Have you ever stopped to think how a wheel can spin at high speed when it is essentially fixed to a static hub? You can attribute much of this magic to the humble wheel bearing, one of the most important components of your car or truck. Unfortunately, these bearings are under considerable pressure for long periods of time when your vehicle is in motion, and it may be no surprise that they can eventually wear down. But how do you know if you have a problem with one of your bearings, and what should you do next?
The Mighty Wheel Bearing
A wheel bearing is a small device that is no bigger than a standard doughnut. It has an outer casing or metal ring called a race, and inside are a large number of tiny steel balls (or bearings). This self-contained device will sit inside a hub that is attached to the suspension and steering geometry on each corner of the vehicle. The wheel is then mounted on top of the hub, and the bearings will activate as it turns. This will markedly reduce the friction and allow the wheel to spin.
The manufacturer will put plenty of lubrication inside the bearing race to allow the tiny balls to do their job. Further, the entire device is well protected from any dirt, debris or water. Believe it or not, these bearings need to carry the entire weight of the vehicle while you are driving and put up with lateral forces when you turn as well as those rough roads and potholes. It's little wonder that they will eventually break down and may need to be serviced.
Signs of an Issue
A tell-tale noise is one of the first signs of a bad wheel bearing. You may notice a distinct click, which is cyclical and may happen once during each wheel revolution. This may become even more pronounced when you turn the wheel in a certain direction and based on which wheel bearing is at fault.
Sometimes, the vehicle will pull to one side, or you may notice that the car generally feels "loose" when you're driving. All of these issues could indicate that a wheel bearing is on its way out, and you need to take action.
What You Should Do
Typically, a mechanic will replace the wheel bearing rather than try and service it. However, they need special tools to pull the bearing away from the hub and replace it carefully. So, if your vehicle is in need of attention and may require a new bearing or two, get in touch with a mechanic today.