Imagine this: you’re driving down the 405, obeying traffic laws, making an effort to drive as safely as you can, when suddenly your wheel falls off. This is a bit of a dramatic example but it just helps to image what could happen if you ignore the signs of bad wheel bearings.
To understand why the problem is so serious, first we must know what a wheel bearing is. A wheel bearing is a set of steel balls held together by a metal ring called a race. They help your vehicle’s wheels spin fast with as little friction as possible. On cars, the wheel bearing rides on a metal axle shaft and fits tightly inside the hub, which is the part that holds the lug bolts used to bolt each wheel onto your car.
When the seal on your wheel bearing is damaged, it will start to make a noise. This noise will start out very faint and become louder over time. It may sound like your tires are louder than normal, like when you drive over a rough surface. If you notice that it is louder when you are turning, it may mean that the wheel bearing on only one side is damaged.
Most wheel bearings are made of hardened steel, and are very durable. Their two worst enemies are heat and water. These can destroy a wheel bearing, especially once the seal is broken. Seals protect the bearings from water and debris and seal in the high-temperature grease that lubricates the bearing, but a wheel bearing will start disintegrating quickly once the seal is broken and begin to make noise.
Wheel bearings do not fail immediately, and usually once you notice a sound it is still safe to drive your vehicle to the shop to have it replaced. However, if neglected for long enough, a wheel bearing could fail completely and lock up the wheel it serves, leading to loss of control, or even your wheel falling off completely.
If you suspect that your wheel bearings are beginning to fail, come in to Orozco’s Auto Service in Long Beach today and let our ASE certified mechanics take a look at it. Orozco’s – service you can trust.