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Why Your Toyota Prius May Sound Louder Than Normal

Been driving your Prius around with a noise that sounds like a helicopter flying over you? Here is what that noise is and what to do about it.


The Toyota Prius is a very well built car. Many owners have reported hundreds of thousands of miles with little to no significant issues. However, this does not make the car invincible; there are things that will go wrong and cause you trauma.

I have done stories on the dreaded P0A80 replace hybrid battery code. I have also done stories on the three-way heater control valve and the electric water pump. I have not covered one topic that does plague Prius owners from time to time, and it is a rather expensive repair. The issue is a bad wheel bearing. Here is how you can know if yours has failed, and how to save money when fixing it.

How To Tell If Your Toyota Prius Wheel Bearing Is Bad
Ever been driving down the road and thought an airplane or helicopter was flying too low over your car? Or there was an incredibly loud humming noise that made you think your car was about to explode? You may have been a victim of a bad wheel bearing.

new Toyota Prius wheel bearings from Timken

A bad wheel bearing can make noise and let you know that it is time to change it, but it can also be silent too. In my 15 years inside this industry, I have seen a lot of different failed wheel bearing cases. Two of them stick out in my mind which you should know about in order to tell if your wheel bearing is bad on your Prius.

The first case would be the incredibly loud noise that will be emanating from your Prius as you drive down the road. It should increase in frequency and volume the worse it is, and the faster you drive. The hard part about this one is pinpointing which bearing. It may be helpful for you to take another person on a short drive who can sit in different positions in the car and help you find out where the noise is loudest.

The second case is the quiet but loose wheel bearing. I have seen this before, and it was bizarre but can happen. To find out if you have a loose wheel bearing on your Prius, do the following. First, jack up the suspected area so that you can comfortably grip the top and bottom of the tire. Alternating pressing and pulling between the top and bottom of the tire, you should feel no movement. In other words, when you are pulling out on the top of the tire, you should be pushing in on the bottom. Do this several times. If movement is felt, replace the wheel bearing.

It is important to note that this can also help you pinpoint the loud wheel bearing, too, but only if it is loose. No all loud wheel bearings are loose, and not all quiet wheel bearings are tight. This expertise is from experience working day in and day out in dealerships and other shops.

What You Can Do To Save Money
Wheel bearing replacement can be expensive through the dealer and many independent shops. It does not have to be, though. If you are on a tight budget, you may want to consider repairing yourself, but only if you think you can do it.

As a professional automotive technician, I can tell you that you always need to be prepared for the unexpected. While yes, only four bolts are holding the rear wheel bearing in, you need to consider the following. Can you take the rear brake assembly apart and put it back together? Are you prepared to deal with the bearing should it be rusted/seized into the housing?

Toyota Prius Bad Wheel Bearing Knuckle

If you answered no to either one of these, this job is not for you. Pay to have it done. If the answer is yes, then proceed to the next step, replacement. Please note that not all wheel bearings are created equal, and while that $37 wheel bearing from CariD may sound appealing, think of this. There is a reason that the dealer has the wheel bearing for $150, and others have it for cheaper, and it is not only in the markup.

If you think you can take your Toyota Prius apart to do a wheel bearing go ahead

The material that makes up the bearing is different too. From the alloys that make the races, balls, and shells to the grease and cages that supply the lubricant, everything has a difference in quality. Toyota has specific standards that they use to ensure their customers get the best parts that will last them the most extended amount of time. Hence, if you plan on keeping your Prius, like say, forever, get a replacement Toyota wheel bearing.

If you think you may only have the car for another year, go aftermarket. There is nothing wrong with doing that; just know you will have a difference in quality standards. Make sure you know where you can save money.

I hope you do not ever have to replace your wheel bearing in your Prius. In case you do, I hope this information is helpful and can get you repaired for less money. I also hope that you can identify a bad wheel bearing now and know what to do in case you encounter this issue.

Thank you for reading. I look forward to seeing you in the next story, Cat Security Reveals Catalytic Converter Protection For Generation 4 Toyota Prius

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Peter Neilson is an automotive consultant specializing in electric cars and hybrid battery technologies. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Automotive Service Technology from Weber State University. Peter is also an Instructor of Automotive Technology at Columbia Basin College. Peter can be reached on Linkedin and you can tweet him at The_hybrid_guy on Twitter. Find his page on Facebook at Certified Auto Consulting. Read more of Peter's stories at Toyota news coverage on Torque News. Search Toyota Prius Torque News for more in depth Prius coverage from our reporters.