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Your Vehicle’s Wheel Bearings

by | May 23, 2022 | Best Western Transmission

If you have ever heard of the term, “wheel bearings”, but didn’t exactly know what they were, read on.  While wheel bearings are a more obscure component of your vehicle and one that you may not hear about often, they can experience occasional problems.  In this month’s blog post, we examine what wheel bearings are, how they function within the wheel assembly, and common problems that may occur with these important components. 

What are wheel bearings?

Wheel bearings are part of your vehicle’s wheel assembly.  In simplest terms, they are either small metal cylinders (called rollers) or ball bearings that sit inside a housing (think of a donut-shaped or ring-shaped housing). A separate housing is attached to each of the four hubs for the wheel and is connected to the axle.   

Wheel bearings play an important role in reducing friction while the wheel is spinning – which enables the wheel to spin freely.   

Roller Bearings versus Ball Bearings

The two types of bearings, roller, or ball, have different limitations to them based on their design.  Roller bearings are small cylinders that are inside the circular housing.  This style of bearing is not sealed, which makes it easier to service but also more susceptible to dirt and contamination from the road.  On the other hand, the ball bearings, which are small metal balls, are sealed in the housing.  Because they are sealed, it is difficult to service them, but they are less susceptible to contamination like the roller bearings. 

Wheel Bearing Problems

Because of where the wheel bearings are located and the amount of use, the more common issues that may affect them are contamination (dirt, grease, dust), and also normal wear and tear.  There are a few symptoms that may surface when bearings are failing, which include: 

  • Unusual noises:  There are a variety of noises you may hear when driving that may be clicking, grinding, whirring, or other strange sounds.  If you notice a sound as the wheel is spinning, it may be the bearings. 
  • Locked wheel:  If the wheel locks up, this is a dangerous situation.  Bearings that are damaged from contamination may lose their lubrication and even heat up, causing the wheel to lock up during operation.
  • Vibration:  Vibrations can be a symptom of a variety of vehicle issues including the bearings.  If you are experiencing a rough ride, the culprit may be your wheel bearings.   
  • Lower Steering Performance:  When the bearing fails, it may affect your steering.  It may feel loose, or you might have the sensation of having less control over the steering between the steering wheel and what is happening with the vehicle. 
  • Dashboard Warning Light:  If you are experiencing a problem with your wheel bearings, you may also get a dashboard warning light for the ABS or Traction Control.  This could be an indicator of a problem with the bearings.   

In most cases, servicing failed bearings involves full replacement.  Most service professionals advise to have your bearings replaced at least every 75,000 – 100,000 miles driven.    

If you think you may have a wheel bearing issue, give the service professionals a call at Best Western Transmissions to schedule an appointment.