Wheel bearings have been used for years, on everything from skateboards to cars, but vehicles have changed a lot over the years and so have their wheel bearings.
So how do you know if you need new wheel bearings? Having your mechanic check them twice a year is a good thing to do, even if you have not had any problems. They can tell if there is excessive play in the bearings, which is an indication that the bearing is getting worn out.
Also, if you are hearing a nonstop growling noise as you are driving down the road, many times that is an indication that a wheel bearing is worn out and needs to be replaced.
How important is it to get worn out wheel bearings replaced? Think about it, all of the weight of the vehicle rests on the four tires. So all of that weight is also on the four wheel bearings. Having a wheel bearing completely fail can lead to you losing control of the vehicle as you are driving down the road. Obviously that’s not a good thing.
In the old days, cars had simple wheel bearings that were fairly easy to service and replace. Mechanics had to pack them full of grease every so often to keep them lubricated and even when they wore out over time they were not that expensive to replace.
Then cars started to change. Front-wheel drive cars came along and wheel bearings started to evolve. Instead of simple wheel bearings that could be removed and serviced very easily, automakers started making hub assemblies. There are parts related to the antilock brake system built into many of them and the wheel bearing is buried deep inside the hub assembly. There is no way to lubricate the wheel bearing inside many of the hub assemblies, so there is not much maintenance that can be done to make them last longer.
On some hub assemblies, the wheel bearing can be removed from the hub and replaced, but it is still pretty expensive to do that. On many others you have to replace the entire hub assembly and it can cost hundreds of dollars to replace!
So if you are hearing a growling noise coming from your vehicle, you might have a wheel bearing problem. Get it in and get it checked out before you break down or you might be riding that skateboard to work.