What are Wheel Bearings and How Long Do They Last?


The car is made up of multiple complex parts that are both large and small. The smallest parts of the car are usually some of the most important ones, as they are responsible for connecting several larger parts together or for providing power for the vehicle in order for it to function properly. One of those small but important car parts is the wheel bearing.

What are Wheel Bearings?

The wheel bearing is a part installed during wheel assembly and is utilized as a connection between the wheel and the axle, which is what makes the wheels rotate. The wheel bearing can come in the form of ball bearings (a wheel with steel balls around it) and tapered bearings (a wheel that has cylinders inside it), and it would then be surrounded or protected with a steel ring. The wheel bearing is supposed to provide the wheels smooth rotation while also offering a little bit of friction so that the wheels won’t rotate too much. So, to put it simply, wheel bearings usually give wheels balance while also helping them carry the weight and force (acceleration and braking) of the vehicle.

Without wheel bearings, the wheels could go haywire and may cause damages and accidents to you and your vehicle. So, it is essential for cars to have wheel bearings that are functioning well without problems. If there are faults in the wheel bearings, then it would be time to get them replaced. However, not all drivers know how to properly inspect wheel bearings. Knowing when your wheel bearings need to be replaced is relatively difficult, as you would need to know the symptoms of faulty or bad wheel bearings. Here are the symptoms you should look for to know if the wheel bearings need to be replaced.

wheel bearings installed on a vehicle

Symptoms of Faulty Wheel Bearings

There are several tell-tale signs that your wheel bearings may be damaged or faulty. These signs can sometimes be challenging to spot, especially if you can’t really feel, hear, or see them at first glance. To make sure that your car’s bearings are fine, it would be best to consult a local auto repair service for maintenance and checkups. But, if you have some good ears and eyes, it would still be great to know the signs so that you can spot them immediately. Here are the symptoms of faulty wheel bearings.

Loud Grinding Noise 

The most prevalent symptom of having bad wheel bearing is the loud grinding or whining noise that you would often hear beneath your car seat. This noise would often get louder whenever you accelerate since the damaged wheel bearings often hit the axle or the wheels of the vehicle whenever they move. If you ever hear a very loud grinding noise, we recommend that you bring your car for repairs as soon as possible so that the bearings can be fixed or replaced.

Vibrating Steering Wheel

The steering wheel of your car is connected to the axle and the wheels, so you will basically be able to feel in your hands if there is something wrong with those parts’ connections. If your steering wheel vibrates whenever you are turning or speeding up, that is a sign that the wheel bearings are faulty since it doesn’t provide a stable connection to the steering wheel, the axle, and the car wheels. The vibration of the steering wheel means that the wheel bearings are either loose or damaged.

Banging or Clunking Noise on Uneven Roads

Besides the grinding noise, faulty wheel bearings would also produce clunking noises whenever you are driving on uneven roads. The noise is produced when the wheel bearings are loose or have cracks on its surface, which are major damages that should be remedied immediately. Once you hear clunking noises while driving, it would be best to have the bearings replaced before the bearings can break.

How Long Do Wheel Bearings Last?

The longevity of wheel bearings would often depend on how much you use your vehicle and what type of roads or terrain you usually drive it on. So, if you are always driving the vehicle on uneven roads or off-road, wheel bearings can break or get damaged much faster than usual. But, the durability of the bearings would also depend on the material used to make them, as there are some wheel bearings that are made from durable materials that are not prone to breakages.

While there is really no exact answer as to how long wheel bearings last, there are studies indicating that standard bearings can last until the total distance driven by the vehicle reaches 160,000 kilometers or 100,000 miles.

Finding faults and damages on your car’s wheel bearings can be difficult to look for on your own, so it is always better to consult a local mechanic or an auto repair service center near you to get better advice on what to do for your vehicle’s safety. Get your car a checkup regularly so that minuscule problems on the wheel bearings and other parts can be found and repaired immediately.

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