

My mentality about wheel bearings is that if you're replacing one, you might as well replace the other side too.

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Old 08-17-2018, 01:17 AM   #6
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Default Re: How to tell if wheel bearing is bad?

wheel bearings are growling sounds could jack up car check for play in tire wiggling 12 o clock and 6 clock and 3 clock n 9 o clock and see if there is any play also if you turn left or right and the noise goes away then its wheel bearing forsure

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Old 08-17-2018, 06:52 AM   #7
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Default Re: How to tell if wheel bearing is bad?

Thanks guys.

I does seem like I'm driving on a gravel road even on a newly paved road. It seems to come from the rear of the car. It's an SC2 which seems to amplify the rear noise.

I guess I'm dummy because I've driven with this since I bought the car. The dealer said it was just tire noise. How far can people drive with bad bearings? My mpg seemed good.

I did get front bearings with my rotors but didn't install them. They are likely made in China. Should i skip these and get better ones?

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Old 08-17-2018, 10:28 AM   #8
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Default Re: How to tell if wheel bearing is bad?

Bad bearings are normally described as sounding like a jet engine spooling up, more of a whine. They’ll make a whine long before any increase in play, and by then you’d get a lot of vibration. I don’t think you have a wheel bearing issue. You might check the condition of your bushings if you hear more of a rattle.
-Robert

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Old 08-18-2018, 12:57 PM   #9
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Default Re: How to tell if wheel bearing is bad?

Quote:
Originally Posted by RobertGary1 View Post
Bad bearings are normally described as sounding like a jet engine spooling up, more of a whine. They’ll make a whine long before any increase in play, and by then you’d get a lot of vibration. I don’t think you have a wheel bearing issue. You might check the condition of your bushings if you hear more of a rattle.
-Robert
Thanks. This is not a whine, engine spooling, or supercharger / turbo type of sound.

It is a low grumble and I feel a lot of the road surface through the car. Maybe worn out shocks or struts besides the bushings?

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Old 08-26-2018, 07:02 AM   #10
KDulcimer
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Default Re: How to tell if wheel bearing is bad?

Could be a bad tire, could be a bad wheel bearing. Rotate your tires and see if the sound moves up front. If it doesn't, replace the wheel bearings.

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