Bearings

Tiny
ANNIEBNUTZ
  • MEMBER
  • 2004 OLDSMOBILE ALERO
  • 2.2L
  • 4 CYL
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 160,000 MILES
A mechanic told me bearings need replacement. I assume left side-most noise. But I see some of your guys say the right side (weight bearing?). I do not know anything but I look it up and ask questions. Do you think if I pressure wash my wheels and underside and if I can grease anything without tearing into it or can i? I have zero money, no friends or family to help. I was wondering if doing this would help for the time being? Thank you so much for any advice. Annie
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Sunday, June 25th, 2017 AT 1:59 PM

3 Replies

Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Front wheel bearings make a buzzing noise, like an airplane engine, when they become noisy. Also, GM has a real lot of repeat bearing failure in as little as 15,000 miles, where the bearing develops a little play, which is otherwise normal and harmless, but if your car has anti-lock brakes, that play causes the wheel speed sensors to stop generating a signal. Either the yellow "ABS" warning light will turn on, or the ABS system will kick in at lower speeds when it is not needed.

If all you have is a buzzing noise, the fix is to replace the noisy bearing, but that can be misleading too. What sounds like a noisy left bearing can actually be caused by the right one. The noise can transfer to the other side.

With some pressed-in bearings on older cars, you can get a clue to which is the noisy one by turning slightly, as in when changing lanes. When you turn slightly to the left, the noise will stop if it is the left bearing that is noisy. That is because doing so shifts much of the vehicle's weight off that bearing. Your car uses a bolt-on bearing assembly, and turning usually does not provide that clue. Those cost a lot more than pressed-in bearings, but they are easier to replace.

There are two ways to verify you are replacing the correct bearing. I prefer to run the engine, in gear, on a hoist, then I listen next to each one with a stethoscope. You will hear the rumbling from the noisy one. You can also raise the front wheels off the ground, shift the transmission into "neutral", reach over the top of a tire and wrap your fingertips around part of the coil spring, then feel for the vibration as you rotate the wheel by hand.

All front wheel bearings of this type are sealed. There is nothing to grease, and if you could, grease is not going to solve this problem. There are indentations in the "race" the bearings ride on. You are hearing the mechanical rumbling as the marbles run over those indentations.

Also be aware the biggest cause of repeat bearing failure, other than GM's ABS problem, is failure to tighten the axle nut to specification before placing any vehicle weight on it. When the car is set on the ground to hold the wheel/axle from turning, so the nut can be tightened, it is too late. At that point the bearing has already been damaged and will be noisy.

As far as dollars, a noisy bearing is not a safety hazard if your car does not have anti-lock brakes, and they can last a long time like that. If you can stand the noise, you do not have to replace the bearing right away.
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Sunday, June 25th, 2017 AT 2:23 PM
Tiny
ANNIEBNUTZ
  • MEMBER
When I turn left I hear a rubbing noise, like metal on metal maybe. I think the car has ABS. Check engine light goes off and on and an EVAP reading comes up. I had an alignment done a year ago. But I do not drive very much. Not even 3,000 miles a year (because alternator was broke). I do however drive on gravel. I do not know if this would give you any more clues or not.
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Sunday, June 25th, 2017 AT 3:30 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Here's something you might consider. There is a tool you might be able to borrow or rent from an auto parts store that borrows them called the "Chassis Ear". It is a set of six microphones, a switch box, and headphones. You clip the microphones to suspect points, then drive around while listening with the headphones. You can move the microphones around to zero in on the source of the noise. Be aware that many mechanics have never seen or even heard of this tool. Suspension and alignment mechanics use it to find rattles, squeaks, and other noises.

There's multiple versions of Chassis Ear now. The older one used six wired microphones, so you had to drape wires into the passenger compartment. The newer one uses two of those, and four wireless microphones, and another version has six wireless microphones. The original version sold for $200.00 from the guys who drive the tool trucks and visit each shop once a week. You can find them for much less on Amazon.
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Monday, June 26th, 2017 AT 3:56 PM

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