A lot of motorists don’t know what a wheel bearing is, how does it function or where is it located? Although it is a must for every driver to have at least a certain level of knowledge about automobile parts and how each one functions, that is not a case for everybody.
With a lot of priorities and tasks at hand, an average car owner would care less about things like wheel bearings. They'd instead let their trusty technician take care of car repairs if there are any.
In this article from Philkotse.com, we’ll be discussing what you need to know about wheel bearings, how it functions and the causes for its imminent damage.
1. What is a wheel bearing?
If you take the time to take notice of your wheels, you’ll notice a group of steel balls attached or linked together by a metal ring. This metal ring is called or referred to as a race. What does this do for your wheels? This wheel bearing aid your wheels to spin fast with little to no friction.
The wheel bearing aid your wheels to spin fast with little to no friction
2. Signals tell your bearings are damaged
In most cases, you wouldn’t be able that your bearings are damaged because the noises it makes starts with a faint sound and ends up with a noise unbearable to hear that'll indicate a significant wreck. Also, the diagnosis of its damage is not possible if you’re not driving.
Here are some of the most common bad car noises that indicate a damaged wheel bearing. It is advisable to take note of these indicators so that you can take your car to the nearest mechanic without potentially making the damage worse than before.
- When you’re driving, take the time to listen if you can hear noises that are only possible when your vehicle hits a rumble strip. Or, the sounds are similar to a pack of cards flipping against bicycle bars. If you hear it, chances are the seal of your wheel bearing is damaged or broken.
- Try driving with your vehicle with a speed of above 40 miles per hour. Then, (on an open road, preferably), sway your car gently to the right and to the left. Listen if there are unsettling noises when you gear towards the right or vice versa. If it does, a damaged bearing is where the louder sound can be heard.
When driving, listen if you can hear noises that are only possible when your vehicle hits a rumble strip
>>> Read more: 5 Symptoms of Bad Wheel Bearings.
3. What causes wheel bearing damage?
Wheel bearing parts are usually hardened through heat. However, this heating process can only penetrate up to a particular portion of the metal only. Since every piece is subject to wear and tear, there is a possibility that the bearing has been worn out.
This will result in what mechanics or auto experts would refer to as the "spalling”. The metal will flake off piece by piece, and when overheated, the lubricant wears off, and etching will occur.
Wheel bearing parts are usually hardened through heat
Aside from lubricants, corrosive materials like water can also contribute to this condition. Therefore, seals are crucial to keeping contaminants outside. This will ensure the longevity of the bearing.
Wheels submerged into floods
Manufacturers would readily lubricate the bearings with a suitable liquid that’ll act as a seal so that water from floods would not corrode your bearings. A petroleum-based lubricant does not go well with water.
When this happens, you’ll have to take your car into a wheel bearing replacement immediately as it cannot be repaired.
A petroleum-based lubricant does not go well with water
Exposure to uneven terrain or rocky roads
When you drive into rocky terrain, you'll be putting a lot of pressure on your wheel bearings, and it’s only a matter of time when these bearings will be broken. As mentioned earlier, a wheel bearing has steel balls inside.
These steel balls will be broken due to the pressure. Thus, limit its capability to mitigate friction for the wheels when you drive.
When you drive into rocky terrain, you'll be putting a lot of pressure on your wheel bearings
If by chance, you have replaced your wheel bearings with a new one and still hear unsettling noises that indicate damages, this might be due to the fact of improper installation.
There are cases when the mechanic just committed a mistake or was unable to follow a specific manufacturer's instruction. If this is the case, the best option would be to revisit the mechanic and have it installed properly.
Yes, all wheel bearings may look exactly the same and that their price changes are drastic enough for you to choose the cheaper one. But, how sure are you that you'll end up having a high-quality wheel bearing because you sacrificed the cost? This is the difference between having a second trip to the mechanic or a safe and noise-free drive.
4. How can I maintain my wheel bearings?
The good thing is there are ways you follow to make sure of the longevity of your wheel bearings. Read on below to find out.
Handle wheel bearing parts with care
Little do people know that wheel bearings are sensitive machine parts and there are cases wherein mishandling it during transport, storage or installation can actually damage it. Therefore, it is recommended that someone knowledgeable with it should handle, install or even transport it.
Wheel bearing woes should be resolved by experts in the field of auto mechanics to ensure its functionality
Using the right tools
Installing, replacing or removing a wheel bearing is a meticulous process. Therefore, the right tools are needed to make the task easier and faster.
Work on a clean area
Any form of dirt or grease will enter the bearing and cause internal damage. Even the bearings are installed correctly, the contaminant will surely shorten its operable life.
Follow the correct mounting procedure
Every specific kind of wheel bearing has its own set of directions that a car mechanic would need to follow. One wrong step and you’ll experience a pre-bearing failure. Even when you have a new set mounted, you’ll hear noises that’ll have you scratching your head in question.
For such a crucial and meticulous-involving process from its installation, removal, and replacement, it is best to have someone that is an expert or knowledgeable in the field of auto mechanics to ensure its functionality.
Although it can be quite costly, the mere fact that it can affect your car’s performance and other parts can be a hefty expenditure when left unrepaired.