It may seem comical and impossible for a whole wheel to disconnect from your car. However, that is entirely possible and quite dangerous too. It also can happen to you if you don’t take good care of your vehicle.
A bad wheel bearing can cause your entire wheel to fall off in worst-case scenarios. However, even if this doesn’t happen often, it is still important to check the condition of your wheel bearings to prevent premature damage to your tires, driving mishaps, and the possible need for quick roadside assistance. What exactly is a wheel bearing and how do you know that it’s gone bad? Those are the questions we’ll answer below.
What Is A Wheel Bearing?
The wheels of your vehicle are made of different parts. They all work together to move the entire car by the spinning of the wheels. The wheel bearing is responsible for reducing friction as the wheel spins. It is located at the center of the wheels, inside the hub.
Like the other parts of your wheel, the wheel bearings also help support the vehicle while you drive it. It also receives damage and natural wear and tear when driving over potholes and rough roads or when turning sharply.
Wheel bearings are made to be durable but they also could wear and tear due to use. They usually have a lifespan of up to 100,000 miles However, they may need replacement earlier because of how the vehicles are used. Having them replaced immediately when needed prevents you from getting into various wheel trouble, like losing your entire wheel.
Signs Of A Bad Wheel Bearing
You can have your wheel bearings checked regularly as part of your maintenance schedule. However, if you observe any of the warning signs below, you should immediately bring your vehicle to the mechanic to be checked and for the wheel bearings to be replaced.
Grinding or Grating Noise
The most common sign that your wheel bearings need to be checked is when you hear a noise coming from your wheel or tire. It can sound like a grinding or grating noise. Some can also describe the noise as whining, humming, or growling sound. Usually, the sound gets louder when you speed up.
Less Responsive While Steering
Another sign to watch out for is how your car responds when you steer it. Some drivers describe it as looseness. It usually refers to a less precise or less responsive reaction of the car while steering in various directions. A bad wheel bearing isn’t the only cause of loose steering, however, it can be and it is worth checking. When the wheel bearings are worn down, it can loosen them up.
Car pulling is when you are driving your car and it feels like it has a mind of its own because it veers in a particular direction. This is quite related to the less responsiveness of the vehicle and could also be caused by other problems. However, problems with the wheel bearing can also cause this.
Uneven Wear Of Tires
You should rotate your tires regularly to ensure a more even wear and tear. However, if you find that there is extremely uneven wear of the tires, have the wheel bearings checked too.
Causes Of Bad Wheel Bearings
Having a bad wheel bearing can occur due to natural wear and tear. It is possible that the wheel bearing has reached its lifespan and is due for a replacement. Apart from that, here are a few more causes of a bad wheel bearing.
The wheel bearing can fail prematurely due to faulty installation. The proper tools should be used to prevent damage to either the interior or exterior of the wheel. Additionally, old accessories due for replacement should also be replaced. Such accessories would include the nuts, split pins, seals, circlips, etc. If they are always reused, the wheel bearing could be exposed to abnormal conditions, increasing the rate of wear and tear.
Driving the car over poor road quality isn’t only bad for the tires, it is also bad for the entire wheel. The wheel bearings can also be affected when you drive over speed bumps or when you hit that curbstone. This can greatly reduce the lifespan of the wheel bearing.
Additionally, driving over contaminants like water, mud, dust and other materials can potentially go through the seal. When these reach the wheel bearings, it can pollute the grease and cause faster wear for the bearings.
Enormous pressure is applied to the wheel bearing. That is the reason why you should carefully select the ones you get for replacement. Other lower-quality wheel bearings can be more affordable but you’d spend more in the end because you need to replace them more often. Increasing the risk of having bad wheel bearings will also increase the risk of causing more damage to your wheel or your entire vehicle.