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Last Updated on July 5, 2022 by John Robinson
Maintaining your vehicle can probably be more challenging than driving them. Anyone can learn how to drive by practicing and observing how others do it, but knowing the vehicle’s mechanism and inner function is another concern.
As hard as it can be to study its complex designs, the responsibility of your vehicle generally falls into your hands. That said, it is crucial that you are familiar with what goes on and happens with your car. Otherwise, you might get caught in an accident once you hit the road. And one of the best places to start is your wheel bearings.
What Are Wheel Bearings?
As the name implies, wheel bearings are found on the vehicle’s wheels. Although round, your wheels can’t keep going around and around without anything securing them in place. That’s where the hub assembly comes in.
Located between the discs and drive axle, the hub assembly ensures your vehicle stops on command. Each wheel is bolted to a hub assembly of its own, and found at the center of these hub assemblies are wheel bearings. They’re tasked to keep your driving performance as smooth as possible.
Wheel bearings come in different shapes, including ball bearings, straight roller bearings, and tapered roller bearings. Given their spherical shape, ball bearings can spin in any direction, causing them to only handle the lightest weight. Skateboards or household devices typically use this wheel bearing, but you can find more here.
As for straight roller bearings, they can handle heavier loads than ball bearings. However, they can’t handle much stress. Furthermore, tapered roller bearings come in a cylindrical shape and are tapered to one side. It enables them to handle anything heavy, be it weight, pressure, or shock.
When You Need To Replace Your Wheel Bearings
Like the rest of your car parts, you may also find your wheel bearings needing replacement. After all, considering their position in the vehicle assembly, it’s safe to say they’re vulnerable from where they are on the wheel. Because of this, they’re open to all sorts of elements that can affect the wheel bearings’ integrity. But before that happens, you need to know which signs point toward replacement. Here are some of them:
1. Whining Noise
Perhaps one of the things an optimized vehicle is supposed to do is run quietly. Considering the quantity of liquid it demands, it should be enough to ensure a smooth drive as soon as you hit the road until you get to where you need to go. Responsible drivers are tasked to check on their vehicle’s liquid intake regularly. But even if you’re faithful in fulfilling this task, you might still encounter a situation where your vehicle is making a noise while you drive. Thus, if lack of liquid intake isn’t the problem, you most likely have a problem with your wheel bearings.
Unfortunately, no specific noise can help you identify whether or not it’s the wheel bearing’s fault. When you move forward or turn, you might hear growling or rumbling. However, there might be times when the noise is more of a constant whine.
2. Uneven Movement
Since wheel bearing is an essential part of the wheel, it can easily compromise how the vehicle performs. As previously stated, it’s right at the center of the wheel hub assembly, and any change in shape or condition of the wheel bearing can leave your wheel running unevenly. From there, a chain reaction could occur.
Due to how uneven the wheels run, the tires can also receive inconsistent weight distribution. Once that happens, it could be easier to wear them out. As a result, you’ll have faulty wheel bearings and a bad tire. Although, before you jump to conclusions, ensure that no other components are behind your uneven driving.
3. Difficulty Steering
Having a worn-down wheel bearing may not be as obvious as a flat tire. As such, it might be challenging to point out if something’s wrong with it. However, as time passes and your wheel bearing stays on, it might target your steering. When it comes to wheel bearing problems, you’re looking at two steering problems: loose steering and steering wheel vibrations.
Loose steering occurs when you are not able to control your steering wheel when driving. It can also be possible that you’re not moving your steering wheel, yet the vehicle is still veering off course. Naturally, this can be a disaster in the middle of a highway or driving across frost-covered roads.
As for steering wheel vibrations, this can pertain to the vibrations you might feel coming from the steering wheel when driving. Since your vehicle is supposed to run smoothly, these vibrations can be a source of concern, especially if they get stronger the faster you drive.
4. Misleading Warnings
Whatever vehicle you’re operating, getting rid of risks on the road may be impossible. Therefore, manufacturers designed safety measures for the driver and everyone around them. One of these safety measures is the anti-lock braking system (ABS).
The ABS prevents your vehicle from locking up after stopping unceremoniously using sensors. Despite how excellent your brakes are, the extreme heat from braking can heat the hub assembly until the grease from the wheel bearings dries off. Therefore, it could trigger a great deal of vibration, and activates the wheel speed sensor, leaving you veering or skidding.
Regardless of their size, wheel bearings are essential for ensuring your vehicle continues running smoothly. Therefore, it is best to be familiar with them, just like with the rest of the parts of your vehicle.
Howdy! I’m John Robinson from Levittown, New York. I am a mechanical engineer for 15 years and already had an established car repair company. I developed a personal relationship with cars since I was a kid. I always love the sounds and smell emitted by a car or truck and even at construction machinery. Since then I have been married but my love for cars only grew.