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Many vehicle owners don’t bother to learn how to change wheel bearings on a car until the wheel starts producing noise. Did you know that you should change them after covering a distance of 30,000 miles? Here is more on what you need to know about  bearings.

How to Change Wheel Bearings On a Car

What is a wheel bearing? 

This is an important question when how to change wheel bearings on a car.

A wheel bearing is a critical part of wheel development which links the wheel and the axle. It comprises a collection of steel balls, also known as ball bearings, tapered bearings or tapers. A metal ring that facilitates smooth rotation with less friction secures the ball bearings together. 

Wheel bearings are safety oriented elements that are specially designed to withstand axial and radial loads resulting from gravitation, cornering and braking forces, and acceleration. Wheel bearing replacement should be done immediately a driver notices irregularities. 

How long does a wheel bearing last?

Often, wheel bearings come with an average lifespan of between 136,000 to 160,000 kilometers. This can be translated to be between 85,000 to 100,000 miles. It’s worth mentioning that the real lifespan of a wheel bearing depends on its quality and state of operations. 

Why do wheel bearings develop problems?

You might need help on how to change wheel bearings on a car due to the following…

Incorrect installation

The use of improper tools when installing a wheel bearing can damage the interior or exterior of the wheel’s end bearing. Some of the tools you should avoid include an impact wrench or a heavy hammer. 

When this happens, your wheel bearing is highly likely to fail. Further, you want to avoid reusing old accessories such as nuts, bolts, seals, and split pins. Doing so exposes your wheel end bearing to unsafe working conditions. This increases wear, and places your car at a high risk of causing accidents. 

Poor quality roads and impact damage

Driving along poor potholed roads and hitting speed bumps causes impact which can damage your wheel bearings and minimize its lifespan. Further, driving through mud or deep water can result in wheel bearing failure. Watch out for other contaminants such as road salt and dust. These can penetrate the seals and infiltrate the bearings which can contaminate and damage them.

Poor Quality Bearing

A wheel bearing is often under tremendous pressure repeatedly and should be made of high-quality materials that can withstand. Low-quality materials often have inadequate heat treatment which can result in untimely wear, tear, and failure. 

Car Modifications

Before you can fit in low thread walled tires or massive and wide rims, suspension springs, or stiffer shock absorbers, you need to understand that these put pressure on the wheel bearings which can increase wear. Always choose specially designed accessories for your specific car model. 

How to change wheel bearings on a car

Here is an easy step by step general guide on how to change wheel bearings. Remember, the process may vary depending on the vehicle model. Remember, wheel bearings are a crucial part of your vehicle wheels. You should ensure they are working effectively to maximize your driving experience. 

Make Prior Preparations

When learning how to change wheel bearings on a car, you want to park your vehicle on level ground and activate the parking brake. Check your new wheel bearings to ensure they are suitable for your vehicle make and model. Ensure you have all the other tools you will need to execute the process. 

Some of the tools you may need include a hammer, car jack, rubber mallet, chisel, socket wrench, screwdriver, and rags. Always wear good quality gloves to protect your hands and fingers from grease. 

Secure the Rest of the Wheels

Before you can start working on the wheel with the faulty bearings you need to secure the rest of your wheels. To achieve this with ease when changing the front wheel, place wheel chunks against the rear end wheels. Place the chunks against the front wheel when changing the rear wheels. 

Elevate the Wheel

Use a jack to lift the wheel that you will be working on off the ground. This process is similar to what happens when you are changing a tire. Many vehicles come complete with a jack. If you don’t have one, however, you can easily buy one from an auto parts store in your locality. 

Position the jack on a strong metal part at the bottom of your vehicle’s undercarriage. This is necessary to prevent damage to the delicate plastic parts of your car. 

Remove the Wheel

Unscrew the lug nuts of the wheel and keep them in a safe place to avoid losing them. Now you can lift and remove the wheel. 

Discharge the Caliper

Once you’ve removed the wheel, look for the brake caliper and use a socket and ratchet to loosen and remove the bolts that secure the caliper in place. Use a screwdriver to remove the caliper and fix it on your vehicle’s undercarriage. Remember, leaving it hanging can damage the brake hose. 

