How Long Can You Drive with Pinion Bearing Noise?

Updated: | Author: Steve Freling | Affiliate links may be present.

Any strange sound from your vehicle is never welcome! Are you hearing noise from your pinion bearings? What is pinion bearing noise, anyway?  If you have pinion bearing noise, just how long can you ignore it before you have a bigger problem?

If you have questions about pinion bearings, and pinion bearing noise, you’ve come to the right place! Keep reading to find out more about pinion bearing issues.

What is a Pinion Bearing?

Pinions are the small, round gears found in the drivetrain, rack, and pinion systems of a vehicle. The rack and pinion system’s job is to reduce gears. This helps the steering wheel turn easily and consequently, the wheels to turn with it.

What Does a Bad Pinion Bearing Sound Like?

You may first notice a loud ‘whirring’ sound when the car decelerates and accelerates. It may not occur during every speed or gear at first, but it will become more common as the pinion bearing continues to wear out.

You may also notice gear grinding, rumbling, or rattling as you accelerate.

How Long Can You Drive with Pinion Bearing Noise?

Just how long can your vehicle run with pinion bearing noise and not sustain any damage? Well, it could drive well for several months with bad pinion bearings, or you could have issues within a few days.

As a general rule, don’t drive any farther than 1,000 miles with pinion bearing noise. If you hear the telltale signs of bad pinion bearings, it is best to take your vehicle to the mechanic as soon as possible.

What Happens If You Drive with Bad Pinion Bearings?

Other than the annoying noise, you could cause damage to the vehicle if you continue to drive with bad pinion bearings. Eventually, a bad pinion bearing may cause damage to the transmission, driveshaft, and differential. These replacement parts will cost a lot more than a pinion bearing repair!

If the pinion bearings are extremely damaged, the carrier assembly may go through some abnormal contortions. This could cause an accident.

What Are the Other Signs of a Bad Pinion Bearing?

Whirring, rattling, and grinding noises aren’t the only signs of bad pinion bearings! Look for these other symptoms.


You may notice your car vibrating when you accelerate. This is another symptom that the pinion bearing is worn out.

Tire Damage

If the pinion bearings in the front are bad, you may notice tire damage. The inner thread of the tires will show damage or wear, especially after turning around corners.

What Causes Bad Pinion Bearings?

It’s good to understand the reason behind pinion bearing failure, so you can avoid it in the future. There are several reasons a pinion bearing might be bad.

  • Inadequate lubrication. This is the reason behind most pinion bearing failures!
  • Corrosion could be due to acid or moisture on the pinion bearings.
  • If the shafts are bent, nuts are out of square, or there was improper installation, the pinion bearings may be misaligned.
  • If the pinion bearing overheats, it may seize and make noise.
  • Dirt, dust, or sand can get caught in the pinion bearings, and cause them to fail.
  • Improper mounting. Pinion bearings are mounted on a floating ring. If the bearing is not mounted properly, it could fail.
  • If the pinion bearings have tight rings, or are overloaded, it can cause system fatigue and make the pinion bearings go bad.

How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Bad Pinion Bearing?

The parts to replace a bad pinion bearing are not too costly at around $70. A total seal replacement will probably be between $240-$290.

Don’t forget about labor costs! Often labor costs are most of the mechanic’s bill. Depending on their hourly rate, labor could be between $170-$220. The total bill will probably be less than $500.

Final Thoughts

Though you may be able to drive for a while with a bad pinion bearing, it could cause worse damage or an accident! If you notice pinion bearing noise while you drive, the wise thing to do would be to get it fixed as soon as possible.

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About Steve Freling

Steve has worked for more than 20 years as an automotive mechanic, and later run his own repair shop for both cars and motorcycles. He's a maintenance freak, and generally pretty good at troubleshooting!

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