While having your vehicle inspected, it is important to not forget about the wheel bearings. The wheel bearings perform two important jobs for your vehicle’s suspension. It allows the wheels to rotate with minimal friction as well as supporting the vehicle’s weight. In order to both of these jobs, the bearings must be in near perfect condition and the seals must also be leak free. This way they can keep the lubricant inside the bearings and contaminants out. Once a seal begins to leak, the bearings could be in trouble. A damaged grease seal can allow grease to leak out of the bearings and dirt and water can enter the bearing cavity. Water is the worst thing for bearings because it can cause it to rust and contaminates the grease. It is always important to go to your regularly scheduled maintenance tune-ups so if there is an issue with the bearings, they can be repaired or replaced before something more serious becomes a problem.

What are wheel bearings?

A wheel bearing is a set of steel balls held together by a metal ring that help your wheels spin with very little friction. The most common problem with bearings occurs when the seals start to leak. If your car has anti-lock brakes, the ABS warning light coming on could also indicate a problem with the wheel bearings and should be taken in as soon as possible so you can avoid another issue, and a more costly bill.

Why you need to inspect them

You should always be sure to inspect the wheel bearings, or to have them checked during routine service. If a wheel bearing fails, it can be dangerous for yourself as well as others on the road. In a worse case, it may cause the wheel to separate from the vehicle or cause a loss of steering control. Usually it is not an immediate threat when your bearing begins to make noise, but you should try and get your vehicle in as soon as possible so that the bearing can be evaluated.

Signs a wheel bearing is going out

You can notice if your wheel bearing is going out based on the noise it makes. The noise will gradually become louder with time and speed. The noise will be very faint at first and a few weeks or miles later it will be very noticeable. The noises can be squealing, chirping, or a grinding noise. These are most noticeable around the wheels while you are in motion. The grinding noise is most noticeable while you are turning or in a turn. Also, if you have noticed your vehicle’s steering tends to wander when you are not keeping a firm grip on the steering wheel, you may want to have the bearings checked out. The vehicle can also pull to one side or the other when you break. Anytime your vehicle moves or pulls to one side, you should make note of what you were doing when it happened, and make an appointment to get your vehicle in as soon as possible. Regular service intervals are an excellent way to make sure your vehicle’s wheel bearings and other important components are in proper working condition.