Wheel Bearings: How Do I Know if I Need a Replacement? - Kelley Blue Book - Latest Global News

Wheel Bearings: How Do I Know if I Need a Replacement? – Kelley Blue Book

Wheel bearing: Do I need a replacement?
Brief information about the wheel bearing

  • Wheel bearings are part of a car’s suspension system and ensure that a car’s wheels turn with minimal friction.
  • Larger and wider tires can put strain on the wheel bearings and lead to accelerated wear.
  • If you hit a pothole or road salt or sand gets past the seal and touches the wheel bearings, it can cause premature failure and pose a safety risk.
  • The cost to replace a wheel bearing averages about $350 per wheel.

Imagine you’re driving on the highway when suddenly the left front tire and wheel break off, sending your out-of-control vehicle spinning across multiple lanes at 65 miles per hour. This is the reality and can happen if you don’t notice the signs that wheel bearings are deteriorating and require immediate repair. That’s not an exaggeration.

In this story, we’ll quickly tell you some interesting facts, such as the causes of a defective wheel bearing, how long you can drive with it, and the estimated cost of replacing a wheel bearing.

What are wheel bearings?

Wheel bearings connect a car’s wheels to the axles. They allow the wheels to turn with minimal friction. Although wheel bearings are low-maintenance parts, they are important safety components of a vehicle’s braking, steering and suspension systems. The one-piece hub assembly between the drive axle and the brake disc or drum includes the hub, wheel bearings, ABS (anti-lock braking system) wheel speed sensor and mounting flange.

The bearings are tightly housed in a grease-filled, watertight, sealed metal ring. This housing, called a race, is located inside the hub and each wheel has one. Wheel bearings carry a Herculean responsibility: They are designed to support the entire weight of the vehicle.

Today, most vehicles use sealed hub bearing assemblies that contain roller bearings. Although we won’t go into it here, older vehicles used tapered roller bearings that required maintenance and preloading to ensure the correct amount of end play or end play.

How long do wheel bearings last?

Wheel bearings are theoretically designed to last the life of the vehicle. There is no maintenance schedule for replacing wheel bearings and there is no constant source of lubrication. However, they can become damaged and cause failure.

What can damage a wheel bearing?

  1. Potholes, high curbs (curb bumping) and speed bumps at high speeds can damage wheel bearings, making them particularly vulnerable.
  2. When water, mud, road salt or sand gets past the seal and touches the bearings, they contaminate the grease, causing bearing wear and eventual premature failure.
  3. Ignoring worn wheel bearings can result in damage to the vehicle’s constant velocity joint (constant velocity joint) or automatic transmission. The outer CV joint connects the driveshaft to the wheels and the inner CV joint connects to the transmission.

It is important to find a reputable service technician who will give you advice when deciding what to do next.

Be careful with custom wheels and tires

One more thing: If you plan to customize your vehicle with special tires or rims, be careful.

The original bearings of your vehicle are designed for certain loads. These larger and wider tires look cool, as do tires with lower tread walls. However, they put more strain on the wheel bearings, potentially leading to accelerated wear. This could pose a safety risk if your wheel bearings fail.

It’s best to follow the car manufacturer’s instructions when replacing.

How much does it cost to replace a wheel bearing?

The cost of replacing a front hub assembly varies greatly. Variables include the vehicle make and model, the shop’s labor rate, and the cost of parts. The average cost of replacing an outdoor wheel bearing, excluding taxes, is about $350 per wheel.

However, luxury cars are more expensive to repair. Please note that if a bearing is damaged on one wheel, it is not necessary to replace the bearings on the other wheel on the same axle. Don’t let anyone talk you into doing work you don’t need. Get wheel bearing replacement estimate for your car make and model.

Bad Wheel Bearing: Signs and Symptoms It’s time for a replacement

Your vehicle is signaling that it is time to replace a defective wheel bearing. For example, if you hear unusual noises such as buzzing or clicking, your orientation may be poor. Watch out for these signs and symptoms:

1. Humming noise

The most easily recognized and common symptom of bad wheel bearings is hearing. But it can be confusing. For example, the cause of a humming noise may be related to other problems such as tires and the CV joint.

2. Squeaking, growling

The typical noises of worn wheel bearings are squeaking and/or growling. The noise becomes more intense as the vehicle speed increases. Try to locate the location of the noise as this will help determine the location of the worn bearings.

3. Click “Sound”.

If you hear a clicking noise that increases in frequency as the vehicle accelerates, there may be a problem with the wheel hub assembly.

4. Wheel wobbles

Technicians can check for wheel wobble by placing the vehicle on a lift and manually checking to see if the wheels are moving. Normally it would be impossible to shake the wheel and tire. However, if it moves, the hub assembly needs to be addressed immediately. If you don’t repair your vehicle, the tire and wheel can come off the vehicle at literally any time and at any speed.

5. ABS error

The anti-lock warning light may come on if the ring, tire and wheel shake, the wheel speed sensor stops working properly, and the ABS may work sporadically or not at all. Contact a professional for repairs.

6. Uneven tire wear

If one tire wears faster than the others, it could be a sign that the wheel bearings are worn out. However, it could also be a sign that the tire is not properly inflated (over-inflated or under-inflated), the tires are misaligned, or the vehicle has damaged or worn suspension components.

7. Vehicle pulls to the side

Worn bearings can cause a vehicle to pull to the left or right when braking. The direction the vehicle is pulling indicates where the worn bearings are located, on the left or right side of the vehicle. However, this can also indicate problems with the brake disc or caliper.

8. Steering wheel vibration

Bad wheel bearings can cause the steering wheel to vibrate. The intensity increases as vehicle speed increases and the vehicle turns left or right. However, the vibration could be related to an out-of-round tire (the tire could have a flat spot) or a tire that is no longer balanced. Another cause is damaged or worn suspension components.

9. Steering feels loose

If there is too much play in the steering, meaning the steering seems less responsive or less precise than normal, worn bearings may be causing the problem. This could also be a sign that the vehicle needs a wheel alignment. If you experience any of the signs listed above, contact a dealer or auto repair shop.

What happens if you drive with defective wheel bearings?

Driving with defective wheel bearings compromises the safety of a vehicle and can lead to a serious car accident. We advise against driving on them if they are broken and recommend having them checked as soon as possible. For example, bad wheel bearings can damage your hub, the vehicle’s constant velocity joint (constant velocity joint), or the automatic transmission.

“The good news most of the time is that a vehicle will let you know before a fault even occurs,” said Gary Hardesty, Kelley Blue Book’s in-house service and maintenance expert and an ASE-certified master technician. “The key is to listen to your car. In most cases, a bad wheel bearing will produce a growling noise that changes with the speed of the vehicle. The faster the car goes, the higher the frequency of the growl.”

Hardesty warns not to wait to diagnose if you think something is wrong: “The longer you wait, the more expensive it will be, as other components can be damaged by a wheel bearing.”

Use Kelley Blue Book to find a repair shop to repair your wheel bearings.

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Editor’s Note: This article has been updated for accuracy since its original publication. Rick Kranz contributed to this report.

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