DIY

Common Wheel Hub Symptoms

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Nothing’s better than listening to your favorite song while cruising down the road. But if you have the tunes cranked full blast, as I often do, you may not hear the droning hum of a faulty wheel hub assembly. And that could be dangerous.

Take, for example, my recent encounter with a well-worn Nissan Altima. The owner brought the car in for an unrelated check engine light. But when the vehicle was test-driven, the growl of a faulty wheel hub assembly was apparent. Clearly, the noise went unheard by the customer, though the nagging glow of the check engine light did not.

Back at the shop, the technician set forth checking the wheel hub assemblies one at a time. He quickly found the culprit at the left rear. The wheel bearing portion of the assembly was finished and the hub was barely hanging on. Had the vehicle been driven much further, the wheel and tire could potentially have fallen off.

You may have a faulty wheel hub if…

A wheel hub assembly.

The wheel hub, which is usually integrated with a wheel bearing into a single assembly, can cause several problems. Over the years, I’ve found some of the most common symptoms to be:

What does a wheel hub do?

Most vehicles have four individual wheel hubs, each of which acts as a mounting point for one of the wheel/tire assemblies.

The hub itself is a flange with protruding mounting fasteners, called lug studs, that the wheel mounts to. When the car is traveling down the road, the wheel hub rotates on the wheel bearing, allowing the wheel and tire to turn.

Many modern cars combine the wheel hub and wheel bearing into a single, integral wheel hub assembly. The unit is often referred to simply as a wheel hub or wheel bearing. Typically, it’s the bearing portion of the unit that causes abnormal noise and other concerns.

On some vehicles, however, the hub is separate from the bearing. The hub slides into the rotating bearing, which is pressed into the steering knuckle, allowing the wheel and tire to turn. In this type of layout, the hub itself usually only causes issues if it is bent, warped or has broken lug studs.

Hub and bearing exploded view

Here are some additional hub-related tidbits:

What to Do If You Think You Have a Faulty Wheel Hub

Turn down the stereo for a minute and listen to your car as it drives down the road. Do you hear the growling of a faulty wheel hub assembly?

If so, you’ll want to address the issue immediately. A faulty wheel hub is a safety concern. Should the assembly fail, it can cause the wheel and tire to lock up or come off, resulting in a complete loss of control.

Of course, there are issues – such as cupped tires, worn differential bearings, etc. – that can mimic a faulty wheel hub. You’ll want to perform a thorough diagnosis to ensure the hub is faulty. Or, if turning wrenches isn’t your thing, you can have a professional perform both the diagnosis and repair for you.

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Author

Mia Bevacqua

Chief Mechanic at CarParts.com

Mia Bevacqua is an automotive expert with over 15 years of industry experience. She holds ASE Master, L1, L2, and L3 Advanced Level Specialist certification, as well as a bachelor's degree in Advanced Automotive Systems.

Throughout her career, Mia has applied her skills toward automotive failure analysis inspections, consulting, diagnostic software development, and of course, freelance writing. Today, she writes for companies around the world, with many well-known clients showcasing her work.

Mia has a passion for math, science, and technology that motivates her to stay on top of the latest industry trends, such as electric vehicles and autonomous systems. At the same time, she has a weakness for fixer-upper oddballs, such as her 1987 Chevy Cavalier Z-24 and 1998 Chevy Astro Van AWD.

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