What Are Wheel Bearings On A Car? (Your Complete Guide)

When buying tires, you need to understand all the different components put together to enable the wheel to function properly.

One of these components is the wheel bearing that is critical for the wheels to work together. As a crucial part of the vehicle, what are wheel bearings? Here’s all you need to know.

What Are Wheel Bearings On A Car?

Wheel bearings on a car are part of the wheel assembly and connect the wheel to the axle. These steel balls are secured in a metal ring known as the race and are fitted inside the wheel hubs. Bearings help reduce friction when the wheel rotates; therefore, they need to be working properly at all times.

For more information about wheel bearings, their role on a car, how to tell when they go bad, and what causes a malfunction, keep on reading!

What’s The Role Of Wheel Bearings?

When your car starts experiencing problems such as noise, vibrations, and loose steering wheel, most drivers get concerned about the wheel bearings.

Wheel bearings are a critical part of the car that enables the wheel to turn; therefore, they need to be in perfect condition for the tires to work correctly.

As essential components of the wheel, the series of steel balls are held together in a metal ring. There’s a hollow piece of metal at the center called a hub, where the wheel bearings fit in tightly.

This hub is mounted on the axle and the wheel. Since the axle is connected to the engine, it rotates when you accelerate.

Wheel bearings ride on the metal axle shaft, which plays a major role by acting as a bridge between the wheel hub and axle, reducing friction as the wheel spins.

It would be challenging for the car to move forward without wheel bearings because the parts will require more energy for movement.

Unlike engine bearings, wheel bearings don’t get enough lubrication; therefore, they are more prone to damage when you hit potholes or drive through rough roads.

Additionally, they support your car’s weight during acceleration, braking, or cornering, making them prone to wear and tear.

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How Long Do Wheel Bearings Last?

How Long Do Wheel Bearings Last?

Different factors affect how long wheel bearings on your car will last.

However, on average, wheel bearings last about 85,000 to 100,000 miles (136,000 to 160,000 km) before replacing them with new ones.

Wheel bearings are in use all the time; therefore, the wear-out rate can be unpredictable depending on the quality of the bearings and driving conditions.

Some drivers report that they have had a bearing that lasted about 135,000 miles, a clear indication that the mileage differs a lot.

While some other bearings will last longer than others, it’s better to have them checked as soon as you suspect there’s a problem.

Ignoring these issues for a long could bring you more problems and could also become costly.

Should You Replace Both Front And Rear Wheel Bearings?

When it’s time to replace the bearings, you might not know whether to replace the front or rear bearings only.

While it might seem expensive, it’s better to replace both wheel bearings because if one is already having issues, the chances are that the other one is almost out of service.

If the wheels were installed at the same time, the bearings have covered the same number of miles; therefore, both sides might have the same rate of wear out.

As we’ve mentioned, the bearings will last depending on how you drive, the road conditions, and the quality of bearings. Therefore, if the conditions are the same, it’s better to replace them both.

What Causes Wheel Bearings Malfunction?

What Causes Wheel Bearings Malfunction?

If your wheel bearings are failing, what could be the reason? Let’s take a look at some of the causes.

Poor Installation

During installation, you can cause damage to the bearings if the wrong tools are used. This damages the exterior and interior of the wheel bearing, affecting its functionality from the start.

Additionally, your wheel becomes more prone to wear and tear if you use older accessories, such as bolts, nuts, and seals, instead of new ones.

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Driving Conditions

If you frequently drive on water, mud, or road salt, contaminants could go past the seals and damage the bearings leading to malfunction.

Quality of Bearings

Wheel bearings are very critical; therefore, they should be manufactured using high-quality steel that can withstand pressure and last for longer.

Imbalanced Tires

If your wheels are not correctly balanced, some wheel bearings will have more pressure and weight on them, leading to damage. To avoid this, have the wheels checked often.

Vehicle Modifications

If your car has wider rims or stiffer shock absorbers, it will have higher loads on the wheel bearing, leading to more wear and tear. Therefore, you should stick to the tires, rims, and springs recommended by the manufacturer to reduce the effect on the wheel bearings.

What Are The Signs Of Bad Wheel Bearings?

What Are The Signs Of Bad Wheel Bearings?

Wheel bearings allow the car to drive smoothly. Therefore, when they start getting affected, you’ll notice some signs. Here are some of the common ones.

Noises

When the wheel bearings are off, the noise can be a humming, clicking, rumbling, or grinding noise.

Manufacturers have now created several noise reduction technologies on tires; therefore, have the bearings checked if you notice a persistent noise when braking or accelerating.

Steering Wheel Vibration

Since you know how your car drives, you’ll notice when the steering wheel starts vibrating differently.

If your car starts feeling lighter than usual, have the bearings examined.

Uneven Tire Wear

When your wheel bearings wear out, your wheel will not rotate or spin as it should; therefore, affecting the tire tread.

Tire treads have a legal limit, so you need to check if yours are within the set limit. If you notice the tread wear is worse on one tire, it could be a bearings issue.

ABS Malfunction

If you have an anti-lock braking system malfunction, the ABS light will illuminate to show that there’s a problem.

This may happen because of the failure of the ABS sensor that’s linked to the wheel bearing.

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Vehicle Pulling To One Side

With worn bearings, your car will start pulling to the left or right when you apply breaks. Y

ou need to observe the direction your car is pulling towards, as this indicates where the worn bearings are located.

Braking Issue

When wheel bearings become worn out and loose, they affect how the car breaks. This problem also comes together with unevenly worn brake pads.

Should You Drive A Car With A Bad Wheel Bearing?

If you have a bad bearing or the bearings have fallen off, you shouldn’t drive your car before the problem has been fixed.

It’s hazardous to drive without bearings because your wheel might come off when the vehicle is in motion since it’s not held in properly, causing an accident.

Without the bearings, the wheels don’t have anywhere to hold on to; therefore, if you are driving on the highway at high speeds, you could easily lose control of your car.

To avoid these problems, watch out for the above signs and have your tire mechanic check your tires regularly to confirm that the bearings are intact.

To know more about wheels, you can also see our posts on what are wheel adapters, what is hydroplaning, and what is a tire deflator.

Summary

Wheel bearings are a critical part of the tire. They connect the wheel to the axle and ensure that the wheel spins or rotates with minimal friction.

Your car bearings will last depending on their quality and how you take care of the car. If you are constantly driving on bad roads and potholes, they will wear out much faster.

If your wheel bearings are damaged, there are different signs to watch out for. Have the tire expert check to confirm whether the bearings are the issue before replacing them. If your bearings fall off, you should stay off the road until they are replaced for your safety.

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