A wheel bearing is an essential part of a wheel hub assembly. It allows a wheel to spin freely, while keeping it attached to the vehicle. A wheel bearing also supports the weight of the vehicle, being the first to deal with bumps, potholes and other road imperfections.
Each wheel of your vehicle features a wheel bearing. While front and rear wheel bearings can vary in design, they do the same job for the wheels, allowing them to spin smoothly at any speed. No matter whether it is a front or rear wheel bearing, its failure will affect your vehicle’s alignment settings, resulting in steering and handling problems. To avoid them, we recommend you to check your vehicle for the following signs of a failing wheel bearing:
Abnormal noises coming from the wheels
A bad wheel bearing can tell you of a problem in a couple of ways. If you hear scraping or clicking noises at low speeds, or growling, grinding, roaring or other noises, especially when accelerating, most likely your wheel bearings need attention. At the same time noises that appear when going over bumps are usually caused by suspension problems.
Steering and handling problems
A worn-out wheel bearing will allow for free play between parts inside the wheel hub. This can cause wandering steering and other problems.
Excessive vibrations and wobbling
Bad bearings can’t hold the wheels properly attached to the vehicle. As a result, you may feel vibrations coming through the steering wheel.
You feel that you are losing control over the vehicle
If you feel that your vehicle is pulling to one of the sides, this can be a sign of a failing wheel bearing.
Uneven tire wear
Bad wheel bearings can put your wheels out of alignment, resulting in excessive or uneven tire wear.
Smoke coming from the wheels
This is one of the worst-case scenarios, which means your wheel bearings have died, causing metal-to-metal contact. This contact can create lots of heat, making the grease inside the bearing burn.
One of your wheel is not secured to the hub
This will happen if you ignore all other signs of a failing wheel bearing and continue driving the vehicle. Sooner or later the wheel bearing will break down, allowing the wheel to detach from the hub. If so, stop the vehicle immediately and have it towed to a repair facility.
Wheel bearing replacement
While replacing a wheel bearing is an experience you’d like to avoid, the real danger is its consequences. A bad bearing can cause damage to the wheel hub and the tire, and even cause a road collision. That’s why we recommend you to get in touch with your mechanic as soon as you notice any signs of a failing wheel bearing. If one of your bearings needs replacement, the mechanic will remove the wheel and the brake rotor or drum to access the wheel hub with a bad bearing. In some cases, a four-wheel alignment may be required after replacing wheel bearings.