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How long does a wheel bearing last?

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Wheel bearings are easy maintenance components however, this doesn’t mean that they will last for ever. What exactly does the wheel bearing actually perform? How long will it last? What can you do to prolong its life?

What is a bearing? What is it used for in an automobile?

The wheel bearing a vital component of the wheel which connects the wheel with the axle. It’s a set made comprising steel balls (ball bearings) or tapers (tapered bearings) that are joined with a metal ring. This allows the wheel to move effortlessly with minimal friction. Wheel bearings are critical safety components designed to endure both axial and radial forces induced by acceleration, gravitation and breaking forces and therefore, they must be repaired when they fail to work in a proper manner.

How long will the wheel bearings last?

Wheel bearings are able to last an average life span of 136,000-160,000 kilometers (approximately 85,000-100,000 miles). It is just a general guideline, however the actual life span of the wheel bearing will depend on the condition that the bearing is made of as well as its operating environment.

What causes wheel bearings to fail?

The most common reasons why wheel bearings fail is:

Incorrect installation or the use of tools like a hammer or impact wrench may create damage on the outside or the inside of the wheel end bearing, causing that the bearing in question to break early. Additionally, using old components like nuts, bolts and circlips, split pins seals ,… instead of replacing the old ones with new ones may result in the wheel’s end bearing to run in unsafe or abnormal conditions, causing more wear on the bearings at the wheel’s edge and the risk of an automobile accident.

Damage from impact or poor road quality – any impact from hitting potholes or speed bump or hitting the curbstone could harm a bearing on a wheel and shorten its lifespan.

Poor quality wheel bearings – the wheel bearing is constantly under a lot of pressure. Wheel bearings made of poor quality materials could have poor heat treatment that can cause premature wear and eventual failure.

Conditions of driving – driving through deep mud or water can cause the wheel bearings to fail. Water, mud , or other pollutants like road salt or dust could pass through the seals and get into the bearing, contaminating the grease and damaging the bearings.

Car modifications such as fitting larger or larger rims, tires that have lower thread walls, and stiffer shock absorbers, and suspension springs can cause more stress on the bearings of the wheel and may cause wear to increase. Keep the rims, tires springs and absorbers that have been recommended by the manufacturer of the car to limit the effect on the lifespan that the bearings on your wheel last.

What are the signs of a worn-out Alko wheel bearing?

The signs of a damaged wheel bearings can be seen in:

A rumbling, humming, or growling sound that gets louder when you accelerate or the vehicle is turned.
A continuous, constant whining or grinding sound that occurs while the vehicle is moving.
Noises of clunkiness when driving on rough road surfaces.
Insufficient play, looseness in the wheel (vague steering);
The steering wheel’s vibration is influenced by the speed of the vehicle or as the vehicle spins;
ABS malfunctioning. ABS system problems could be caused by a malfunction in the ABS sensor that is embedded in the wheel’s bearing at the end.

What are the potential risks of driving on roads with faulty wheel bearings?

It’s extremely rare that wheel bearings fail in a single instance and then completely after you have noticed the first symptom(s).

However it’s best to stay clear of driving with worn-out wheel bearings for any period of time. As we’ve previously seen that this wheel bearing will be crucial for connecting your vehicle’s wheels to your vehicle and any weak spot in this connection can have serious consequences for your drive axle and steering mechanism and also to ensure your safety.

Removing the wheel bearings

Even though contemporary wheel bearings have become simpler to install than the previous generation proper installation, proper use of tools, and observing the stipulated torque specifications are essential to ensure maximum performance, durability , and security. Therefore, we suggest having your wheel bearings replaced by a qualified mechanic who is skilled and has the equipment to complete the task.