Although small and relatively unnoticeable, wheel bearings are one of the most critical automotive components that are relevant to vehicular safety.
A wheel bearing is a collection of steel balls that are kept together by a race or specially-designed metal ring. Good-quality automotive bearings enable the wheels to spin fast with the smallest amount of friction possible. At the same time, they allow the proper rotation of the hub assembly, therefore, providing smooth tire and wheel rotation.
In automobiles, wheel bearings facilitate the proper function of the hub, tire, and wheel assemblies to work together. They help maintain stable driving behavior and depending on the design or make, also supply the wheel speed information for the vehicle’s ABS (Anti-lock Braking System).
When To Have Your Wheel Bearings Replaced
Wheel bearings are highly prone to wear and tear. Lubricating them frequently and adequately will prolong their functionality and safe use.
However, like any other automotive part, they do not last forever. If you want to ensure the functionality and safety of your vehicle, you need to be aware of the tell-tale signs that indicate you need to replace your wheel bearings immediately.
Below are some of the usual signs that show you have to replace your wheel bearings as soon as possible:
1. Unusual Noises Coming From the Tires
When you start hearing loud, strange noises coming from the tires, you can be certain that your wheel bearings are already worn-out.
Most of the time, this noise may sound like some metal part rolling; as such, you may mistake it as engine noise. But if you listen carefully, you will hear some grinding or grating noise that tends to get louder whenever the vehicle accelerates.
If you detect these loud noises, take your car to your mechanic immediately.
2. Uneven Tire Wear:
Alignment issues, worn out or bent suspension parts, or lack of tire rotation are the common causes of abnormal wear patterns on your tires. However, old and broken wheel bearings can also lead to this automotive problem as well.
If you notice that your tires have chopped or scalloped patches, it is highly likely that you already have faulty wheel bearings. This is because the looseness and the vibration that reverberates through the wheel are causing uneven tire wear.
In case you notice that your tires still keep getting abnormal wear patterns even after they were rotated, have your wheel bearings checked by experts. Be on the watch for any rhythmic noise coming from your tires that increase whenever you accelerate.
3. Wheel Looseness:
A car feels “loose” when the steering power is not what it used to be or it seems a bit weak. This sensation refers to wheel looseness or wheel play.
Since the steering mechanics of a vehicle contains wheel bearings, they affect its performance. When a bearing begins to get old or wear down, it can become loose inside the wheel hub and spindle. This issue will make your vehicle feel loose while steering.
4. Feeling of a Loss of Control Over your Car:
When driving, do you feel that you still have full control of the car or steering? Or does the vehicle seem to be drifting, pulling, or going where it wants to go?
When a wheel bearing is damaged or old, its smooth exterior lining disappears. Because of this, the vibration is transmitted to the tires. This will cause the car to feel like it is being pulled to one side or the other by some invisible force.
In this instance, it is crucial to have the wheel bearings replaced as soon as possible.
5. After Detecting Signs of Wear During Routine Checks:
Lastly, check your tires regularly to see if you need to replace your bearings immediately.
To do this, jack up each wheel and spin it as fast as you can. While doing so, listen for any wheel bearing noises. These are comparable to grinding sounds.
After listening for sounds, wriggle the wheel in a rocking motion. If the wheel bearings are still serviceable, you will notice that one-eighth of an inch is possible for proper movements. In case you observe more significant movements, you will most likely need to replace your current wheel bearings.
Since wheel bearings play a vital role in the efficiency and safety of your vehicle, early detection and replacement of these parts will protect its optimum performance. They will save you from costly additional maintenance and repairs as well.
About the Author:
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.