Bearings are the components designed with high precision to make sure that they help mechanical motions work smoothly.
Other than just simply favoring motions, bearing helps on carrying heavy loads too with much ease and high efficiency. There are several types of bearing and among them, ball bearing and roller bearings are generally used in cars. This type is used specifically because they can handle radial and thrust loads, both.
Wheel bearings are really necessary for your car’s operation. They are situated on metal axle shaft and are fitted tightly inside the hub. Wheel bearing is crucial for the proper functioning of car’s hub, tire and wheel assemblies to work together.
Wheel bearing makes sure friction-free movement and rotation of the hub assembly, hence providing smooth tire and wheel rotations.
Malfunctioning of wheel bearing results in a variety of signs or symptoms, of which some are significantly noticeable and some are a kind of confusing to figure out. It’s hard to diagnose because the car needs to be driven in order to diagnose the problem.
Symptoms of a bad wheel bearing
There could be a variety of symptoms and effects of bad Wheel Bearing. All of them are as follows:
1. Grinding or Grating sound from the wheel
One of the most common and most identifiable symptoms associated with bad wheel bearing is noise coming from the wheel of the moving vehicle. You may mistake this as engine noise, but when you listen closely you are likely to hear grinding or grating that gets louder as the vehicle accelerates.
Since wheel bearings are not known for wearing out that frequently, the noise is typically suspected to be something else and the problem overlooked.
Mostly wheel bearings are made up of hardened steel and can withstand a lot of forces. Bearings are usually destroyed by heating and water. Heat is developed by less or no lubrication present and water is penetrated in the wheel bearing. Mostly newly manufactured wheel bearings are sealed.
These seals help in protecting wheel bearing from destructive elements like water, debris etc. But when this seal is broken, wheel bearing will start to fail and make noise.
2. Shifting Weight of Car
Another outcome is when you drive the car at speed around 50mph, and if you steer it left and right, kind of shifting its weight from left to right, it will start to make noise. Make sure to steer gently as high speed and rough cuts can topple over your car.
On steering from left to right or right to left will give different sound effect. For example, if you turn right and noise gets less, then it means your left bearing is damaged and when you turn left and noise gets less then it means your right wheel bearing is damaged.
3. Worn Patches on Tires
Sometimes tires that are partially worn out or are chopped from different patches also make grinding or pinching sound when speed is increased. This sound is somewhat similar to worn out wheel bearing’s sound. So it is suggested to have a look at tires as well. But not to forget, these patches on tires could also be the result of worn out wheel bearings.
4. Your Car Feels Loose
The looseness of the wheel or also known as wheel play is another common symptom of a bad wheel bearing. As the bearing gets spoiled, it began to lose inside the wheel hub and spindle, which makes the vehicle feels lose while steering.
Replacement of the Wheel Bearing
Wheel bearings do not fail immediately, often they provide with some time before they need to be replaced. In worst cases, wheel bearing failure can completely lock up wheel hub preventing the car from moving. But, it is not necessary, sometimes you can just drive over with faulty wheel bearings and nothing will happen the noise getting louder and louder.
Replacing bearing is a little expensive because labor is involved. Several parts need to be removed to get to the bearing especially on the four-wheel drive or front wheel drive vehicle. Its process is as follows.
Some cars have a hub which you can replace easily, others you have to have some special equipment to replace it. If this is the case, it’s probably easier and cheaper to let a mechanic do the job for you instead. Anyways, if you want to replace it yourself, you can do it like this: (Remember that it vary a lot depending on the car model)
First of all, the vehicle is lifted on the jack and is placed on a jack stand. Rear wheels are blocked up using and stopper to make sure that your vehicle does not goes into any motion. Then firstly unscrew your tire and remove it a wheel cover on tire’s rim.
Removing Axle Nut
After removing the cover, then place tire back, fasten it 2-3 nuts, un-jack it, and then remove axle screw. Use spanner with long handles because axle nuts are usually very tight and need a high amount of torque in order to remove them.
Remove Break Rotor Assembly
Once axle nut is loose, put jack again and remove tire once again. It’s recommended to place removed tire beneath your vehicle to make sure you avoid any possible damage to the car in case jack fails. Then remove the axle nut and takes outbreak rotor.
Removing Bearing Hub Assembly
Once the brake rotor is removed, it is recommended to hammer axle rod inward to make loose and move inside. Then move the hub as per your convenience and remove bolts that tighten hub to the body. Remove ABS sensor and then use sliding hammer to dismantle hub from knuckle. In the case of high friction, penetrating fluid and hammering is used to provide some external movements.
Dismantling of Hub
Once the hub is removed, you can easily see your bearing. Then remove the bearing from the hub and then replace it with the new one. It is recommended to use sandpaper and clean all nearby places, that is the hub assembly area and all from any rust or debris.
Once all nearby area is cleaned, then fit in the new bearing, if your new bearing is with ABS wire, then remove old ABS connection from hub and engine and connect the new one. Then screw back again all parts, tight your axle, put wheel cover on your tire, un-jack your vehicle, and you are ready to go.
Wheel bearings are an essential part of your vehicle. They help in the vehicle’s wheel motion. Malfunctioning of wheel bearings can result in either some serious problems are sometimes they can just annoy you with their increasing sound. It will cost you high, but still, it is recommended to get the changes on the earliest possible basis.