What is a wheel bearing?

A wheel bearing is a set of steel ball bearings that are held together by a metal ring that allows the wheels of a car to spin with as little friction as possible.

Each wheel on your vehicle has its own wheel bearing, and problems could start with any one of them.

What are the symptoms of a bad wheel bearing?

Some of the more common signs of wheel bearing problems include:

  • Groaning, rumbling or grinding noises coming from the wheels or tires — these sounds may also get louder when you make a turn. 
  • The car handles more loosely.
  • Vibrations and wobbling through the steering wheel.
  • The car pulls to one side as you drive. This may occur at random. 
  • The tires wear unevenly.

If the above symptoms are ignored, more serious consequences can happen:

  • One of the wheels starts smoking.
  • A wheel comes off the vehicle.

How does a wheel bearing work?

A wheel bearing is part of the front and rear wheel hubs. In the front, the hub connects the wheel to the suspension's steering knuckle. The wheel connects to the hub, and the hub spins smoothly inside the wheel bearing. This allows the weight of the vehicle to rest on the hub as it spins while maintaining as little surface contact as possible.

The wheel bearing is lubricated with grease in order to further reduce friction. Most vehicles feature sealed wheel bearings that encapsulate the ball bearings and the lubricant.

Can I drive with a bad wheel bearing?

Yes, but not for long. As the wear increases, so do the chances of damage occurring to other parts of the suspension.

If you suspect that a wheel bearing is beginning to wear, have a technician evaluate the problem as soon as possible. A vehicle with a significantly worn wheel bearing shouldn't be driven. If the wheel bearing fails completely, it's possible for the wheel to come off the vehicle and cause a wreck.

How often do wheel bearings need servicing or replacement?

Most vehicles have sealed bearings that do not require maintenance. Sealed bearings can last 100,000 miles or more, and will need to be replaced once they go bad.

Vehicles with traditional, tapered wheel bearings should have them serviced every 25,000 to 30,000 miles — replacement may not be necessary as long as they're maintained.


Wheel Bearing Replacement Cost Estimates

The average cost for a Wheel Bearing Replacement is between $265 and $347 but can vary from car to car.

wheel bearing