My 1999 Honda Accord LX 2.3 4DR is making a sound like the old days bearings did.

I have a great mechanic who even took it to another mechanic. Neither could say which was bad: the $4,000 transmission or the $700 wheel bearings.

How can I test it myself?

  • Welcome to Motor Vehicle Maintenance & Repair! What is the year/make/model/engine of the vehicle in question? There are going to be different techniques for different vehicles in diagnosing the wheel bearings. Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 17:28
  • 1999 HONDA ACCORD LX 2.3 4DR
    – Damnitdog
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 11:41
  • Could be the hub instead of the bearing. A stethoscope can help narrow it down.
    – freginold
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 14:01
  • Well, you can physically rock the wheel up and down while it's off the ground, it shouldn't move or have any play, even slight play indicates something between the axle and wheel is not correct. Also, your mechanic can do better, pop the cv axle out and visually inspect the wheel bearings seals, and condition, if everything looks okay and it has no play, turn the bearing and use a stethoscope on the bearing. You can do that for each of the wheel bearings that are suspect and eliminate/confirm them. Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 20:54
  • Also, $700? Is that for changing the wheel bearing only? multiple? It is often cheaper to change the hub and bearing as it's less labor (and you get new ball joints!), and even cheaper if you just pull a good used one off a wrecked/junked car. Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 20:57

4 Answers 4


Normally a wheel bearing hum or rumble will change in intensity depending on whether the bearing is loaded or unloaded...this can be tested at slower speeds (on a clear road) by weaving from side to side to load the bearing races. If its a manual transmission then the hum/whine of worn mainshaft bearings will increase/decrease slightly depending on engine gearbox load (on/off throttle, ) diff bearings are more easy to detect1 as bearing whine just increases in frequency as speed does, no matter what gear.

If its an auto transmission then failing differential bearing sounds would be detectable the same way as above, although other shaft bearings may be harder to detect, its likely that a main dealer tech may have more experience in detecting the signs of transmission bearing failure as they're more likely to have heard/repaired them before, and will also know of any product recalls relating to bearing failure etc.

  • thank you, after I did what was suggested I was able to hear that the drivers side was the one. So I ordered a pair of hubs and a pair of bearings, might as well do them both..Doug
    – Damnitdog
    Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 19:45

You can test by driving on the road around 30-40 mph and making some swerves left and right. Listen to the sound. If the sound increases swerving to the right, then the left bearing is bad. If it gets louder going to the left, then the right bearing is bad. This is because the weight is being transferred to those wheels while swerving. Now to figure if it's front or rear is a little more difficult, but u could try some straight line braking and listen if it gets louder (front) if no change then probably rear.

Empty roads only please, don't cause an accident.

  • Both the mechnic's and I have done this, sound comes from the front with no change, so they were thinking it may be the output bearings on the transmission, Is there a definitive way to seperate the two?
    – Damnitdog
    Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 14:42

If you can put it on a rolling road then you can use a "listening stick" (a long rod, screwdriver etc) or stethoscope to locate the noisy bearing with the engine wheels turning...

Above all no loose clothing scarves etc.. Safety first!

  • 1
    There is also a product called Chassis Ears that will let you listen to the front end as you drive and test. Works great and a lot easier to find than a rolling road
    – cdunn
    Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 21:50

You can also find a bad wheel bearing by checking the temperature of the hub. If you find a hub that is hot or significantly warmer than the others after about 10 minutes of driving, then it may be a bad bearing.

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