Firstly, what is a wheel bearing? If you have ever seen that metal ring that encloses what looks like steel balls, you know you are looking at a bearing. The purpose of a bearing is to allow as little friction as possible when the wheel is spinning during motion.
To check for a bad wheel bearing without having to drive, place the car in neutral and check that the hand brake has been disengaged. The car has to be lifted to check for free motion of the wheels whilst you do this test. Spin the wheels a couple of times to check their movement and motion. They should both be spinning freely without too much input from you. This is an indication that the wheel bearing is fine. If one of the wheels needs more force and pressure to spin, it means that the bearing is worn or faulty.
You know that you need to check or possibly replace the bearing if it starts making noise whilst it drives. The only problem then will be that you will have to troubleshoot what is causing the noise, since the car has to be in motion to produce that sound.
The noise that you should be listening out for is a dull and blunt sound. This noise sounds like a bunch or marbles rolling on brick paving. Remember that the wheel bearing is, in a way, a bunch of steel marbles in a metal ring.
Checking which side the faulty or worn bearing is requires for you to get in your car and take a quick drive down the road. Sway the car from left to right as gently as you can to listen out for the noise. If you turn or sway left and no noise is heard then the bad bearing could be on the right side. If the sound gets stronger and louder as you drive faster, you know for a fact that it is the wheel bearing or ball bearings that need to be replaced with brand new ones.
Your car is known for making all sorts of sounds. The chances are high that the dull sound you are hearing is from the tyres going over bigger pieces of rubble. Listen carefully for all the sounds, especially the unusual ones.
Before making any assumptions and deciding to take the time to replace the wheel bearing, take the car in to a professional. A wheel supplier or a car specialist will know the exact sound to be listening for.
A1 Wheel and Tyre is a private family owned and operated company specialising in the warehouse and distribution of wheels and tyres to the automotive fitment trade. The company has a well established operation in Johannesburg, South Africa.