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Wheel bearings keep your wheels fixed to their axles, so your vehicle rolls down the road straight and true.



What are Wheel Bearings?

The wheels on your vehicle do not fit directly to the axles. Wheels and wheel hubs require bearings to roll smoothly on their axles. You’ll always find some type of bearing mounted between your wheel hubs and your axles.

How do Wheel Bearings Work?

Bearings create a smooth, regular surface between fixed and moving parts. The wheel on your vehicle spins at a high rate of speed, yet the axle must remain fixed in place, pivoting on the suspension components. Bearings allow the wheel to spin while the axle remains fixed.

Many domestic SUVs and trucks require front wheel bearing lubrication as a periodic maintenance item. It’s a good idea to lube the bearings every time you remove your truck’s wheels.

How are Wheel Bearings Made?

Wheel bearings are made from steel forgings that are machined to shape. Most bearings have two parts, the inner bearing set and the outer bearing race. The inner bearing contains small steel balls that ride on the outer race as the wheel, or other reciprocating part, turns. The race is mounted on the wheel hub, which often has the brake rotors attached.

Why do Wheel Bearings Fail?

  • A lack of lubrication creates friction and excess heat, which causes wheel bearings to fail.
  • Improper or crooked installation of the outer race produces excess friction and heat.
  • Under normal driving conditions, front wheel bearings last between 75,000 and 150,000 miles.
  • Rear wheel bearings in solid rear axles usually last the life of the vehicle because they operate in a bath of gear oil.

What are the Symptoms of Wheel Bearing Failure?

  • A worn wheel bearing often feels exactly like a flat tire from the driver’s seat.
  • Excessive vibration and noise at highway speeds.
  • Excessive play in the steering wheel at low speeds. If this symptom is present, do not operate the vehicle on roads or highways.
  • Your wheels should always be firmly attached to their axles. If there’s play in one of the vehicle’s wheels when it’s parked, worn wheel bearings may be the source of the problem.

What are the Implications Wheel Bearing Failure?

  • In extreme cases, the wheel hub may become detached from the axle, resulting in a rollover accident.
  • The vehicle may be inoperable due to extreme vibration coming from a worn wheel bearing. This often feels like one of your tires has gone flat while driving.

Although there are many different types of wheel bearings, they all share the same basic shape and function. Replacing them is only moderately difficult if you encounter stuck, stripped, or corroded fasteners or bearing parts along the way.

If you have questions or concerns about wheel bearings or any of your vehicle’s components, come into your local Pep Boys where we can answer any question, help you find any part, or perform any vehicle service you might need.