Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive Podcast here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik. Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. How are you doing this morning Bernie?
Bernie: Doing well.
Mark: We're talking cars. Of course Pawlik Automotive, Bernie and Bernie have been repairing cars in Vancouver for 38 years and are 19 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver. Today we're talking about a 2007 Subaru Impreza that had a wheel bearing problem. What was going on with this Subaru?
Bernie: Well we'll just cut right to the problem, so have a listen to this. This is what was going on with this vehicle.
Mark: Okay, that sounds pretty catastrophic. What did you find was wrong?
Bernie: That was a recording of the noise from the rear wheel bearing in the vehicle while we were running it up on the hoist. That's a right rear wheel bearing. That gives you an indication of what a noisy wheel bearing sounds like. Now while you're driving your car on the road, it's a bit of a different sound, but it's similar. It's a great, grindy, groaning sound and it usually gets louder the faster you go.
Mark: Do you always test the vehicle on the hoist to verify what the noise is? Or where it's coming from?
Bernie: Yeah, we always do that because when you're driving a vehicle there's obviously four wheels, four wheel bearings, it's often difficult to decide which wheel bearing's making the noise. Sometimes it can sound like it's the left front wheel bearing when it's actually the front right wheel bearing. It's kind of odd that way. Once we put it up on a hoist we listen to it. Sometimes we can just walk by it, like in the case of that one, you don't need any listening equipment. Other times we use a stethoscope and we'll listen to all the bearings and see which ones are good and which ones are bad. In the case of this vehicle we actually found there was two bad ones. The right rear, which was the worst, and the right front was also making about 50% of that amount of noise. The other bearings, when you listen to them with a stethoscope, you don't even hear anything. There's just a little very quiet humming sound.
Mark: With it sounding that bad what did the rear wheel bearing look like once you took it apart?
Bernie: Well this one was really badly worn and we could go into looking at some pictures. This is the wheel bearing apart. You can see this okay?
Bernie: Awesome. This is the wheel bearing apart, so these are actually the ball bearings. There's a race which is where the bearings run sort of out of view here behind this dirty grease. Then there's a wheel hub that sits in the middle here, which I'll show you in a minute, but this ... I mean these bearings, you know the grease is supposed to be kind of a nice cleanish colour, sort of like this. These bearings are extremely badly worn. The balls, they're a polished ball, highly polished, and they start to chip after a while, so there'd be little chunks and pieces missing of the metal. Slowly that metal as it rolls around in this race, where the arrow points to, this is supposed to be a precision, beautiful, absolutely smooth piece of metal, but as you can see it's just all roughed up with metals transferred from the bearings to the race, to the race to the bearings. It just totally destroyed ... '07 Subaru here. Back to me.
Mark: How much longer would this have continued to squeal and before it finally completely failed?
Bernie: Well I'd say it was very close to a complete failure, however, I mean, I guess to define a complete failure to me would be like the wheel actually seizes up or something breaks, like the hub breaks off or the wheel actually goes flying off the car. I can't think if I've actually ever seen that happen on this type of wheel bearing, because by the time that would happen, there'd be so much play in the bearing, like the wheel would be flopping around and the brakes would start to feel funny. You know people just tend to fix them by the time they get that bad. I'd say this bearing is close to something getting worse, but it's hard to say. You know sometimes they can make noise for quite a long time, but this one here was getting very close.
Mark: What's the way to prevent that kind of wear?
Bernie: Well there really isn't. A wheel bearing on most cars ... now in the olden days, I don't know, 30, 40 years ago, and there's still the odd car that has a repackable wheel bearing, those are the kind of bearing where you actually take them apart. You clean them. You repack them with fresh grease. Any vehicle that doesn't have that, which is almost every vehicle nowadays, has a sealed wheel bearing, so there's nothing really you can do about it. The reason the bearing fails is that the seals will eventually deteriorate. Water will seep into the bearing. It'll damage the metal and damage the bearing. That's basically what happens with these bearings. The other thing too is if you hit a curb hard or something, that can also damage the bearing, but generally speaking, there's nothing you can do. They just wear out in their own time.
Mark: Am I right in assuming that everything was all good after you did the repairs?
Bernie: Yeah, really awesome. This vehicle also had a couple of really badly worn front tires as well, so we replaced all the tires. The two wheel bearings. Drove great. Really nice, quiet. If you can imagine from that video how loud that was on the hoist, how loud it would be to drive the car, almost unbearable. Even turning the radio up didn't really help too much, so afterwards really nice. Quiet, smooth, handled well, and safe.
Mark: Unlike a check engine light where you can just put a sticker over it, in this case you would have had to have your headphones on full blast to still drive the car and ignore the problem.
Bernie: Yeah. Yeah. Not a good idea.
Mark: Not a good idea. There you go. If you're looking for service for your vehicle in Vancouver the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to book ahead. They're busy or check out their website, PawlikAutomotive.com. Check out our YouTube channel, Pawlik Auto Repair. There's hundreds of videos on there, or of course, if you're listening on iTunes to our podcast. Thanks, Bernie.
Bernie: Thanks, Mark.