Is This Noise a Bad Front Wheel Bearing? - Please Help

I'd appreciate your opinions on what I think may be a front wheel bearing problem. Here is the background.

  1. Vehicle is a Subaru Liberty, 1992, GX, AWD, 2.2L wagon, automatic, 343000km
  2. I jacked the vehicle up and cannot detect any wobble (movement) at 6-12 o'clock or 9-3 o'clock positions.
  3. I changed (swapped) two front wheels, noise still there!

The sound appears to be coming from the front RHS of the vehicle. I have recorded the noise I hear with audio markers as my speed varies (1 minute duration). Here it is.

Please vote or comment below. Thanks for your help guys and girls!!

EDIT: 5-5-21. After having a closer look at and around the wheel hub and knuckle, as some suggested, I noticed that the rubber boot on the ball joint was ruptured. The rubber boot on the driveshaft is good. So I’m going to replace that ball joint and see if it has any affect on the noise!

Poll Options expired

  • 2
    Yes, your wheel bearing is bad.
  • 10
    No, it's not the wheel bearing (so please comment below)
  • 5
    What is a wheel bearing, I'm clueless (but have a nice day)?


  • +1

    Not the classic wheel bearing noise to my ears

  • +1

    Here waiting for what pegaxs has to say.

  • Check lower arm bush, i had 2012 impreza, there were play in sterring wheel and noise after fixing it works as good as new now.

    • thanks, however I don't have any play in steering wheel. In your case however, did you hear a clicking sound like mine?

  • +1

    Take the wheel off and spin the rotor and see if you can hear any noise, could be a small stone or something caught between the rotor and caliper or rotor guard.

    It sounds like a nail or screw in the tire to my ears though.

    • I'll check for small stone, but I can't see how it can be a nail or screw in tire (tyre) since I swapped tires (tyres) and sound is the same!!

      • Did the sound come from the same side even after swapping tyres? To me, it sounded like a problem with the tyres instead of the bearings (I've encountered both problems before). My tyre problem was due tyre deformity where the uneven surface rolling on the road was causing a similar noise.

        • same side after swapping tyres!

  • +3

    move further away from the locomotive so we can hear better 😝

  • +1

    Sounds like something 'catching'. Check the fan belt & other belts for fraying.

  • It sounds like the noise that was made in the pod that Jodie Foster entered in the movie 'Contact' before being traveling through a series of wormholes.

  • Have you checked your brake linings for wear?

    It could be a dry or worn wheel bearing, but a bearing normally gets louder the faster you drive.

    • No, but I will.

  • Has the tires been balanced recently?

    Bend back the dust shields.

    Check CV boots, see if you can move the CVs by hand to see if there is any play there.

    • +1 to everything Bid Sniper has suggested. Very possible it's a dust shield. You going to have to get it on car stand and get under there and have a good look around.

    • Drive axels last replaced for second time only a few years ago. Rubber boots in excellent condition.

      • It sounds like early stage wheel bearing, I think it's possible to have no or very little play at first.

      • +1

        On good look around and pressure washing of everything “down there”, I discovered that the ball joint rubber boot was ruptured so I’m going to replace that. Crossing my fingers that this could be the problem. Plenty of meat left on the brake pads, I took the brake caliper apart and pressure washed everything!!

    • +3

      So throw away a perfectly functional car to save spending on $90 part?

      • +3

        Agreed!! If it is the wheel bearing I can replace it for only $65 (Japanese made bearing) as I can do this myself. The rest of the vehicle is in excellent running condition .

  • Honestly not really sure myself….. Maybe a CV joint? Does the sound get any worse when turning on full lock?

    • Cannot turn to full lock at speeds when it can heard, say 35km/h and greater!

      • +2

        No, Jimmy means, when you are in a car park and hook a tight turn, do you get a loud clicking sound? (not doing a full lock turn on the freeway…)

        • no, it seems to only occur at speeds above 30-35km/h.

          • @GOCAT9: Any change when going uphill vs downhill at the same speed?