Uncover the Rotor

Once you’ve removed the brake caliper, you’ll be able to see the rotor. Take out the plastic dust cover. This will give you easy access to the elements that fasten the rotor in place. While you may need a hammer to execute this step, you want to be as gentle as possible to avoid causing more damage. 

Now remove the cotter pin using pliers. Proceed to unscrew and take out the castle nut and washer. Remember to keep all your small parts in a secure place where you can easily pick them at a later stage. 

Remove the Rotor

After completing these steps, you will be able to discharge the outer covering of the wheel. Apply some pressure to ease the process and proceed to lift the rotor out of the vehicle. This process is slightly complicated and you may need to use a rubber mallet to tap and loosen it if it gets stuck. If you have to use a mallet, do it gently to avoid worsening the situation. 

Take out the Hub

This step involves removing the hub which is the part that holds the wheel bearings. Do this by unscrewing the bolts that hold the hub in place. These are located under the car. Executing this step successfully can be an arduous task and this is where you will need a slim socket wrench. This tool will help you reach and loosen the bolts. After removing the bolts, proceed to remove the hub from the axle. 

Open the Hub 

Assuming you have a new wheel bearing hub, all you’ll need is to insert it at this step and reassemble the wheel. If you only bought the bearings, however, you’ll have to dismount the hub. 

Use a wrench or hammer to remove the end piece. Have a specially designed tool to facilitate the removal of the bolt located in the middle. With the bolt out, you will be in a position to dismantle the hub with minimal struggle. 

Take out the Races

In this step, you will need to remove the races at the interior part of the bearing assembly. Executing this is also an arduous task and you will need to apply a lot of force to break them. A chisel and hammer can ease the process but you need to be gentle and careful to avoid causing damage. After removing the old race, clean the area thoroughly using rags to wipe off accumulated grease.

Install New Wheel Bearings

You can now proceed with the installation of new wheel bearings. To perform this, lubricate and fit in the new bearing sets. Place the new races along the area where you removed the old ones. 

Knock them in place using a hammer and ensure that they are properly aligned, and that they’re at a suitable depth. Spread a lot of grease to enhance lubrication and ensure that everything is functioning accordingly. Test the wheel to ensure it can easily turn with less friction. Sufficient lubrication helps keep the new wheel bearings in great condition. 

Reassemble the Wheel

With the process of changing the wheel bearings complete, your next task will be reassembling the wheel. Remember, you’ll need to install a new exterior bearing once the rotor is in place. Remodel the hub assembly and place it back to the axle shaft. 

Restore the rotor and fasten it in place using its bolts. Proceed to fit in a new sufficiently greased exterior bearing. Tighten the castle nut lightly and fasten it in place using a new cotter pin. 

Change the dust cap, place the caliber and brake pads in place, and fasten them using the suitable bolts. Restore the tire and fasten it using lug nuts. When this task is completed, lower your car to the ground with the help of the car jack. At this point, you’ve completed the wheel bearing replacement process. 

How can you tell a Wheel Bearing is bad?

There are many types of wheel bearings in the market today with ball bearings being the most common. Roller bearings are also popularly used but they aren’t as versatile. Other types include; precision ball bearings which are specially structured for extreme radial loads and tapered roller bearings which are often used in trucks. 

Regardless of the wheel bearing, you have in your car; you will get the same warning sound when there’s a fault. Here is how to identify possible problems.

Listen

Listening is a crucial skill when learning how to change wheel bearings on a car.

One of the most common signs of a faulty wheel bearing is a strange noise. If you can hear a grating or grinding noise emanating from your tire, it could be due to a bad wheel bearing. Take note of noise that keeps on increasing with every acceleration the car makes. 

A Loose Car

Discovering looseness in your car can be a difficult task. If your vehicle seems less precise and less responsive upon steering, a bad wheel bearing may be to blame. It’s worth mentioning, however, that not every loose steering moment results from a faulty wheel bearing. Worn out wheel bearings can also trigger looseness along with the wheel assembly. 

