All of us already know that cars cannot function well without sturdy wheels. However, what most people don’t get is that wheels are far more than just a simple component of your car.
Wheel bearings are a prominent example as they are critical for the harmonious functioning of the car. Before going deeper into the details, let’s understand what are wheel bearings!
What are Rear Wheel Bearings and What Does It Do?
Wheel bearings are steel balls that are held together in a metal ring to keep the wheel in place.
The wheel bearings do their job by reducing the friction among parts. In the case of the rear wheel, they reduce the friction between the wheel and the central axel.
Another important thing is to know that under extreme conditions they can break but can also be easily replaced.
What are the Symptoms of Bad Rear Wheel Bearings?
There are many identifying bad rear wheel bearing symptoms. However, the most common ones are listed below!
- A bad rear wheel bearing will produce loud rumbling noise. The sound may also change while steering towards left or right, as the pressure on the bearing changes.
- If the car isn’t functional, rotate the wheel by hand. Focus deeply on the roughness while rotation. If it feels like running wheel over sandpaper, thus it’s mainly wheel bearing.
- However, if the rumbling noise increases at one turn and decreases on the others, it also symbolizes bad rear wheel bearings.
- When the sound increases with the right-hand turn, it signifies bad left side wearing. As the pressure moves more or less on suspension, wheel bearing makes loud noises.
- Another important identifier is that wheel bearings get loose. It may become quite evident during movement that wheel bearings are loose thus need replacement.
- If the preceding signs are not addressed, you can get into catastrophe as bad wheel bearing can fail and completely separate from metal bars, leaving the tire to get detached from your car.
- Lastly, a quick way to assess bad bearings is that if the hub gets hot, it indicated a clear sign of bad bearing.
What Causes a Wheel Bearing to Keep Going Bad?
Every working component in your car has a certain life span. However, rear-wheel bearing failure is rare but not inevitable. Thus, common causes of bad rear wheel bearings are as follows!
Some of the most reported causes of failure are as follows:
- Accumulation of dust
- Inappropriate installation
- Formation of rust
- Problem with the dimension of bearing
- Manufacturing error
One of the prominent causes of failure is linked with seals. The inner side of the wheel bearing can get really hot.
While cooling down, the contracting of metal-air and lubricant can create a vacuum which is dealt with by seal.
If these seals are damaged or worn out, they won’t be able to resist the vacuum thus, the seal bearing unit with suck in all the external air debris and water.
In areas where they use salt on roads, it also serves as highly corrosive for wheel bearings. When such components circulate through grease, the wear rate of bearing accelerates.
Broken seals that no longer resist contaminants, increased heat inside the wheel bearings expel the lubricant, thus leading to failure of rear wheel bearings.
Moreover, as contagious water is for rusting metal, similarly, water is a top enemy for wheel bearings. If you have been driving through deep water a lot, the damage would be quicker.
How to Check for Bad Wheel Bearing?
Though symptoms of bad wheel bearings are inevitable yet they can be looked for and get fixed. There are three possible ways to look for bad wheel bearings!
Listen for Noise
Loud rumbling noise can help you give a clue about bad wheel bearings. The sound usually goes louder at a higher speed level, such as a howling voice.
If that happens, it suggests a problem with a wheel bearing. You can mark the point from where the noise is coming and get it fixed!
Physically Check Wheel Bearing by Shaking it
Firstly, jack the car and block the tires to restrict any abrupt movement. Grab the tire in 3 and 9 o clock directions and move it back and forth.
If the tire is loose, it signals bad wheel bearings. Now, repeat the same while keeping the tire in the 12 and 6 o clock direction to further authentication.
If you have an ABS installed or OBD (on board diagnostic) car, traction control lights display problems with bearings. In such a case, scan the problem by using a computer scanner. It will read the code and let you know which wheel bearing is problematic.
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How Long Do Wheel Bearings Last?
There is no hard and fast limit for how long the wheel bearings would last. In some cases they last for a lifetime, however, in some cases they get replaced early in life. The average life of wheel bearings is up to 50,000 – 80,000 miles.
But wait! There are some safety measures you can take to make them work for longer mileage.
Proper maintenance, lubrication and proper pre-load can make them last for the longest of the time, however, without it, they don’t last much longer.
How Long will a Wheel Bearing Last Once it Starts Making Noise?
Driving a car with bad rear wheel bearings can be highly dangerous. Once the bearings would get hot, they can lock up anytime, thus the car can bump into anything at any time.
Thus, it is preferable not to drive when bearings start giving off rumbling noises. Moreover, at this stage repairing is easier and cheaper.
What Can Happen if You have a Bad Wheel Bearing?
The effects can be hazardous! Have a look at the following risk factors involved:
- When rear wheel bearings fail, the wheel locks up instantly, thus can be dangerous on main roads.
- With loose or faulty bearings, the wheel may separate from the vehicle, thus can be life-threatening
- Lastly, If the bearings are not checked or replaced on time, the problems become complex thus replacement becomes really costly.
Just as any other important component, wheel bearings play an important role in the cohesive functioning of the car. Thus, prolonged negligence to anything or rear wheel bearings can be alarming.
Now, that you have substantial information about it, if you are facing any similar issue, get it checked as soon as possible, thus avoiding greater damage.
Realated Article: How to Check Rear Wheel Bearings – Simple and Quick
Related Article: Wheel Bearing Noise When Turning Right – What Does It Mean