Do you know what your car’s wheel bearings do? Did you even know that your car had wheel bearings? These parts are small, but they perform an extremely important function in keeping your wheels turning with ease so that your car continues to roll down the road for years to come.
Wheel bearings do eventually wear out and need replacement. Often, you can recognize the symptoms of a bad wheel bearing before it completely fails. Catching it early can prevent further damage to your steering components, suspension system, or wheels and tires. If you need a wheel bearing replaced, keep reading to better understand what these parts do and how much it’s going to cost you.
What Is A Wheel Bearing?
A wheel bearing is a metal ring that contains a set of ball bearings that helps your wheel spin with as little friction as possible. Bearings are used in many different applications, and they always act to help reduce friction. The ball bearings contained in your wheel bearing are usually made of steel, and the wheel bearing itself can come in different shapes and sizes.
The typical wheel bearing is round with round ball bearings inside. However, modern vehicles often utilize different kinds of wheel bearings so that they can better withstand the constant pressures of driving. We will discuss the different kinds of wheel bearings later in this article. Knowing what type of bearing your car has is essential to getting a better estimate of the cost associated with replacement.
How Can You Tell If A Wheel Bearing Has Gone Bad?
Wheel bearings are designed to last for many years. It is not uncommon for a wheel bearing to last for 100,000 miles or more. So, this is not a repair that you will need to perform often. However, knowing the signs of a problematic wheel bearing can help you avoid further damage to your car. Here are some of the common signs of a problem.
Grinding or Scraping Sound
Remember that a wheel bearing’s main job is to reduce the amount of friction so that your wheel spins easily. So, when a wheel bearing begins to fail, more friction is produced. You can often hear it when this happens as friction and heat start to build up inside the wheel bearing assembly. Wheel bearing noise is almost always a dead giveaway.
If you notice a noise that sounds like metal scraping or rubbing together coming from one of your tires, this could signal a problem with your wheel bearing. Bearings usually fail at different times, so if you notice this from only one of your wheels, that is even more of a sign that a wheel bearing is to blame. A loud grinding noise from one tire is always a good indicator of a wheel bearing issue.
Your Car Pulls To One Side
This symptom can also point to other problems like a bad wheel alignment or warped brake rotors, but it is also possible that a wheel bearing is the root cause of the problem. When a wheel bearing wears out, it causes excess wobble and movement of the tire. This movement can cause your car to pull to one side or the other.
If your vehicle pulls to one side, then have a mechanic check things out. It might be as simple as getting your alignment corrected, but it could also mean that you have a worn bearing.
Tires Wearing Unevenly
In a perfect world, your tires should all wear evenly and need replacement at the same time. They are, after all, traveling the same distance together. If you notice that one of your tires has less tread than the others or the tread on one side of a tire is wearing quicker than the other side of the same tire, you should have your wheel bearings checked.
If your wheel bearing is bad, it may cause your wheel to lean slightly while driving. This slight lean will quickly wear one side of the tire faster than the other side. Excess wobble in a tire may also cause uneven tire wear. This is something that is easy to check, so always keep an eye on your tires!
Steering Wheel Vibration
Pay attention to your steering wheel as you drive your car down the road. It should be smooth and fairly effortless as you drive along. If you notice your wheel wobbling or vibrating, then you should have things checked out by a repair shop. A vibrating steering wheel likely points to a tire out of balance or a wheel bearing that needs replacement.
Excess Movement or Play In Your Wheels
This symptom is a little harder for the average person to diagnose. First, it requires your car to be off the ground so that you can attempt to shake or jiggle your wheel. So, you’ll need a hydraulic jack or a lift to raise the wheels off the ground.
Once the wheel is off the ground, attempt to wiggle it from side to side or back and forth. There should be almost no play at all in your wheel, so it shouldn’t move side to side when you push on it. If it does have excess play, then that wheel bearing has probably failed and will need replacing.
Now that you know the most common bad wheel bearing symptoms, you can be on the lookout for problems. While they do not go bad often, bearings wear out eventually. Knowing what to listen and look for can help you catch it early so that it does not turn into a huge auto repair.
Wheel Bearing Replacement Cost – What Kind Of Wheel Bearings Do You Have?
