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Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Wheel Bearing You Must Know

by Dutch Silverstein May 12, 2017

When one purchases a car, it is rare that a full inspection is performed. It is possible that you have purchased a car with at least one serious issue that will need to be invested in rather soon. It is common for parts of a vehicle to “go bad” or “fail” over time—with regular wear and tear, it is not abnormal to spend a significant amount of money in repairs and maintenance in order to keep your car in its best working condition. Although small and seemingly insignificant, some of the most essential pieces of a vehicle are the wheel bearings. They are a part of the steering assembly and drive-axel that keep friction on your tires at a minimum. Functioning, well-lubricated wheel bearings are crucial in order to prevent unnecessary wear on your tires, and in order to prevent high-speed accidents that are the most dangerous to drivers and pedestrians on the road. Before you purchase a used car, or if you have owned your car for some time, be sure to take a look at the wheel bearings as part of your preventive maintenance routine—they can tell you a lot about what is going on with the vehicle and what other issues may come up in the future. While today’s manufacturing advances have promised only the best quality wheel bearings, it is still the vehicle owner’s job to make sure the wheel bearings remain in the best condition possible, and have them replaced when the time comes.

Grinding noise from wheel

One such indication that wheel bearings may need to be replaced is a grinding noise that sounds like it is coming from your tires. Usually this sound is loud and alarming to a driver, which is both good and bad; although it notifies the driver that something is wrong, a grinding noise can also be due to a number of other causes. When this grinding sound occurs, generally it is the sound of metal grinding against itself—the lubrication of the bearing has worn off due to friction. Generally speaking, this sound will come from one specific wheel, and not all four at once. You may also notice when a wheel bearing goes bad that you will feel a reverberation in your steering wheel. The car does not have to be traveling fast for this to occur, and this is one of the telltale signs of a wheel bearing in need of replacement.

Uneven tire wear

Another sign that your wheel bearings should be inspected and/or replaced is uneven tire wear. It is always a good idea to stay on top of your tire pressure, and when you check the pressure, you should also check the wear in the tread of the tires—if it is noticeably off-centered or uneven, this could be due to failing wheel bearings. Unfortunately, there are a lot of other issues that can cause tire wear to become uneven, such as: too much or too little air in your tires at any given time, suspension issues, or a bad alignment. While all of these things can create your tires to wear unevenly, the urgency for repair is highest when it comes to the wheel bearings. As mentioned previously, the wheel bearing essentially holds the wheel kit together—if this fails at a high speed, on the freeway per se, you could be endangering your life as well as the lives of others.

Sudden Brake

Find a trusted mechanic shop

One other thing that should be mentioned and is important to keep in mind when taking your vehicle in for an inspection, maintenance or repair of wheel bearings, is that they will need to be replaced in pairs. Although it is likely for one wheel bearing to become worn out before another, the consistency in replacing these parts is essential. For instance, if one wheel bearing goes bad, its corresponding side must also be replaced for the sake of quality and consistency. Again, although it is likely for wheel bearings to go bad, and furthermore, for one to go bad before the others, you should always take these signs of wear seriously—something more may be going wrong with the vehicle. For this reason it is important to find a trusted mechanic shop in your area, and to stay on top (and even ahead) of the preventive maintenance for your vehicle.

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