You already know that your car cannot function safely or properly without good, sturdy wheels. What you may not know is that the wheel is far from a simple component. Actually, there is a lot of complexity that goes into the design of a wheel, and several components that must all be integrated together.
A good example of this is the wheel bearing. Wheel bearings are critical for your wheels to work together—specifically, for the hub, tire, and assemblies to work harmoniously. The wheel bearing provides friction-free movement and rotation of the hub assembly, which in turn lets the tire and wheel rotate smoothly.
As with most automotive components, the wheel bearing can eventually give way to wear and tear, and may even need to be replaced. How will you know when it’s time to get your wheel bearing looked at by an automotive professional? Pay attention to some of the key warning signs of a bad wheel bearing.
How to Tell When Your Wheel Bearing Goes Bad
Here are just a few things to keep in mind:
- First and foremost, listen up! The most common and most easily identifiable symptom of a bad wheel bearing is an audible one. If you notice a grinding or grating noise coming from your wheel or tire, take note that this is very likely caused by a bad wheel bearing—especially if that noise gets louder as the vehicle accelerates.
- Another tell-tale sign of bad wheel bearings: A car that feels loose as you drive it. Looseness can be difficult to convey, but basically it refers to steering your car and finding that it seems less responsive or less precise than usual. Loose steering is not always due to a problem with the wheel bearings, but it very often can be. Sometimes the wheel bearings can become worn down, which causes them to become loose within your wheel assembly.
- A related phenomenon is pulling. When you drive, does the car go where you tell it to or does it seem like it has a mind of its own, veering in a particular direction? Again, this is not always because of a problem with the wheel bearing, but that can certainly be a culprit.
- Finally, pay attention to your tires. Rotating your tires regularly can help prevent wear—but if you find that you have extremely uneven wear, you may want to have the wheel bearings looked at.
A Bad Wheel Bearing is a Serious Problem
In short: A problem with the wheel bearings can compromise the smoothness of your ride and the longevity of your tires, but more than that, it can cause real safety concerns. As such, it is important to have wheel bearings inspected at the first sign of trouble.
Don’t take this oft-ignored auto component for granted. Be attuned to these warning signs. At the first sign of trouble, take the vehicle in to have the wheel bearings inspected by a pro.