Piston Slap: A Fit-ting end to wheel bearings?

Piston Slap 2015 Honda Fit yellow lead

Hagerty’s own Ronnie Schreiber writes:


My 2015 Honda Fit is making an oscillating noise from the driver’s side front end when traveling in a straight line. Up on jack stands, in neutral, when I manually rotate the wheel on that side, I can hear a very regular clicking sound that to me sounds like a bad bearing, like maybe one ball bearing has been lost or disintegrated. At first I thought it was a wheel bearing, but the clicking reminds me of a bad CV joint, but bad CV joints make noise when you’re turning, not when traveling straight. What do you think?

Sajeev asks:

So just to confirm, you are not hearing any noises when accelerating from a standstill and turning either left or right?

Ronnie answers:

It doesn’t make the typical failing CV joint clack clack when turning, and I notice it more at speed than when accelerating. I’m pretty sure it’s a wheel bearing at this point, though there may also be some noise from the wear indicator on the brakes. I’ll know tomorrow after I drop it off at my neighborhood repair shop. I have almost 100K miles on the car and I haven’t had to spend a penny on repairs so I’m not really unhappy.

There was a time when I would have never taken a car in for brakes, bearings, or a FWD axle. I would have done the work myself. Of course that was when I was 30 years younger. If I had a lift I might consider it, but climbing under cars hurts. Hell, just pumping the floor jack to check things out the other day aggravated my rotator cuff.

Sajeev concludes:

Be it physical, financial, or time based restrictions, there ain’t no shame in letting someone else work on your car. Sometimes we just have better things to do, and that’s what a good local mechanic is for. Once you have one, just go right ahead and treasure them!

“Wheel” you need new bearings? Timken

That said, I assume the mechanic will put it on a lift, find wiggle in the wheel(s), and order you a new set of wheel bearings. I assume it will be the front wheel bearings (because of the loads present in an axle doing both steering and acceleration), but who knows, maybe the rears are on their way out. No matter, these would be replaced in pairs, or perhaps you’ll do all four corners just in case you feel the others are on their way out. If you live where flooding is an issue like me, doing all four wheels is a very good idea.

 What say you, Hagerty Community? Think Ronnie’s ride is “fit” for some new wheel bearings?

Have a question you’d like answered on Piston Slap? Send your queries to pistonslap@hagerty.comgive us as much detail as possible so we can help! Keep in mind this is a weekly column, so if you need an expedited answer, please tell me in your email.


Check out the Hagerty Media homepage so you don’t miss a single story, or better yet, bookmark it. To get our best stories delivered right to your inbox, subscribe to our newsletters.

Click below for more about
Read next Up next: How to safely recycle tires, fluids, and scrap metals


    When I hear clicking noises, I check first for stones in the treads of the tires.
    Then I check for stones caught in the calipers or brackets. I once had a terrible grinding noise that turned ou to be a stone caught between the disc and the splash shield.

    I had a rock caught between the rotor and dust shield recently. “Terrible” barely describes the noise!

    Noises with no other symptoms (I assume your original poster shook the wheel when he jacked it up) are the hardest things to diagnose.

    I have had this noise under the hood of my Blazer going on around a year now. It does change pitch with RPM, but below and above a certain RPM range it goes away. The only time it manifests, intermittently, is around low cruise when idling thru town with my foot off the gas. I have done all the normal checks with no success. I call it my canary because it will intermittently start chirping away then go away. Eventually it will get worse or something will start smoking or throwing metal shavings. Until then, it’s my pet under the hood

    TG, I’ve got a similar “pet” sound. It’s definitely not something that’s going smoke or throw metal – and I know exactly what it is. I just can’t find it! It’s a harmonic buzzing (akin to the old blowing on a comb with waxed paper on it, only a higher pitch). I only happens at idle, and only when the ambient air is cool. As soon as the car is in gear and moving, it goes away, and after the car reaches “operating temp”, it’s gone regardless of RPM. Something is vibrating at high speed due to the natural vibration of the cold car at idle, and stops when the revs go up and/or the car warms up. Most likely thinner sheet metal from the sound. I have checked and rechecked at least a thousand times, but can never pinpoint it. I’ve started to tell any passengers or bystanders who hear it that it’s the car singing to them, kind of like when it used to boil over when pulling into a car show, I’d yell out, “Coffee’s ready!”…
    We often remark how our cars have personalities and how we sometimes give them human qualities in describing their quirks. My car sings to me and your truck has a pet canary, and neither of those things seem to be of any immediate danger, so we just grin and bare it. None of which helps Ronnie, but hey, we got to tell our story… 😃

    You didn’t mention what kind of vehicle this is occurring with. If it’s carbureted, I would investigate the air diverter flapper on the air filter housing. As the air warms up, the valve moves to the open position and vacuum or a bimetallic spring holds it tight. Also check the heat riser on the exhaust manifold. Same principle, except that there’s normally an external actuator that operates the valve at the manifold exit. If it’s injected make sure all of the fuel line clamps are in place.

    Good comments, and it is carb’d, but this is all aftermarket stuff: full round 14″x 3″ K&N filter sandwiched between chrome cap and horn held down with wingnut on a center post of the Holley double-pumper, so no diverter flapper and sorta no “air filter housing” really. Just a top and bottom plate clamped tightly onto the element itself. No heat riser on exhaust manifold either (not even really and exhaust manifold at all) – the car has long-tube ceramic coated Hooker Headers. But I do appreciate the suggestions!

    Check the accessory drive belts. Look for very shiny wear on the pulley grooves and a polished appearance on the drive faces on the belts. Very common on those systems. New belts normally solves the problem.

    Your stories remind me of when I bought my ’08 Hemi Ram. It had a noise that sounded exactly like a worn transmission pump. I was at my friends house, who had the exact same truck, and his did not make the noise. I took it to the dealer and left it for their mechanic to have a look. They called and said it needs new cylinder heads, and they would have to order them, but I could drive it until they arrive at the dealer. I new darn well it wasn’t the cylinder heads and never went back. 185,000 miles later it still makes the same noise. Glad I didn’t let them replace the heads.

    My Honda Fit made sounds seeming to indicate that the front wheel bearing were bad. Changed with speed and turning the wheel slightly.
    Turns out it was simply tire noise. Changed the tire, noise was gone.

    Seems strange no one has mentioned “hub a$$emblies.” I had wheel bearing issues on a 1999 300M and was told nobody replaces wheel bearings any more and in fact wheel bearings aren’t really accessible. New hub a$$emblies for me.

    Good possibility of brake pads are making a clacking noise due to missing hardware or warped rotor. I once bought a Subaru that the owner thought needed a CV joint that was simply missing brake pad shims. On replacing wheel bearings in pairs, the sealed bearings that are used today are considered lifetime units and only need to be replaced if noisy or worn and only the defective one needs replaced. If replaced make sure the shop is using a top quality name brand bearing or you will be doing the job again soon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *