Wheel bearings: need qualified answers fast

So, very long story short, I finally got the Odyssey up on the rack and the jack and sure enough, that growing rumble is the driver’s side front wheel bearings.

I’ve racked my brain and just don’t have anything to hang some judgment on: how serious is about 1/16" play at the wheel rim, on a 2007 Odyssey (heavy, front-wheel drive)? Is it “don’t drive it any more” “should be okay for ______ miles of highway driving” or “sheeyit, my truck had two inches of play and I won the Daytona 500 with it”?

I will get to it within the week, but I have a heavy schedule with a lot of driving through about Thursday, and if it can safely wait, it would be great. Otherwise, I have to give up a crowded day tomorrow to get it taken care of, either by a shop or my own busted knuckles.


(PS - would have checked it days and days ago if my damned 6-ton floor jack would lift such a heavy vehicle in 30-degree weather. It won’t - seals must be shrunk.)

It’s hard to predict. It’s the kind of thing where the worse it gets, the faster it gets worse. If you graph how bad it is over time, it’s hyperbolic – it slowly worsens for a fair amount of time, but at some point it “turns the corner” and deteriorates rapidly.

I could tell more from how rough it feels than from the amount of play (I’ve seen wheel bearings with noticeable play that were smooth and quiet and lasted for months). My technique is to spin the wheel by hand while resting some fingers on the strut or spring, which acts like a stethoscope to transmit vibration from the roughness. Of course I’m comparing against my memory of doing this with many different vehicles, which I don’t know how to share with you.

If it’s at the point where it gets noticeably worse in a day’s time, either the rumbling sound or the roughness (as described above), then I’d say the end is quite near, though it’s still hard to translate that to hours or miles of driving before failure. If it’s still getting worse only slowly, it’s reasonable bet you can get through the week.

bearings- especially ball and roller bearings- are one of those things that when they start to go, they go fast. what happens is the surface of the balls/rollers fatigues and starts to flake off, and that debris increases the rate of damage to the other rollers, and the races.

This was with a much older car, but I drove one with a failing wheel bearing on the rear (driving) wheel for WAG 300 miles before it failed. Which it did by having the axle pull out of the differential, stranding me about 10 feet away from the parking space at home I was pulling into.

Once the noise got scary, rather than just noisy, it lasted another 50ish miles. Shame it didn’t last 50-ish plus 10 feet. :slight_smile:

YMMV; 1960s GM and 2007 Honda are very different beasts.

Thanks. Against my personal choice, it goes in tomorrow for a replacement. Between cold weather, too many things to do, a bad knee and reports that the bearing hub either comes off with a little effort OR two gorillas, a can of penetrant and a slide hammer six feet long… I’ll just pay up this time.

Al above was my general thought about bearings but I don’t think I’ve ever had one go bad in a modern car - just RWD oldsters where everything is locomotive-sized and -durable.

IME a lot of the difference is that for (older) RWD cars the front bearings were serviceable; it was the norm to clean and re-pack them any time the rotors (or drums if you were unlucky) were removed. Plus there were two, and the inner and outer were at least a couple of inches apart. The rear axle bearings were continually supplied with gear oil from the differential housing.

modern cars use sealed press-in bearings up front, and the longevity of those is wildly variable. Plus there’s typically only one bearing so the forces it has to endure are higher. On my (Neon) SRT-4 I went through so many front wheel bearings I lost track.

Don’t you love how the accounts online vary so much about the difficulty of removing some specific item? The only thing that doesn’t vary in that case is that you personally will experience the worst possible scenario, struggling and sweating and contorting yourself around the item like a pissed ferret.

IME 90% of the time spent on most engine, transmission, or especially chassis repair jobs is spent on 1 fastener. The only time that’s not true is if you’re working on something like a race car that gets half-disassembled and reassembled weekly.

While it’s a single part, it’s not a single bearing. It’s essentially two bearings sharing conjoined races.

point taken.

For a wheel bearing, you want constant contact. There is usually a torque setting. If there is play, the bearings are getting slammed constantly at high frequencies. Hardened metal against hardened metal. Like smacking two hammers together. Not good.

And in the end, it wasn’t the bearing. Loose bolts on the strut to hub connection. If I’d pulled the wheel I’d have seen it.

All good now.

(That’s “loose” as in, “not torqued to the full 'leventy-hundred foot pounds,” not loose-loose.)

Well that seems cheaper, at least. Replacing my front bearing two weeks ago ran to about $600. By comparison, the exhaust dragging along the ground only cost $120, and the car is now so quiet it’s unnerving.

I let one go too long. Killed my speed sensor (ABS and cruise control goes out when this happens, lights start coming on the dash), Wheel started squealing like a pig in heat and it was scary to drive. It deteriorated very fast and I ended up getting the car towed to the shop.

Cost a extra $150 or so for the waiting too long, not including the free tow by AAA.

Okay, g’damnit…

Shudder is still there. It’s not consistent - mostly happens at freeway speed, and produced vibration in the brake pedal as well when it’s occurring. When it’s not happening, which is more than 50% of the time, the van drives smoothly and has no brake shudder or vibration.

It sure as hell feels like a wheel bearing to me - where it runs smooth at lower speeds and on smooth highway, then gets knocked into vibrating on rougher roads and of course takes the brake disc into wobble -land with it. However, the shop said there was zero play on the passenger side and so little actual bearing play on the driver’s side that they didn’t want to [do a $400 job].

So I checked the rears today, easier since my jack will lift the rear (choked out in cold weather trying to lift the front; I had to run the van onto the rack and use the scissors jack to lift it for a check of the fronts, which is where this all started). Like trying to wiggle a granite boulder. No play, and yes, the parking brake was off.

So what in the hell can cause an intermittent shudder, felt into the brakes, other than a wheel bearing?

Warped rotor wouldn’t cause driving vibration and would always be felt when the brakes were applied. As I said, half the time everything is smooth and quiet.

Suspension or steering link - checked the front as best I could without pulling the wheels and I assume the shop looked at it better. Wouldn’t cause brake vibration.

Wheel balance - shudder wouldn’t come and go, wouldn’t be felt so strongly in the brakes.

Taking it back to the shop for an eval tomorrow, but this is really bugging me - any ideas what might be causing these symptoms? (BTW, there is no noise other than the shudder/rumble - no clicking or pops in the steering, no metallic sounds on bumps, no brake squeal, nothin’.)

minor thickness variation of the rotor combined with a sticking brake caliper piston. drive on the highway for a bit and see if one wheel feels hotter than the other.

yes, even though you don’t feel pedal pulsation while braking. the sticking piston doesn’t let the pads “knock back” enough to clear the rotor, and when the thicker part comes around it contacts the pads.

Maybe. I have an IR thermometer. Just need to toss it in the car.