Pulling

If your car keeps on veering off towards a specific direction, it could be because of a bad bearing. However, this could also be due to other reasons. Always monitor your tires and rotate them often to prevent wear. If you notice uneven wear, you may want to have your wheel bearings inspected by a professional mechanic. 

Can you drive a car with a bad wheel bearing? 

Never attempt to drive your car with a bad wheel bearing. Doing so endangers your life and that of other road users. Contact your mechanic if you notice that one of your wheel bearings is about to fall off or is missing. 

Remember, the wheel bearing is a critical part that secures the wheel in your car. Driving without it exposes you to the risk of causing accidents. Replace a bad wheel bearing as soon as possible to be on the safe side. 

How much does it cost to replace a wheel bearing? 

The make and model of your vehicle determine the amount of money you will spend to replace your wheel bearings. Other factors include: where you buy them and the mechanic you choose to execute the fitting process. 

On average, the cost of wheel bearings falls between $100 and $300 but there are more expensive models on the market too. This is the total amount you can expect to spend assuming you have your own tools and can fit in the wheel bearings on your own. If you’ll need to call in a mechanic to execute the process however, you’ll need to pay labor cost which can be between $150 and $200 for 2 hours. 

Can you replace just one wheel bearing? 

Yes. If only one of your vehicle’s wheel bearings is bad, you’ll only need to change that particular bearing. You don’t have to change a non-faulty wheel bearing as a matter of taking precautions. Remember, replacing a wheel bearing can be costly and you may want to wait until it shows signs of wear. 

During the replacement process, inspect your brake pads to establish whether they are worn out. Where necessary, you may want to replace them when you’re changing the wheel bearing. This will not only save time, but it can also be cost-effective. 

How long does it take to change a wheel bearing?

Experienced mechanics can change a wheel bearing within a short time. Still, many parts need to be removed before gaining access to the hub. Some of them will need chiseling and hammering as we’ve seen before. 

The process also involves lots of cleaning to remove accumulated grease. If you’re conducting the replacement process for the first time, exercise caution to ensure everything is completed appropriately. Keep all the small parts well to avoid losing them. Be careful too to avoid causing more damage to other parts. 

The average time you need to complete the process successfully is approximately 2 hours. Beginners may need more time. Remember, the changing time depends on the vehicle make and model. For instance, if you’re changing a rear axle wheel bearing on a 4WD vehicle, the process will take longer compared to what you will need to change the front wheel bearing. 

Where can I purchase wheel bearings?

Wheel bearings are easy to find from various online suppliers or your nearest auto supply store. Before you can proceed with the purchasing process, ensure you are buying the right size for your vehicle make and model. 

Further, you need to establish whether or not they are designed for the front or rear wheels. To ease the task, buy the entire wheel bearing hub. With this, you will only need to switch the old hub with the new one without dismantling the old one. However, this option can be costly. 

Factors to consider when purchasing or replacing wheel bearings

There are various factors you should consider before purchasing a wheel bearing for your car. 

Durability

Wheel bearings come with an average lifespan of between 85,000 and 100,000 miles. As we’ve mentioned above, however, the brand type, manufacturer, and material quality can determine this. 

A poor installation process can also affect the lifespan of your wheel bearing. Choose your bearing cautiously and have it fitted by a professionally qualified mechanic. This will prolong its life span. 

 Authenticity

Fake products have flooded the market and you want to be on the lookout. Check the authenticity of your supplier before you can proceed with the purchasing process. This will come in handy to guarantee you a well functioning wheel bearing. 

If you choose to purchase your bearing online, check customer reviews to get a feel of what to expect. Do your due diligence as well and only buy from reliable, established, and well known online suppliers. 

Now you know how to change wheel bearings on a car

The wheel bearings you purchase for your vehicle are critical in determining its performance. They facilitate the proper spinning of the hubs and eliminate any friction during movement. Avoid purchasing poor quality bearings as they can loosen the steering and wheels. Great quality bearings, on the other hand, offer a smooth ride. Research extensively and read online reviews before determining what best suits your needs. 

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