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How to Avoid Premature Wheel Bearing Damage

Hassanein Alwan

You may perform periodic checks on your car’s tires such as testing the tire pressure, tread depth, and tire alignment. However, your car’s wheels are far from being a simple component, and your vehicle cannot function correctly or efficiently without reliable wheels.  

For many car owners, the most overlooked part of their car is the wheel bearing. This set of steel balls is held together and housed in a metal ring called a race which helps wheels spin as fast as possible with little friction.

These are among the most crucial parts of the drive-axle and steering assembly as they promote efficient wheel rotation and also help to keep the wheels securely attached to your vehicle.

What causes wheel bearing damage?

In order to know how to avoid something, you initially need to understand why exactly it happens in the first place. There are three leading causes of wheel bearing failure:

  • Poor installation
  • Damaged wheel bearing seal
  • Damage from an accident

Tip: Just because one wheel bearing fails, it does not mean that both need fixing!

How do I look after my wheel bearings?

If suitably maintained and regularly examined, regardless of whether or not they are the newer hub-assembly style bearings or the older-style bearings, most vehicles will likely need wheel bearing replacement when the mileage falls between 80,000 and 118,000 miles. However, older circle bearings should be regularly checked once they reach the 60,000-mile mark.

Despite this, wheel bearings will eventually give way to wear and tear (just like any part that rotates, rubs and rolls!), but there are some steps you can take to make them last for as long as possible.

  • Buy high-quality wheel bearings
  • Cheap quality wheel bearings made from low alloy steel with poor heat treatment often fail prematurely
  • Minimize the amount of friction on the bearings by using good quality grease that is specifically intended for high temperatures
  • Don’t overdo the grease though, as this can result in overheating
  • Replace axle nuts when needed and don’t reuse them
  • Always consult the manufacturer’s manual

What are the signs that my wheel bearings need replacing?

Odd Noises

The most identifiable symptom is an unusual noise coming from your wheel. Hearing a cyclic chirping, growling, or rumbling sound indicates that the seal has started to leak. You may hear the noise getting louder or disappearing as your vehicle accelerates or decelerates.

Uneven Tire Wear

If, in spite of routine wheel alignments and maintenance checks, your tires appear to be excessively worn out, you may want to have your wheel bearings checked for uneven tire wear. “Bearing play” happens when wheel bearings start to loosen within their housing. This may not be felt with you sitting in the car, but instead can be observed through a visual inspection of your tires.

Pulling While Driving

If your car starts to feel less responsive or less precise and has a tendency to wander, your wheel bearings might need replacing. Your car’s maneuverability is supposed to feel tight, responsive and controlled, if it doesn’t, take your car to a professional mechanic who can diagnose the problem and determine whether or not the wheel bearings are part of the issue.

Steering Wheel Problems

A vibration that’s felt through the steering wheel, especially when driving at slower speeds and as the vehicle accelerates, is a good indicator that there is a wheel bearing problem.

Issues With Braking

Brakes may pulsate and pull due to damaged wheel bearings. You may hear audible clicking sounds as the vehicle accelerates. If this continues and the wheel bearings aren’t replaced, ABS failure may occur. If this happens, the loose bearing clamp may move too much and damage the internal and external sensors.

If you are looking to replace your car wheel bearing yourself, it isn’t impossible though it can be challenging and time-consuming. Don’t attempt it if you do not own the correct tools as you may end up damaging the hub or the new bearing during installation. Instead, look for professional bearing suppliers in Dubai, or wherever your car is located, and enlist their expertise!

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