A wheel bearing is an important component of the wheel assembly. It is a set of tapers (tapered bearings) or steel balls (ball bearings) that are jointly clasped by a metal ring. It allows smooth wheel rotation with minimum friction. Wheel bearings are critical safety components modeled to sustain axial and radial loads resulting from acceleration, gravitation, and breaking and cornering forces.
Wheel bearings perform a vital role within a vehicle’s drive train as they give the initial connection between the static and moving areas of the vehicle. In simple terms, a wheel bearing is a friction-reducing device positioned within a wheel to support the efficiency of the rotation. This is accomplished since sliding produces much more friction force than rolling caused by rotation.
A vehicle’s wheel bearing uses small metals ball which rolls in between two smooth metal rings. The wheel bearings rotate in tandem, along with grease, with the rotation of the wheels. The ball’s rolling motion allows the wheel hub to rotate freely. The wheel hub assembly houses the wheel bearing within it. It gives the static connection to the hub carrier via a racer or outer ring. The driveshaft moves from the transmission and goes through the wheel bearing center via the inner ring creating the partnership for rotation. A vehicle’s driven wheels generally use roller bearings while the non-driven wheels predominantly use tapered bearings.
The wheel bearing, like all mechanical components of a vehicle that rotates, rolls, and rubs. This action tends to wear them out.
Reasons Why the Wheel Bearing Fail
Faulty InstallationUsing tools that are inappropriate like an impact wrench or a hammer during installation can damage the interior and the exterior of the end bearing, resulting in the wheel bearing’s premature failure.
Reusing old vehicle accessories such as the split pins, seals, bolts, and nuts, instead of completely replacing them with the new accessories, is unsafe. It also creates abnormal conditions for the wheel end bearing to operate, which increases wear and tear of the bearings. It also increases the chances of getting an accident.
Poor Road Quality
Poor quality roads cause impact damages from potholes, hitting curbstone, and driving over or into speed bumps. Impact damages from bad roads cause severe damages to the wheel bearing and reduces its lifespan.
Driving through unfavorable conditions such as muddy or deep water, salty environmental can cause failure in the wheel bearings. Contaminants such as water or salt can find a way into the wheel assembly (view on Amazon) and leak through the seals and get into the bearing, thus contaminating the grease and causing the wheel bearings’ premature wear.
Poor Quality Wheel Bearing
Wheel bearings are constantly under tremendous pressure; therefore, good quality material should be used on them. If a low-quality material is used to construct a wheel bearing, it will have low heat treatment leading to premature failure or wear.
Go for tires, rims, or shock absorbers specified by your vehicle’s manufacturer to lower the impact for your wheel bearing’s longevity. Fitting wider rims than your vehicle’s size, tires having lower thread walls, suspension springs, and shock absorbers that are stiff causes the wheel bearing to bear excessive loads than it is intended to, and this accelerates wear and tear.
You Don’t Treat Your Car Good
Most vehicle owners understand that a vehicle must be inspected and serviced from time to time, as referred to as routine maintenance. For those who don’t, the likelihood of problems that cause your wheels going bad is extremely high. If the vehicle is not inspected routinely, small problems can escalate to major problems that are much more expensive to fix. This is also true for vehicles which sit for long periods of time.
If you want to avoid wheel problems or other issues and save $100s of dollars that you’ll spend at the auto repair shop, you’ll need to service your vehicle often – you can use our mechanic-rated Auto Maintenance and Repair Manual to do this. It’s basically what mechanics use to go through your vehicle to check if there are any problems that need fixing. As soon as they notice the most minor problem, they’ll ask you to fork out some money even though it’s a problem you can fix yourself in minutes – the manual will teach you how to maintain your vehicle every few thousand miles and it’ll teach you how to fix minor problems that mechanics will ask you to pay for; saving you money in the long run.
A lot of our readers have the Auto Maintenance and Repair Manual printed on their garage wall and 92% of them haven’t visited the auto repair shop in the last year because they know what to do to avoid problems. All it takes is giving your vehicle a little attention every few thousand miles and you’ll never spend money at the workshop again.
What are the Symptoms of a Failing Wheel Bearing?
The severity of the symptoms of a failing wheel bearing varies. Detecting the slightly severe symptom is difficult, resulting in more damage if corrective measures are not taken. Here are some signs of a faulty wheel bearing.
Grinding when the vehicle is on the Move
Grinding when your vehicle is moving is a typical sign of a worn-out wheel bearing. This means that the wheel-end system has mechanical damage. In bearing, it indicates loss of integrity like raceway or roller damage. The noise is produced when there is a load shift or when cornering.
Clunking and Knocking
This indicates excessive load in the U-joints or CV joints. Excessive force in the differential gears can also cause this. The symptom is not particularly unique to faulty bearings as experienced in several other car parts failures. Usually, it is produced when shifting to change directions, from forward to reverse, or transitioning to coasting from acceleration.
Snapping, Popping or Clicking
This sign relates to excessive bearing endplay resulting from inadequate clamping, but it also indicates a damaged or worn-out outer CV-joint. This noise is particularly heard when making sharp turns or when cornering.
