Wheel bearings are the unsung heroes of your vehicle’s drive axle assembly. Often, they go unnoticed and are only appreciated once something goes awry. Many drivers only become aware of their car bearings when they start to malfunction. Ignoring a faulty wheel bearing can lead to significant damage to your vehicle, and in extreme situations, you might find yourself with a wheel that refuses to turn. Understanding the implications of a malfunctioning wheel bearing can help you identify other wheel-related problems. Here are four typical symptoms you might encounter if your car’s wheel bearings start to fail:
Your wheels naturally encounter friction, whether from the tires rolling on the road or from braking. It’s normal for them to feel slightly warm after a long drive. However, a compromised wheel bearing can hinder the smooth rotation of the wheel, leading to added friction and, consequently, heat. While it’s unlikely for your tires to burst into flames, excessive friction can make your wheel unusually hot. This extreme heat can spell trouble for both your wheels and braking system. For instance, driving through water with overheated wheels can lead to thermal shock, potentially causing cracks in your alloy wheels and brake components.
The Wobbly Steering Wheel
Picture this: you’re driving, and suddenly, your steering wheel begins to tremble. Many might dismiss this as a mere tire issue, attributing it to factors like uneven tire wear, dry rot, or a tire that hasn’t been balanced correctly. While these issues can indeed cause vibrations, especially at higher speeds, a deteriorating wheel bearing can lead to vibrations even at slower speeds. As the bearing worsens, the vibrations intensify. Healthy wheel bearings ensure stability, preventing any unnecessary movement of the wheel.
Rapid Tire Wear
A malfunctioning wheel bearing can influence how your tires wear out. The erratic movement caused by a faulty bearing can alter the wear pattern of your tire, causing it to degrade faster than its counterparts. However, remember that other factors, such as worn-out shocks, compromised CV joints, or improperly inflated tires, can also result in uneven tire wear.
Potential Axle Damage
Persistently using a vehicle with a failing wheel bearing can spell doom for your car’s axles. A malfunctioning bearing places undue strain on various parts of your vehicle’s suspension and drivetrain. This can lead to issues beyond just the bearing. For example, metal fragments from a deteriorating wheel bearing can infiltrate the wheel hub, accelerating wear. Additionally, components like CV joint boots and seals might degrade faster due to the excess heat. Over time, a faulty wheel bearing can even carve grooves into the axle shaft, risking a major breakdown.
It’s crucial to address any signs of wear in your wheel bearings promptly. Neglecting them might result in the wheel locking up, jeopardizing your safety on the road.
Is It Possible to Service Wheel Bearings?
Wheel bearings play a pivotal role in the smooth operation of your vehicle, and their maintenance varies based on the kind of wheel bearings your car possesses. There are several reasons why wheel bearings might deteriorate, including:
- Improper alignment
- External pollutants
- Depletion of lubrication
- Wear and tear over time
For many contemporary vehicles, wheel bearings are housed within a sealed hub assembly located within the steering knuckle. These sealed types are designed to be maintenance-free. However, once they show signs of wear or damage, the only solution is a complete replacement. Typically, these sealed bearings can last between 80,000 to 120,000 miles. While they might be pricier than their serviceable counterparts, the advantage is that they come pre-lubricated and eliminate the need for routine upkeep.
On the other hand, serviceable bearings, which aren’t encapsulated, have seals that can be considered their Achilles’ heel. These seals are prone to damage, leading to potential grease leakage and the intrusion of water and debris into the bearing chamber.
For vehicles of a more vintage make, replacing these seals can prolong the bearing’s lifespan. If serviceable bearings are exposed to elements like water, mud, or other challenging conditions, they might require re-lubrication and repacking. As a general guideline, it’s advisable to repack serviceable wheel bearings with fresh grease approximately every 40,000 miles.
Essential Tips for Prolonging the Life of Your Vehicle’s Bearings
Vehicle bearings play a pivotal role in ensuring smooth operation and longevity of various components. While not every bearing is designed for hands-on maintenance, there are steps you can take to enhance their durability. Here are four indispensable ways to help you get the most out of your vehicle’s bearings.
Lubricate Door and Trunk Hinge Bushings Periodically
Door and trunk hinge bushings might not be traditional bearings, but their maintenance is crucial. To prolong their life, consider using lubricants like dry graphite spray or dust-resistant dry lube. These can prevent the accumulation of dirt and debris, ensuring smooth hinge movement. If you observe signs of wear or difficulty in operation, it’s wise to consult a mechanic. They can assess whether the bushings are replaceable or if the entire assembly needs attention.
Prioritize Timely Engine Oil Changes for Bearing Health
Quality engine oil is infused with additives that shield the bearings and prevent corrosion. Over time, as the oil becomes contaminated, its protective qualities diminish. To ensure the longevity of your engine bearings, adhere to the manufacturer’s oil change guidelines and use the specified oil type. If you suspect bearing damage due to neglect, it’s imperative to seek professional help. Damaged engine bearings can lead to increased friction, rapid deterioration, and even severe engine damage.
Enhance Engine Oil Performance with Oil Stabilizers
For an added layer of protection, consider integrating oil stabilizers into your maintenance routine. These additives augment the oil’s lubricating properties, offering an extra shield to bearings and other internal parts. While they might extend the duration between oil changes, it’s best to stick to the manufacturer’s recommended intervals to ensure peak performance.
Regularly Monitor Wheel Bearings of Both Car and Trailer
Wheel bearings, present in every wheel hub of your car and trailer, are subjected to immense stress due to the continuous forces they endure. They are also vulnerable to external elements like heat, moisture, and road debris. A malfunctioning wheel bearing can manifest in various ways, from unusual noises to unstable steering. To prevent these issues, it’s advisable to have your wheel bearings inspected frequently. While brake pad checks are standard, it’s beneficial to inspect wheel bearings every 5,000 miles. Your mechanic can then decide if they need lubrication or replacement.
By following these guidelines, you can ensure the optimal performance and longevity of your vehicle’s bearings, leading to safer and more efficient rides. Contact us to ensure a safer, more confident ride for your customers by investing in our bearings and reliable services at Bearing World.