Wheel bearings are one of the most neglected components of your car and we don’t pay attention to it until it malfunctions. If you are feeling sudden vibrations, or your car is making a strange noise while driving, it’s not always the engine or any other major component. It can be due to a bad wheel bearing as well.
If you weren’t aware of how wheel bearings can decrease your car’s performance, in this article we will brief you about everything.
What is included in this article?
What are wheel bearings?
Where is wheel bearing located in your car?
What are the types of wheel bearing?
When do you need to replace wheel bearings?
What causes wheel bearings to go bad?
How to indicate bad wheel bearing?
How to replace wheel bearing?
What is a wheel bearing?
Wheel bearings are small metal balls that help the tires to move freely and smoothly, without causing friction and heat. Moreover, due to this, the tires are able to sustain the weight of the vehicle. Recently, there was a trend of using fidget spinners to relieve stress, which is a better visual representation of wheel bearing. Just think of a tire as a giant fidget spinner and you would be able to understand wheel bearing easily.
Where will you find wheel bearings?
If you have ever taken the tire off the wheel hub, you would be able to locate a wheel bearing just there. It is placed on a wheel hub, where the wheel is connected to the axle. All four tires have four different sets of wheel bearings.
Types of wheel bearing
There are two most common types of wheel bearings used in a car. One is ball bearing and the other is roller bearing. Ball bearings are made from tiny balls compact in a circular housing with a seal. The seal makes it secure from contamination, but it makes the service difficult. If your car has ball bearings, then you will not have any option other than getting them replaced.
On the contrary, the roller bearings can be serviced, but are not contamination proof because they are not sealed like the ball bearing. Another major difference between the two types is that roller bearing consists of mini cylinders horizontally compacted in a circular object.
When do you need to replace wheel bearing?
Every component of a car has a life span, which is why manufacturers provide warranty for a certain time period to ensure that the part doesn’t go bad before the estimated time. Similarly, wheel bearings also have a time span, after which you must get them changed or your car’s performance will suffer. Be it roller bearings or ball bearings, the estimated time before you replace it is between 75,000 and 100,000 miles. However, the mileage level is subject to change, depending on the make and model of the car. With that, your driving is also important.
Some of you reading this guide may have had a car long before you ended up here, and you may have already crossed the mileage. For a better idea, you can read your owner’s manual or call your dealership to ask about your wheel bearing life span.
However, if you are not able to get the information out, we have proposed here some potential symptoms of bad wheel bearing, which will help you understand if you need a replacement or not.
Potential signs of a bad wheel bearing
Your car will give you multiple indications that you must get your wheel bearings replaced. Before we identify those warnings, we recommend you to get all four-wheel bearings changed; regardless if the others are working completely fine. If one wheel bearing has gone bad, others would follow.
Here are some of the common indications that your car will give:
Wheel bearings malfunction if the seal is broken or it becomes contaminated. This will cause vibrations and will result in a rough drive.
If you hear some sounds such as humming, clicking, rumbling, whirring, or any other similar sound, then know that your wheel bearing is wearing out. The intensity of noises and what kind of noises your car is making depend on the way your wheel bearing is wearing out.
Your steering may feel vague
If you are driving and suddenly you happen to feel your steering getting loose, then it indicates bad wheel bearings. Note, your steering will not actually be lost, but the eroded wheel bearing may cause a bit of a play with the wheel assembly.
ABS malfunctioning and losing traction control
In modern cars, there is an indicator in the form of a warning light, if anything goes wrong with the wheel assembly, it will beep the light. If your warning light starts beeping, then one of the potential risks could be that the wheel bearing is not functioning properly and thus causing malfunctioning. Moreover, if your vehicle is old and doesn’t have the warning light feature, you can identify the problem by noticing physical signs. However, one major disadvantage is, a warning light detects the problem as soon as it occurs, but if you wait until your car start’s showing symptoms physically, the damage may have gotten out of control.
Your tires start wearing off unevenly
If you see your tires wearing unevenly or before its warranty ends, then one of the major causes can be wheel bearing malfunction. When a wheel bearing wears down, it loses its place from its housing and therefore, causes the tires to wear off unevenly.
Your car may not be able to move
Manufacturers put seals on the wheel bearing to safeguard it from contamination and debris. However, over time, if you are unable to maintain it properly, then the bearings accumulate debris, which causes friction and heat. Due to this, the bearings may start to lock up, which can extend to your wheels as well. Hence your car would not be able to move.
Potential causes of a wheel bearing going bad
Bad alignment of tires
When we put stress on getting your tires alignment check regularly, it is because if your tires are unbalanced, it can cause further problems in your car. One of the major problems it can create is damage to your wheel bearing. The wheel bearing is a part of the wheel system, if one component is out of order, it will affect all the components in the system.
Driving on bumpy roads
The driving experience gets nil if we have to pass a bumpy road. Avoiding rough roads is not just good to keep your driving experience amazing, but it is also important because when you drive on rough roads, it causes pressure on the wheel bearing, and consistent pressure may start damaging your car’s wheel bearings over time.
Driving through deep water
Driving through deep water may sound exciting, but if you are doing this, then be prepared for various complications in your car, including problems with your wheel bearing. When you drive in deep waters, the water may get into the wheel bearing seal and get mixed with the petroleum-based lubricant, which will cause friction. This will ultimately damage your car’s wheel bearing.
Accident bumps near the wheel area
Wheel bearings are an essential component of the wheel system, which keeps your car moving. However, in case of an accident near the wheel area, if your wheel system is damaged, chances are that your wheel bearing will also be damaged.
In case you got your wheel bearings replaced recently, and your bearings are not working effectively, chances are that the installation wasn’t carried out correctly.
How to install wheel bearing correctly?
To carry forward the process, first uninstall all the main components of the wheel system including wheel hub nut, lug nuts, rotor, axle nut, etc. Once done with it, follow your car’s manual to remove the old hub assembly as per the recommendations by the manufacturer. You may need some special tools for this or you may also use wheel bearing puller tool to make your life easier.
Next, remove the wheel bearing. When doing so, ensure that you don’t drop the axle or let it contract dirt. Moreover, avoid putting pressure on the other components of the wheel system. Once you remove the wheel bearing, see if it needs maintenance or must be replaced. If it is asking for maintenance, then clean off the rust from it and reinstall it again.
On the contrary, if you have to change, then replace the old hub with the new one and start reinstalling the parts of the wheel system.
We believe that this guide regarding wheel bearing has helped you find answers you are looking for. We have covered almost all the key headings that you must know about this component of your car. Lastly, we would want to advise you that never miss regular maintenance for your car.
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