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Summary
  • It can be hard to differentiate tire noise from wheel bearing noise. You’ll have to verify the location of the sound, inspect your tires, and check the condition of your wheel bearings.
  • Some of the common sounds related to a bad wheel bearing and/or a worn tire include growling, humming, knocking, and grinding.
  • In some instances, a bad wheel bearing can cause uneven tire wear, resulting in combined noise from both components.

Trying to find out what’s causing the strange noises from your vehicle can be like solving a complex puzzle. For example, it can be hard to distinguish wheel bearing noise from tire noise since they can sound alike.

While going to a mechanic is the easiest way to determine which component is making unusual noises, there are some things you can do to help pinpoint which parts may need attention.

Is It Tire Noise or Wheel Bearing Noise?

Wheel bearing and tire noises can be hard to differentiate but there are ways to help you pinpoint the source of the sound.

man checking noise from wheel bearing
Wheel bearing and tire noises can be hard to differentiate but there are ways to help you pinpoint the source of the sound.

Here are some things you can try to identify which part is making noises:

Test Drive Your Car

Have a passenger ride in the rear during a test drive to check where the noise is coming from. You’ll have to confirm if it’s coming from the wheel area or other parts of your vehicle, like the engine.

Take note that wheel bearing noise is usually consistent. Meanwhile, tire noise can come and go. Tire noise can also become more noticeable when you accelerate, brake, or turn your steering wheel.

Raise Your Vehicle and Spin the Tires

Once you’re quite sure that the noise is coming from the wheel area, you can raise your vehicle using a jack. Make sure that the vehicle is supported by jack stands for your safety.

Spin the tires to check if the bearing is making a noise.

Inspect the Condition of Your Tires

Check your tires for cupping or sharp edges, which may cause growling or grinding noises while driving.

Cupping may also be a sign that your vehicle has suspension problems. Take your vehicle to an auto repair shop right away once you notice any signs of uneven tire wear.

Check Your Wheel Bearings

If your tires seem to be in good condition, you can go ahead and check the condition of your wheel bearings. Check for wheel bearing play by rocking the wheel or tire assembly.

Also, look for any signs of wear or damage.

Common Tire and Wheel Bearing Noises and What They Usually Mean

Here are some of the common sounds associated with a wheel bearing and/or tire issue:

Knocking or Thumping

A knocking or thumping noise is usually caused by a flat or misaligned tire. If your tires are fine and were recently aligned, it’s a good idea to check your wheel bearings.

A bad wheel bearing that doesn’t rotate freely may cause similar knocking or thumping noises.

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Humming or Growling

A humming or growling noise that becomes louder during acceleration is usually associated with a bad wheel bearing.

Tires with chopped tread may also produce a similar humming noise.

To determine which part is causing the noise, turn your steering wheel left and right while driving. If the noise gets louder while turning, faulty wheel bearings are the likely culprit.

Squealing or Grinding Noise

A squealing or grinding noise that worsens during acceleration is a tell-tale sign that your wheel bearing is bad. If the noise is steady, you’re probably dealing with a tire-related issue. Underinflated or misaligned tires may produce a similar sound.

Could Both Wheel Bearings and Tires Be the Culprit?

Yes. In some instances, a bad wheel bearing can cause uneven tire wear, resulting in combined noise from both components.

If you’re unsure of what’s causing the noises, you might want to look at other symptoms associated with a tire or wheel bearing issue.

What Are Some of The Most Common Symptoms of a Bad Wheel Bearing?

Aside from hearing unusual sounds, here are some of the common symptoms of a bad wheel bearing:

  • Vibrations
  • Steering wheel play
  • Uneven tire wear
  • Abnormal side pull when braking
  • Activated ABS warning light

What Are Some of The Most Common Symptoms of a Worn Tire?

Aside from hearing tire noise when driving,  here are some other symptoms of a worn tire:

  • Cracks
  • Bulges or blisters
  • Air leaks
  • Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) warnings
  • Excessive vibration

Remember that the steps mentioned above are initial diagnostic measures you can do to help identify potential causes of the noise. If you don’t have the tools and advanced technical know-how, it’s always best to contact a trusted mechanic. A professional will be able to conduct thorough inspections, use the proper tools, and provide a conclusive diagnosis.

About The Author
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

File Under : Wheels and Tires , DIY Tagged With :
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