Automotive wheel bearings are a type of ball bearing that connects each of a car’s wheels to its corresponding axle shaft. They provide increased lubrication and minimum friction for your wheels as they spin.
Your car’s wheels are connected to its axles via tapered roller bearings known as wheel bearings, tapers, or tapered bearings. Each of these wheel bearings is held together by a metal ring and allows your car to maintain smooth rotation at different speeds and cornering forces—as well as under different radial and axial loads.
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What are wheel bearings?
Basically, a wheel bearing is a set of steel balls encased in a metal ring that allows the wheel to spin with minimum friction. This creates a smoother ride.
Wheel bearings are typically part of a larger joint assembly system called a constant velocity joint, or “cv joint” for short.
The cv joint allows your car to maintain stability and control while driving on uneven roads regardless of vehicle speed.
There’s a slight difference between front wheel bearings and rear wheel bearings in some car models—but it’s usually just a matter of one being larger than the other.
Why are wheel bearings important?
Wheel bearings are a critical part of your wheel hub assembly and ensure you can navigate uneven terrain, potholes, and other adverse driving conditions. The bearings connect the wheel to the wheel hub and support the weight of your car so that the wheels can turn freely. Without wheel bearings, pressure and friction would grind your car to a halt in a matter of seconds.
What are the symptoms of a bad wheel bearing?
In order to maximize the lifespan of your wheels and axles, it’s important to address any issues with your wheel bearings, bearing assembly, or the bearing’s connection to the drive-axle.
Of course, in order to do that, you’ll need to be able to recognize the signs of a failing wheel bearing.
Here are the most common symptoms of a bad wheel bearing:
- New or unusual noises coming from the wheels/suspension area. This is usually a grinding, rumbling, squealing, or humming noise. The noise will typically get harder to hear at higher speeds and will be most noticeable at lower vehicle speeds.
- Steering wheel vibration. If one of your wheels has a bad wheel bearing, it will typically cause the steering wheel and/or the affected wheel to vibrate more violently than normal—especially between speeds of 10 MPH and 30 MPH.
- Wheel shaking. Once you get past 30 MPH, the steering wheel vibration may become less pronounced, but you’ll likely notice the affected wheel start to wobble or shake violently—especially if the problem has progressed to a severe degree.
How much does a wheel bearing replacement cost?
When you suspect a bad or failing wheel bearing, you should get the issue addressed as soon as possible. Driving on a bad bearing can cause uneven tire wear or serious damage to the wheel assembly—not to mention, it’s dangerous!
Having a new wheel bearing installed will usually cost between $200 and $800—that includes $100-600 for the parts and $100-200 for the labor. A wheel bearing replacement typically takes about 1-2 hours, depending on how experienced the mechanic is.
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