man checking on what causes wheel bearings to go bad
Car Tires

What Causes Wheel Bearings to Go Bad on a Vehicle

It is only natural – like other components in a vehicle, the wheel bearings will wear out over time. Even though these parts are relatively low maintenance, it does not mean that they will last forever. 

All vehicles, not just cars with wheels, are likely to have wheel bearings. So at some stage, a worn wheel bearing will need replacing and it is essential to get this carried out before it causes any more significant problems. 

In this article, we will discuss what wheel bearings are and what causes wheel bearings to go bad.

What Are Wheel Bearings? 

car bearing wheel hub assembly

These are a vital component of a vehicle’s wheel assembly as they connect the wheels with the axle. The bearings are either tapers or steel balls held in place with a metal ring. They allow the wheels on any vehicle to revolve smoothly with as little friction as possible. 

These are critical safety components that have been designed to help maintain radial and axial loads produced when the vehicle is in motion. It is crucial that any bad bearing is replaced as soon as they fail to work correctly. 

How Long Do Wheel Bearings Last?

On average, the wheel bearings in a vehicle have a lifespan of around 85,000 to 100,000 miles. This may not always be the case but it does depend mainly on the quality of the bearing and the conditions under which they are being operated. 

How Do These Affect Your Cars Performance? 

They are a very critical component in relation to how your vehicle performs. They are vital for maintaining the proper function of your car as they are designed to help ensure the wheels rotate smoothly when you are driving it.

If the wheels aren’t rotating smoothly, you will find that your car drives rough. This is because it can lead to damage being caused to your car’s drive axle and the steering assembly. 

One of the first things people often notice when their car has a damaged wheel bearing is that the steering wheel vibrates. 

They are also necessary to help reduce friction caused by other components that make up your car’s drivetrain system. Bad wheel bearings can lead to stress on the outer CV joint and the wheel’s hub. In turn, this can lead to the risk of damage to your vehicle’s brake system and finally to the car’s transmission

A worn-out wheel bearing needs to be replaced as soon as possible to prevent other serious problems that could result in you being faced with more expensive repair costs. 

Furthermore, if the wheel bearing replacement isn’t carried out by an experienced mechanic using the proper tools, damage can worsen and cost you even more to fix.

Warning Signs of a Failed Wheel Bearing 

You should be aware of a couple of warning signs that indicate a faulty wheel bearing on your car. We look at what these are below. 

1. Odd Noises From Wheels  

Whenever you speed up or slow down, you will notice a strange noise. If you ever hear a growl, hum, screech, squeal, or rumble sound coming from your wheels that stops or gets louder, it could be from a broken wheel bearing. 

2. Tires Have Uneven Wear

Have you noticed the tread on one side of your tire seems to have worn away a lot more than on the other? This means either you have a worn bearing or the shock absorbers/struts are faulty. 

If you notice more pronounced issues with your vehicle and steering wheel vibration, arrange to get your car examined immediately. Schedule it to be inspected by an experienced auto repair technician, as they will have the correct tools to carry this work out. 

Still, what are the main reasons that will cause your car to have a bad wheel bearing?

Let’s look at the main reasons your car has a worn or broken wheel bearing.

What Causes Wheel Bearings To Go Bad?

checking car wheel bearing and disk brake

Like other moving parts in a vehicle, a car’s wheel bearing will get worn down each time you drive your vehicle. As you drive along, the wheels must rotate with a lot of weight on top of them. In turn, this places a lot of stress on modern wheel bearings. 

Over time this stress may lead to, at some point, the wheel bearings getting worn out. 

It isn’t only just time that can lead to you needing to arrange for your car to go to an auto repair shop to have these components replaced. Below, we look at some of the most common causes of your car’s damaged or noisy wheel bearing. 

1. Day Operating Conditions 

If you drive your car often through water, road salt, or mud, this can lead to excessive wear of a car’s wheel bearings leading to premature failure. Unfortunately, there is a risk of contaminants getting past the wheel bearing seal and coming into contact with the bearings. This will pollute the grease that provides lubrication in this part and eventually lead to damage to the actual bearings. 

Before being fitted, the manufacturers of these components have lubricated them. Often a petroleum-based lubricant is used inside wheel bearings and it doesn’t mix well with water. So, if the bearings come into contact with such a fluid, then the lubricant won’t prevent friction between the steel balls. 

2. Driving On Uneven Roads

If you regularly drive over uneven terrain in your vehicle, the chances of the wheel bearings becoming worn and damaged are significant. 

Again, as you drive over rugged terrain, you place significant pressure on the wheel bearings and even on the metal axle shaft. Eventually, certain areas of the steel ball bearings inside this component will get damaged. This will reduce how much friction gets placed on the wheels as they rotate. 

3. Uneven Tire Installation 

The tires must be balanced as part of any good vehicle maintenance routine. If the air pressure in one tire is different from another, this can result in additional stress being placed on the wheel bearings and, over time, can cause damage to them. 

So whenever you have the time when filling up with gasoline, you take a few minutes to check the pressure in each tire. Otherwise, you could always ask your local auto repair services to carry out this check for you. 

4. When Involved in an Accident 

If your car is involved in an accident, even a minor one, you will need to have the wheel bearings checked. This is especially important if any of the damage relates to the wheels. 

If you don’t get them checked, there could be severe damage to them that you cannot see. It is only as you drive along and start to hear a clicking sound or a constant clunking noise that the wheel bearings are starting to fail. 

Luckily for you, comprehensive auto mechanic services will inspect these components of your car following an accident. 

5. Faulty Installation During Maintenance Service 

This can be a result of the wrong tools being used. This can damage the exterior and the interior of a wheel bearing. As a result of this, the chances of having to replace a worn wheel bearing much sooner is increased. 

A rear wheel bearing might not operate safely even if you were to use parts used on the vehicle before, like bolts, nuts, split pins, and seals. This, in turn, increases the chances of an accident occurring due to premature wear of this part. 

If you feel that the wheeling bearings haven’t been fitted correctly, you should return to the repair shop to ask them to rectify this problem. 

Bottom Line

Wheel bearings are one of the most vital components of any vehicle. Yet, even though modern wheel bearings are much easier to fix, an experienced mechanic must carry out the replacement of them. 

They will have the correct special tools and be able to carry out the necessary tests to ensure that they are installed correctly, thus ensuring that these vital components will be able to work well. 

Of course, when a wheel bearing is likely to fail is something you cannot plan for. Still, we hope this article proves helpful so that you can identify when there is a problem with them on your car to get them replaced sooner rather than later. 

We covered what causes wheel bearings to go bad and the signs that yours are likely to fail in the future. This will then help to ensure that you won’t be caught off guard and, in turn, won’t find yourself faced with an expensive auto repair quote. 

Let us know what you think of this article by leaving a comment below.