When automotive maintenance is concerned, most car owners tend to focus on the components they observe to be the most useful. Priority often lends itself to things like replacing filters, rotating tires, checking fluid levels, changing windshield wipers, etc.
This often means that components that experience everyday wear and tear like wheel bearings get overlooked.
To ensure you avoid breakdowns and heavy repair expenses, Dubai’s most trusted ball bearing manufacturer highlights everything you need to know about diagnosing and potentially servicing your wheel bearings.
What do wheel bearings do?
Known as safety-critical components of the wheel assembly, your vehicle’s wheel bearings ensure that your wheels can rotate smoothly and with ease. Without wheel bearings, your hub, tires, and wheel assembly couldn’t function properly due to the amount of friction during rotation. Your vehicle would not even be able to move.
Inside the wheel bearings are a series of small metal balls or tapered rollers. These metal components are surrounded by a metal ring called a race and held in place by a bearing cage. The race, along with the bearing cage, is how these metal components rotate.
The bearings are then lubricated with grease and sealed tight with a seal to avoid leakage or to prevent foreign contaminants from entering the bearing assembly.
Not only do wheel bearings reduce friction and promote efficient wheel rotation, but they must also support the entire weight of the vehicle. Once they fail, the drivability of your car becomes significantly hindered.
There’s even a chance your wheel might just fall right off your vehicle.
Diagnosing faulty wheel bearings
Fortunately, wheel bearings do not fail without some visible symptoms.
The first and most noticeable symptom you’ll come across when your wheel bearings have gone bad is noise coming from your tire area.
When the vehicle is in motion, you may hear a constant grinding or grating sound. You will also hear a humming or growling noise when your vehicle is turning. These noises tend to get louder as you accelerate.
Another revealing symptom of a bad wheel bearing is if your steering wheel feels less responsive.
Excessive play in the steering wheel or pulling to one side can be a symptom of numerous mechanical issues, not just a worn wheel bearing. To confirm the cause, have a trusted mechanic inspect it to make sure that your wheel’s health is immaculate This would also save you from worrying if your bearings are deteriorating or not.
Extreme uneven tire wear can also be caused by worn mechanical components like damaged suspensions and extreme bearing wear, particularly if you’ve recently replaced or rotated your tires.
Like looseness in the steering wheel, have a mechanic confirm that the wheel bearing is the culprit.
Common causes of wheel bearing failure
Due to their location, your wheel bearings endure a lot of stress. And while they are subject to wear and tear every time you drive your car, other factors can also contribute to their premature failure.
Here are the main reasons why your bearings might fail before they are supposed to:
1. Poor road quality
Certain road conditions can contribute more stress on your bearings than necessary. Uneven terrain, potholes, and eroding roads can easily subject your bearings to unnecessary damage. Flooded streets can also negatively impact the lifespan of your bearings.
At first, the result of this damage will be small imperfections. The more you continue to drive in these conditions, the more imperfections your bearings experience. Your bearings will be subject to more heat and friction than they can endure, causing them to prematurely fail.
And once water enters a sealed bearing, it will need to be replaced to avoid worsening issues
2. Faulty installation
If your bearings were installed using inappropriate tools (using a hammer instead of a hydraulic press) or poor quality wheel bearings were used, chances are, your bearings will fail before they reach their expiry date.
If you’re not mechanically inclined, have a trusted professional install your new bearings. This will ensure that the right installation practices are followed which ensures longevity of your bearings.
3. Collision near the wheel area
A driving accident (whether it’s caused by another driver or by hitting something like a curbstone) that causes an inward collision in the wheel area can cause damage to many components in the wheel hub assembly, including the wheel bearings.
The contact stress caused by a collision can result in a wheel bearing experiencing a surface failure or defect. This permanent indentation causes the bearing to wear out faster, resulting in noise and premature failure.
How to check your wheel bearings for failure
Once you suspect that your wheel bearings are damaged, you’ll need to check and evaluate your wheel bearings. This can be done by using a floor jack to lift your vehicle. Once your vehicle is lifted, secure it by using a pair of safety jack stands.
You’ll need to use your owner’s manual to determine proper lifting points on your vehicle.
After your wheel has been elevated off the ground, check your wheel for any movement. Wiggle your wheel back and forth to check for play. If your wheels display a lot of play, then your wheel bearings may need replacement.
Alternatively, you can bring your vehicle into an automotive shop and have their professionals evaluate the condition of your wheel bearings. Having a trusted technical service provider looked into your vehicle will give it more technical security.
Replacing your wheel bearings
For most vehicle owners, the best route to ensuring your bearings are properly replaced is by having a certified mechanic do the work.
Not only do they have the tools and technical knowledge to properly assess whether or not your wheel bearings are faulty, but they will also ensure the job is done according to the manufacturer’s standards.
When replacing your bearings, quality matters. Low-quality aftermarket parts are more prone to failure and can cause dangerous driving situations when you least expect them. This can also result in greater expenses as you’ll need to replace your bearings more frequently.
To ensure bearing reliability, use premium quality wheel bearings. They may have a greater upfront cost, but the quality and longevity are undeniable.
Final tips for enhancing your bearings’ performance
To further improve the performance of your bearings, pay attention to the manufacturer’s guidelines.
Certain bearing manufacturers like SKF Bearings in Dubai will tell you when your bearings are deemed to be changed or checked as well as the types of OEM-quality bearings to purchase as a replacement.
Never compromise the quality for the price. Bearing counterfeits are rampant and easily available anywhere. If you wish to maximize your vehicle’s performance with uncompromised safety and security, always choose the brands you can trust. Investing on your bearing quality is investing on your own convenience and safety!
Also, consider the impact that certain performance packages will have on the quality and lifespan of your bearings. Modifications like stiffer shock absorbers or wider rims can negatively affect how your bearings can perform their intended job, accelerating wear and resulting in premature failure.