  • +1


    Front diff noise? I'm not familiar with 1992 liberty so I could be talking sh!t.

    • +1

      This is what I was going to stab at. Wheel bearing noises, especially at 50~60km/h have a much higher pitch and frequency. More of a high pitch whine. This is something spinning slower and to me it sounds like a tail shaft or drive line, diff or gearbox type of noise. Only thing I can be certain of is that it appears to be coupled to road speed, not engine speed.

      But as always, impossible to really tell from a recording. I cant hear the noise directly, I cant hear the direction it's coming from. I cant try other things. Only thing I can sort of guess at is that it sounds too slow to be a wheel bearing at those speeds.

      • -1
        • -1

          I'm thinking diff input/crown wheel bearing or tail shaft bearing based on the frequency. A spiggot bearing would change frequency with engine revs, depending on what gear it was in. Similar to a gearbox input bearing. This is more like output bearing, as it is road speed related.

          And you posted a video to a throw out bearing (??), not a spiggot bearing, and that would only be noticeable with pressure on the clutch, but again, subject to engine revs, not road speed.

          And just because "math", at 50km/h with a rough tyre size of 225/65R15, the front wheel would be doing approximately 400rpm or about 6~7 clicks per second. And depending on the final drive ratio (3:1 to 4:1) it would be between 100 and 130 rpm or about 1.3 to 2 clicks per second for the drive line speed. The video does not sound like it is firing off at 6~7 clicks per second and sounds a lot closer to 1~2 clicks.

          Without being anywhere near the car or driving it, it sounds like it somewhere between the output of the gearbox and the diff.

          • @pegaxs: My tyres are 185/70/R14 so that means at 60km/hr that gives 8.6 revolutions per second, which is very close to the clicking sound frequency that you can hear on the recording!!

        • Would this be still relevant in an automatic. I forgot to mention that, but now added it to the post!

  • -1

    Sounds odd, wheel bearings tend to start grumbling at around 50 km/h and get progressively louder.
    If you can, put it up on jack stands and run it. Listen for the the noise to appear and pinpoint the source.

  • Probably a tiger snake…

  • I cant really hear anything in the sound recording however these vehicles do have a common problem with bearing noise in the transmission. The bearing that supports the shaft that runs from the rear of the transmission to the front axle assembly was the culprit ( AWD drive line). This shaft is internal to the gearbox. Came across a few a these in Subaru Liberties of this vintage back in the day. Noise was constant regardless of throttle position and increased with speed.

  • Doesn’t sound like a wheel bearing to me. Bearing would normally be a grinding sound and more constant.

    A click or clunk sounds more like a drive shaft.

  • sounds like a warped disc. I think its either disc or tyre related

  • +1

    Take it to a mechanic and let them work it out

    Could be a wheel bearing.
    Could be something rubbing of the disk as WT above suggested
    Does it go away when you apply the brakes?
    Could be your CV joint
    Could be a worn bush
    Could be anything that moves when the car moves including the gearbox

    Who knows?

    You will need to take it to a mechanic anyway to get the wheel bearing changed so put the onus on the mechanic to work out the problem.

    Mechanics hate "home mechanics" that think they know everything so don't embarrass yourself.

    • +1

      Thanks for your comments-valued!!. As a “home mechanic”, on closer examination, I discovered that the rubber boot on the control arm ball joint was ruptured, so I’m going to replace that first then test. The rubber boots on the driveshaft are fine.

      If it does turn out to be a wheel bearing, I can change that myself as I have already got the tools and (YouTube) knowledge for that job!

      PS: I’m now old enough to not feel embarrassment anymore. As you get older, you increasingly find that that is a young person’s game!!

  • No… it is more of a rubbing sound and I would surmise it is to do with your brake pads

    • Thanks for the comment. A couple of days ago, I took off the brake caliper and rotor and took off the brake pads. Plenty of meat left on the pads and could find no issues with either. However I did discover a ruptured lower ball joint boot, so I’m going to replace that and see what happens.

  • Did you get it sorted?