row of wheel bearings

At Master Muffler, we love to figure out why your car might be making strange and unusual noises. For example, if you’ve recently heard a strange noise while driving, you may be experiencing wheel bearings malfunctioning.

What Are Ball Bearings?

The wheel bearings on your car are sets of steel balls or tapers held together by a metal ring. They enable the car’s wheels to rotate smoothly with minimal friction. These tiny but mighty car parts are designed to sustain the radial and axial loads caused by cornering, accelerating, and braking your vehicle. Because they’re vital to the driving experience, if you start seeing, hearing, or feeling problems with the ball bearings, it’s time to address the issue to prevent further damage down the line.

How Long Do Wheel Bearings Last?

Unlike tires or braking systems, wheel bearings have been engineered to last the vehicle’s lifespan. However, they can break down and become worn out before. It’s safe to say that most wheel bearings can easily last anywhere between 80,000 to 100,000 miles before they need replacement. Some vehicles have wheel bearings that may last longer, whereas other cars might need bearings changed out before that 100,000-mile mark. This all depends on the overall quality of the bearings and your driving conditions.

What Causes Wheel Bearing Malfunctions?

Knowing how to spot the signs of failing wheel bearings is essential for maintaining a safe vehicle. Here’s what you need to look out for:

  • Debris, Rust, and Water. Because they’re routinely exposed to dirt and water, wheel bearings can fail through contamination and corrosion. In a worst-case scenario, they can even collapse altogether. Usually, however, the first you’ll know about them is when they begin making noise.
  • Poor Driving Conditions. Although wheel bearings are meant to withstand harsh driving conditions, over time, speed bumps, rough roads, and potholes can all cause bearings to malfunction.

Is Something Wrong?

  • Uncommon noises while driving. A bad wheel bearing will produce audible noise while the vehicle is in motion. The most common noise is a grinding or roaring sound, sometimes accompanied by a whining or growling noise from the axle area. This occurs when one of the bearings has worn down enough that not all components are making contact anymore. Some of them rub against each other, which creates the grinding sound you can hear. It may be more noticeable when you take corners or accelerate.
  • Vibrations while driving. Pay attention to how your car feels when you’re picking up speed or turning a corner. If you feel vibrations are you do wither, this could be an indication that your car’s wheel bearings are worn out. 
  • Grinding. If your car has just become the sound or feeling of grinding, this could mean major damage to your wheel system. If the grinding can be heard or felt while the car is shifting between gears or turning, it’s time for a wheel bearing replacement.

Can and Should I Drive with Bad Wheel Bearings?

The shortest answer (and safest) we can give you is no. We don’t recommend driving a car with wheel bearings that are worn or are failing. Worn wheel bearings are a severe issue that can leave you with a wheel that no longer works while driving and can cause steering issues. Apart from the danger, this can cause to you and others on the road, it can also cause significant stress and damage to the rest of your car, like the CV joint and transmission.

We Can Fix That

If you’re concerned your car’s wheel bearings are on their way out, the team at Master Muffler Sandy can help. We’ll make sure your wheel bearings are performing as they should and have you back on the road in no time. Schedule an appointment today and leave those bad wheel bearings behind.

Categories: Tires

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