When a bearing hub fails it allows the front wheel to wander around causing irregular tire wear and steering characteristics. Another symptom of a failing bearing is a roaring sound that follows the vehicle's speed from either the front or rear or the vehicle. A front bearing failure will change in tone when you steer the car right or left while the vehicle is in motion. A trick to locate a bad bearing on a front wheel drive car is to raise the front of the vehicle so the wheels are not touching the ground. While placing your hand on the coil spring and spin the wheel rapidly. A bad bearing will give a distinct vibration in the spring if it has failed.
A bad bearing will also allow the brake rotor to contact the brake pads and push them back into the caliper which will cause the brake pedal to go to the floor. If a bearing is bad and neglected it will cause the wheel to lock up in which case at this point the front spindle or rear differential will most likely need to be replaced because the threads on the housing will be too badly damaged or the bearing will be melted onto it. It can also cause the wheel to fall off because the axle, hub or bearing will melt allowing the wheel, lug nuts and axle flange to become separated from the car.
When an axle bearing or bearing hub fails, it may cause the wheel to have play from top to bottom, but not always. Grasp the tire firmly and jog the wheel back and forth and from top to bottom to confirm the failure. On straight axle differential style of vehicles a bearing failure will be indicated by leaking gear oil.
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