Your vehicle’s tires constantly take a beating. Different operating conditions, harsh winters, and unavoidable potholes are just some of the problems you can come across in your vehicle during your daily commute.
Not only do these conditions affect your tires, but these can also have a significant impact on your car’s wheel bearings.
Wheel bearings are crucial to the drivability of your vehicle. They provide friction-free movement and connect your vehicle’s wheels to the axle. Wheel bearings have an important role in ensuring that your tires always rotate smoothly.
When your automotive bearings wear out, these can have a negative effect on your vehicle’s tires, hub, and assembly. Since these have critical safety components, any failure can lead to catastrophe while driving.
Avoid unnecessary risks and take preventative actions by paying attention to the five signs that indicate the need for wheel bearing servicing or replacement.
1. Excess noise
Noise is the first indicator of a failing wheel bearing. For the average driver, though, it can be difficult to identify whether the noise coming from the wheel assembly is a result of a failing wheel bearing or another issue altogether.
The sound typically heard from a bad wheel bearing will be a snapping, clicking, or popping noise. These will become audible when the vehicle makes a sharp turn. A loud and constant whining when the vehicle is in motion can also indicate bad wheel bearings.
2. Grease leakage
Wheel bearings are made up of steel balls or tapered rollers housed in a metal cage. Multi-purpose automotive grease is applied to enable frictionless movement. This is then sealed tightly to protect the bearings from contaminants such as dirt and other debris.
When a wheel bearing is incorrectly sealed, or the oil seal is worn out, grease can start to leak to the components that can result in premature bearing failure and components damage. This should be fixed as soon as possible for a safer driving experience.
Wheel vibrations at high speeds can be a symptom of numerous wheel assembly problems.
The most common reason for wheel vibration, however, is faulty wheel bearings. Excessively high vibration can be a result of foreign matter contamination, a cracked or distorted bearing cage, and fatigue failure (spalling).
A steering wheel that is less responsive than usual can also be a significant indicator that the wheel bearings need replacing. Similarly, if your vehicle pulls to one side, corroded or pitted wheel bearings could be the culprit.
But just like wheel vibration, there are other reasons for the steering wheel to pull or feel loose. A professional mechanic can differentiate whether the problem is originating from a faulty wheel bearing or another component in the vehicle.
5. Uneven tire wear
There are several causes for uneven tire wear. The most common ones include:
- Improper tire alignment
- Improper air pressure
- Improper balance
- A bent wheel
- Loose wheel bearings
Look at the wear pattern to determine the main cause. One-sided tire wear can be a result of misalignment. Center wear, or wear on both shoulders, could be a result of improper air pressure. Cupping, feathering, or scalloped wear can indicate loose wheel bearings.
But a range of issues could also be at work here. Getting a proper diagnosis from a mechanic can ensure that the right corrective action is taken.
When should you replace wheel bearings?
Before diagnosing a potential problem in the wheel bearings, it’s important to know preventative maintenance.
As outlined by the leading auto parts distributors in Dubai, an average wheel bearing can last 85,000 to 100,000 miles. Operating conditions and the quality of the wheel bearings can have an impact on the actual lifespan of a wheel bearing.
But as always, observe proper car servicing procedures and get a professional opinion. As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” If any of the symptoms above present themselves, have the issue inspected.
Take preventative measures before the problem becomes progressively worse. Not only can this help you save on maintenance costs, but it can also keep you and others safe on the road.
Hassanein Alwan is the Managing Director of Mineral Circles Bearings with more than 10 years’ experience in the bearing industry’s technical support division, sales and marketing, plus strategic business development consultancy.