Knowing what kind of wheel bearings you have can help you put a better estimate on your car repair costs. The type you have usually depends on the car make and model. Both the cost of parts and labor costs will be affected by the type of bearings in your vehicle.
There are four most common types of wheel bearings:
- Ball Bearings
- Precision Ball Bearings
- Roller Bearings
- Tapered Roller Bearings
Each of these types have pros and cons. Ball bearings are the most basic type, and they are also the most common. They work well in a variety of applications, and they are able to handle weight and cornering pressure well. These are one of the most versatile types of wheel bearings.
Precision ball bearings work extremely well for reducing friction and heat, so they are often used in high performance applications such as racecars and airplane wheels. Roller bearings work well for handling weight, but not so much for cornering pressure. They are not quite as versatile as ball bearings.
Finally, tapered roller bearings are used in many car and truck wheels. These have a tapered shape which allows them to handle weight well while also still having great cornering pressure ability.
The cost to replace your bearings will depend on what type you have, whether you need to replace the front or rear wheel bearings, and how many bearings you need to replace. Let’s take it one step at a time.
Front Wheel Bearings
If you have a front wheel drive vehicle, then these bearings are usually more expensive to replace than the rear bearings. The fronts will be connected to the steering knuckle and drive axle of your vehicle. This requires more time and labor to replace the part. In most cases, the entire hub assembly will need replacement, unless you have a serviceable hub assembly – which allows for removal and replacement of just the bearing.
The brake calipers and rotors will need to be removed to access the wheel hub so that the bearing can be removed. Upon replacement, it is packed with grease to provide lubrication and help keep out water and moisture. If the wheel hub does not come apart, then it is already sealed to keep out water.
The average cost to replace both front wheel bearings is $250 to $500. Roughly 40% of that cost is for the parts, and the remaining 60% is labor.
Rear Wheel Bearings
Replacing the rear hub bearings is often slightly cheaper than the fronts, although it again depends on your specific make and model of vehicle. To replace both rear bearings, you can expect to pay somewhere around $200 – $400 for both parts and labor.
In the unlikely event that you have bad front & rear wheel bearings, you will be looking at a fairly costly repair. Replacing all 4 bearings is likely to have a total cost around $1,000. Most of the time, this is not a repair that will be covered by warranty, as it has usually expired well before these parts fail.
If you don’t have this kind of money laying around for a car repair, then consider selling your vehicle to Auto Wranglers. We will make you an instant cash offer on your car, and you could have money in your pocket within a day or two. We always provide free towing and pickup, and you can use that cash to buy a car that doesn’t need any parts replaced!
Can You Drive With A Bad Wheel Bearing?
It is not a good idea at all to drive with a bad wheel bearing. Driving your car in this condition will lead to further damage of your vehicle. You will be generating lots of excess heat, and this can damage your brake rotors and pads. If that happens, you will then be paying for brake pad replacement too! When your wheel wobbles too much, it can also damage your axle and/or wheel.
You should have a professional mechanic inspect your vehicle immediately to avoid further damage. While it is possible to replace your own wheel bearing, most car owners simply do not have the know-how required to perform this job. If you don’t have the money to pay an auto repair shop, then give Auto Wranglers a call. We pay cash for cars all over the country, and we would love to buy yours too. Put this extra money toward a new vehicle that does not have those issues!
How Often Should You Replace Your Wheel Bearings
Typically, wheel bearings only need replacement when they experience a problem. These parts are usually not replaced on a preventative maintenance schedule. Be on the lookout for the symptoms of bad front or rear wheel bearings so that you know when to have your car inspected by a mechanic. If you catch it early, then the repair will be manageable. However, if it goes too far and damages other parts, you might be better off selling your car to Auto Wranglers than trying to pay for it all.
Whether you have a Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, or Chevrolet Silverado, your vehicle has wheel bearings that will eventually wear out. Thankfully, these parts usually last for many years, so you do not have to worry about this repair often. You can expect to pay a couple hundred dollars to replace a single bearing and up to $1,000 or more to replace all four. If you don’t have that kind of cash available, then contact Auto Wranglers to sell your car for cash so that you will have the money to buy a vehicle that has no issues.