Humming, Growling or Rumbling
Normally, these noises point out to electrical, tire, or drive train components. The noises present when you drive in a straight line, but it increases when you turn the wheel slightly to the right or to the left.
Loose or Vibrating Wheel
This symptom is often linked to a worn-out tire, severely misaligned chassis or suspension, or wheel component. In relation to bearing, it indicates clamp loss or an extremely damaged bearing. This also occurs in cases where the lug nuts do not have the right torque.
Vibration or Shudder at a Constant Speed
This is mainly caused by out of round or out of balance tires or worn out suspension components. However, it is not always indicative of a damaged bearing.
Unusual Side Pull When You Apply Brakes
Severe looseness resulting from damaged bearing can lead to extremely run out, causing the breaks to pull or pulsate.
Uneven Brake or Rotor Pad Wear
This symptom indicates a bad equalizer or caliper resulting from a severely loose bearing causing extreme run-out leading to uneven wear on the rotor or the brake pads.
Uneven Tire Wear
This symptom is not particularly unique to the damaged bearing. Numerous other problems could lead to it. However, excessive bearing looseness or wear causes uneven wear on the tire.
Extreme movement due to too much end- play can cause external or internal sensors damage. This symptom indicates a loss or lack of bearing clamp.
How to Remove Wheel Bearing Without Press
Park on a Flat Surface
Take the necessary safety precaution is mandatory during auto maintenance. The last thing you want happening to you is your car suddenly rolling away when you are in the middle of changing your wheel bearings. Before you start any maintenance, endure that your wheel is well parked on a flat, even surface. Put your car in the park and ensure your parking brake is up, while for manual transmissions, put 1st, neutral, or reverse.
Secure Wheels that You are not Replacing their Bearings Using Wheel Chocks
Use sturdy chocks, for more stability, to secure your wheels in place. Use the chocks on wheels that will be untouched since the other wheels will be heightened off the ground. For instance, if you intend to work on the front tires, put the sturdy chocks behind the back tires and vice versa.
Loosen Lug Nuts then Lift the Wheel up Using a Jack
You will definitely need to elevate the wheel using a jack for complete access to the wheel’s internal components whose bearing you are removing. Most vehicles come with a jack for the special purpose of elevation. Loosen the lug nuts slightly before you elevate your wheel. This is because the wheels’ initial loosening, while the tires are elevated, will be difficult without the ground steadily holding the wheel. Loosen the nuts with a tire iron. Lift up your wheel afterward.
To avoid slippage, ensure that your vehicle is seated securely on the jack and the jack flush with the even surface prior to lifting the wheel. Also, ensure that the jack reaches the car on a sturdy. That is an undercarriage made of metal to support the weight of the vehicle. For additional support, you may want to use a jack stand in case the floor jack succumbs to pressure.
Remove the Wheel after Unscrewing the Lug Nuts
Unscrew the lug nuts, which are already loose at this point due to the initial loosening. They should come off pretty easily. Remove the wheel afterward. Just so you don’t lose the lug nuts, remove the hubcap and flip it over to use it as a plate for containing the lug nuts.
Remove the Brake Caliper
Take out the caliper bolts using a ratchet and a socket. Then take out the caliper with a screwdriver. Do not let the caliper to sling freely. This can cause brake hose damage. Latch it on a safe area of the sturdy chock. You can use a string to secure it in place.
Remove the Castle Nut, Cotter Pin, and Dust Cover
The dust cover is a small metal or a plastic cap found at the center of your vehicle’s rotor. Its function is to safeguard the parts holding the rotor in place. Remove the rotor, cap, and the parts it safeguards. Make sure that you secure the small but vital components safely so that you don’t lose them.
Remove the Rotor
Securely put your thumb on the peg at the center of the rotor assembly. Gently but firmly bump the rotor with the palm of your free hand. The outer bearing of the wheel will fall out after loosening up. Take off the outer bearing and then remove the rotor. Use a rubber mallet to hit the rotor if it’s stuck. Using the Mallet roughly may, however, damage the rotor, keep off it if you can.
Unscrew the Bolts of the Hub and Remove the Hub
The wheel bearing is located within the hub. The hub is securely held in position with numerous bolts screwing in from behind. The bolts are in the undercarriage, and getting to them may be a little difficult. Loosen and remove the bolts using a skinny socket wrench. Take out the bolts and then release the hub off the axle.
Disassemble the Hub
To get free access to the wheel bearings, disassemble the entire hub assembly. Remove the anti-brake wheel and the end of the hub using a wrench. The bearing assembly will easily come apart.
Remove the Races
Using a hammer and a chisel, remove the races of the bearing assembly by breaking them physically. Breaking them means damaging them, so make sure you have your replacement races ready. This part is full of grime and grease; you will need to clean the bearing assembly in the parts around the knuckle. At this point, you have completed wheel bearing removal.
Install New Wheel Bearings and New Races
Put the new races in position within the bearing assembly Grease the new bearing and install it, ensuring proper alignment.
If your vehicle has a wheel hub assembly that is non-serviceable with the press in bearings, you will require a shop press to remove the wheel bearings. However, if your vehicle has non-serviceable wheel hubs, remove the old hub and replace it with new. For serviceable bearings, it’s a walk in the park, removal, and replacement is straightforward.