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Detecting Wear and Other Vital Upkeep Practices for Wheel Bearings

It goes without saying that maintenance is essential for the optimal function of machinery, such as a car. However, to be as beneficial as possible, it is imperative to fully understand the nature of its different relevant parts as well as their contribution to the proper working order.

For instance, the primary function of a vehicle’s wheel bearings is to create a friction-free movement for the entire wheel assembly, so the tire wheel rotates smoothly. You find them on a metal axle shaft that fits snugly in the hub, which is a hollow piece of metal placed at the center of the wheel.

When maintaining your vehicle, checking the condition of the wheel bearings before replacing your car brakes is part of the SOP. If the bearings are worn down, they should be replaced. This is because worn-out  bearings will not only fail soon, but they can damage the surrounding components and consequently compromise safety.

Signs of Wheel Bearing Wear

To determine how worn down your wheel bearings already are, a leading bearing manufacturing company has rounded up the following tell-tale signs to watch out for:

1. Breakage or Shoulder Dents

This often appears due to off-centered bearing mounting and improper handling.

2. Clacking Sounds

These noises are caused by the limited mobility of the stub axle housing carrying the wheel.

3. Faulty Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)

This is when the ABS light goes on and off erratically. It may often be the incorrect mounting of the bearing that is wearing it down.

4. Faulty Steering

When you can’t steer the wheel straight, it’s highly likely that the wheel bearing is damaged due to a tight mount.

4. Flaking

Rust creates chips and stains that thin the material of the bearing. This problem occurs because of a damaged oil seal (which causes water to leak) or when the wrong oil seal is used for mounting.

5. Overheating

This happens when the wheel bearings are damaged on the surface, and their components are welded together.

6. Scratches

Scratches are  stripes on the balls and inner ring tracks. These are caused by damaged grooves, or when the hub has not been appropriately placed.

7. Vibrations

If your car vibrates too much when driving and it wobbles severely when you pass through uneven surfaces, these are indicators of bearing wear and even damage.

How to Prevent Wheel Bearing Failure

To prevent the tell-tale signs listed above, it’s important to learn the best ways to maintain your wheel bearings. Heed the following tips:

1. Use clean tools and make sure you are in a clean environment when replacing your vehicle’s wheel bearings and other components.

Dirt can cause surface damage, and constant exposure to it will compromise the function of the bearings. Therefore, when you need to replace your car brakes and wheel bearings, make sure your surroundings are clean and that your tools have been wiped clean.

2. Use the right type of grease.

According to Machinery Lubrication Magazine, incorrect lubrication is the reason behind 50 percent of bearing failures that lead to equipment malfunction. So make sure to consult your automotive bearing suppliers about the right grease to use for excellent bearing performance.

3. Follow the mounting SOP.

Before replacing wheel bearings, do check the condition of the housing and axle. Any type of damage on them can compromise the quality and function of the wheel bearings.

Also, do not take a Hub Unit apart prior to mounting. Doing this will destroy not just the bearings, but the raceways and seals as well.

4. Avoid “set right” arrangements.

Bearings are created in a way that they will automatically have the correct clearance as the locking nut is tightened to the torque. Do not mess with this by setting the bearings “right.” This may only lead to damage or the fast wear and tear of the material.

5. If you have limited know-how on repair and replacement, find a highly experienced and licensed technician.

Do not risk permanently damaging your bearings with your trial-and-error process. Although bearings are made of high-quality materials, they are brittle and prone to damage. You need an experienced mechanic to handle the product and install it safely.

As small as bearings may be compared to the other components of a vehicle, the machinery simply cannot operate correctly if these are damaged. Hopefully, the information shared here can help you in ensuring that your vehicle is kept in top shape.


Hassanein Alwan is the Managing Director of Mineral Circles Bearings with more than 10 years’ experience in the bearing industry’s technical support division, sales and marketing, plus strategic business development consultancy.

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