Is it Safe to Drive With Bad Wheel Bearings?

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    I confirmed that I have a bad wheel bearing on my 2006 Ford Focus. I started hearing a faint rumbling or whining noise from the right rear a couple thousand miles ago. I first thought it was the tire going out of balance. The tire looked O.K., so I rotated them front to back. But the noise continued to come from the right rear. My question is… how long can I drive it like this before the wheel falls off. I ordered the drum with wheel bearing and a spindle nut on the Internet, so I am expecting them to arrive by this weekend. So, I am hoping I can drive it until then. If it absolutely necessary, I can find other forms of transportation.


    It isn’t safe at all. I would suggest that until you have the new bearings installed, you stop driving the vehicle. The reason for this is quite simple: every time you take your car up on the highway you risk having the bearings seize. If they seize at the wrong moment — say on an semi-circular, descending off-ramp — and the wheel goes flying off or, at best, just stops turnig — you run the risk of either having the tire go flying off into oncoming traffic, which is not healthy for some oncoming driver or the tire may become a fulcrum that is ready, if the turn is in the wrong direction, to potentially catapult your car into the air after the tire breaks away from the car.

    Indeed, this is the biggest danger you face either to other drives or yourself. If the tire breaks away from the car, then it is a danger to incoming traffic as it bounds toward it at speed. Indeed, it also becomes a danger to you, if your unshorn axle digs in an catapults your car ahead.

    It may not even catapult your car as it is possible for the unshorn axle to dig in and turn your car into traffic so that it is facing oncoming traffic. While it is turning, you are in danger as are you while you are facing traffic. As for oncoming traffic, the bounding tire can crash into an oncoming vehicle causing injury or worse.

    That is why I urge you to park the vehicle until your new bearings are installed.

    Of course, this is worst-case scenario. The best case is your tire seizing on you so your car can’t move. In this situation, since your car is safely parked at home, it isn’t a danger to anyone.

    If you must move your car for whatever reason, listen to the affected bearings and if you hear it getting louder stop your car and have it towed home.

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