Picture this: you’re driving along on your regular commute to work or taking off on a well-deserved weekend trip.
Suddenly, a rumbling sound and vibrating feeling come from your car. Did you hit the rumble strip on the edge of the highway? No, you’re in the middle of the lane. What could it be?
The most likely cause of rumbling, vibration, or howling sounds in your car is a damaged wheel bearing. When this part of your car needs replacing, it causes a loud sound and noticeable vibration. Although wheel-related issues can seem scary, wheel bearings are easy to take care of and can be replaced when necessary.
Continue reading below to learn more about wheel bearings and how you can care for them and replace them.
What Is a Wheel Bearing?
A wheel bearing is — you guessed it — a component related to the wheels of your car. Wheel bearings serve an essential function: they connect your wheels to the axle that runs between them. They help your wheels spin quickly, quietly, and with minimal friction.
They are also a key component of your vehicle’s suspension system. They support the weight of your car while you drive.
Wheel bearings are located in the wheel hub. The hub is in the center of the wheel. They are made up of a metal ring and small metal balls that are held inside that ring. Most bearings are sealed with rubber. This protects the bearings and prevents dirt and road debris from causing lubrication issues.
What Is a Bad Wheel Bearing?
Wheel bearings can be worn down by excessive use or by water or heat. Bearings can also be damaged by extreme weather conditions or vehicle collisions. They might fail if they have been incorrectly installed, which is important to keep in mind if you plan to repair them yourself.
If you often drive on dirt roads or sandy roads or if you have driven in very rainy or snowy conditions, debris could become lodged in your wheel bearings. This damages the lubricating grease that keeps them working smoothly.
If your car has more than 75,000 miles on it, you might run into issues with your bearings due to routine wear. Many car owners report having wheel bearing troubles when their vehicle hits 75,000 to 100,000 miles. This is an important consideration for owners of used cars, who might have slightly higher mileage on their vehicles.
Once you notice problems with your bearings, it’s time to replace them. Because modern bearings are sealed, it’s easier to replace them than it is to service them.
What Problems Can a Bad Wheel Bearing Cause?
If you have a problem with your wheel bearings, you will probably notice the issues mentioned above: a loud rumbling, howling, or grinding noise accompanied by vibration. These problems might become more noticeable the faster you drive, but they can occur at any speed.
You might also notice uneven wear on your tires or a change in how your steering wheel feels. Many people with bad wheel bearings report that their steering wheel feels “loose” and seems less responsive than it normally is.
Bad bearings can also cause your car to seem to pull to one side.
When bearings start to fail, other parts of your car can be affected. Bad bearings put more stress on your axle and can create problems with your transmission, your brakes, and your car’s ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System).
In extreme cases when a bearing has completely failed, your wheel could lock up and be unable to move.
It’s best to treat wheel bearing problems as soon as you notice them. If you ignore the issue, it could become very costly!
How Can I Resolve a Wheel Bearing Issue?
The best way to ensure safe and functional wheel bearings is to maintain them well. Bearings bear a huge load (the weight of your car!) so it’s inevitable that they will eventually need to be replaced.
To extend the life of your bearings, consider your driving habits. Avoid potholes, dirt roads, and deep puddles. This will keep your lubrication free of dirt and debris.
Car modifications (for example, installing bigger tire rims) can put additional stress on your bearings. This causes them to wear down more quickly. Consider the technical implications of any cosmetic modifications you want to make to your vehicle. If possible, adhere to the specifications that your car’s manufacturer suggests.
When you do need to replace a wheel bearing, go for a high-quality option. This will last longer and stand up better to daily wear.
What Is a Wheel Bearing Kit?
A wheel bearing kit contains all the parts that you need to fix or replace a faulty wheel bearing. These kits contain the wheel bearing itself plus rubber seals to protect it from the elements and the specialty tools needed for installation. With a wheel bearing kit, you can rest assured that you have all the components necessary for a successful at-home installation. These kits are great for home mechanics and car repair enthusiasts.
Can I Replace My Wheel Bearings Myself?
Kits make it easier to attempt an at-home wheel bearing replacement. With the right tools and adequate instructions, you should be able to replace your bearings yourself.
What is a front wheel bearing and what is a rear wheel bearing? If you’re attempting an at-home replacement, you should be able to answer these questions. Replacing bearings on your rear tires is sometimes more complicated than replacing front tire bearings. Rear tire bearings and front tire bearings also tend to be different sizes. Make sure that you have the right replacement bearing for the job at hand!
If this job is outside the scope of your mechanical knowledge, err on the side of caution and have your car serviced by a professional. Because wheel bearings are such an important component of your car, it’s important that they are properly installed.
For All Your Car Needs, Contact Us!
At Prieto Automotive, we’re passionate about all things cars. And if you’re reading up on wheel bearings, we’re sure that you are, too.
Our experts are here to connect with you. Whether you are looking for more information about wheel bearings or considering purchasing a car, contact us today. We’re happy to help.