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What are Rear Wheel Bearings?
If you’ve ever looked at a skateboard wheel, then you’ve probably got a decent idea of what a wheel bearing is. You know how skateboard wheels have a smaller circle in the middle of them? If not, just take my word for it. You can spin the wheel freely all you want, and you’ll notice the smaller circle spinning perfectly with it.
That smaller circle is the bearing. A bearing is a very basic but critical component that helps a wheel spin freely and quickly. Most things with wheels have bearings, including your car. Without bearings, your wheels would just sit there.
All four wheels in your car have bearings, because all four wheels need to turn for your car to operate.
Your car is only connected to the road through four things: Your four wheels. Which means the wheels ultimately hold the entire support of the car. Which means that the bearings support the entire car. Which means they need to be really, really, really strong, so they can hold the weight of the car, while still allowing the wheels to spin properly and freely.
Bearings are wildly simple in design, though very precise. They’re made with a very strong steel, which helps them deal with a large amount of abuse that they take from your daily driving.
As a result, your rear wheel bearings are exceptionally durable. Most cars can go their whole life without the bearings needing to be replaced.
Symptoms of failing Rear Wheel Bearings
Car has abnormal handling
If you drive your car nearly everyday, you’re probably familiar with how it feels…and especially when it feels different.
The handling in your car may start to shift if you have a dying rear wheel bearing. Your car will start to feel loose, which is really the feeling of your wheel starting to become disconnected and loose. Not a good thing. And not a good feeling.
You’ll also likely feel your car pulling a little bit to the left or the right - depending on which rear wheel bearing is dying - when you’re trying to drive in a straight line.
Uneven wire tear
So, here’s what will happen if one of your rear wheel bearing starts to kick the bucket. You’ll end up with one wheel not being used the right way, because it’s not supported properly. That means the car won’t drive right, and the wear will be uneven. One rear tire will likely be worn more than the other, and the pattern of the wear will certainly be different.
It’s always a smart idea to pay attention to your tires. Give them a visual inspection every now and again, so that you can spot excess wearing, bubbles, low tire pressure, or uneven wear and tear. It can help you spot a big issue, like a rear wheel bearing failure.
Well, this one should be obvious. If your car is making a funny noise, something is likely wrong.
If your rear wheel bearings are starting to go, you could hear any number of noises, from growling, to groaning, to grinding and scraping. The important thing to note is that the noise will be coming from the rear wheels. That’s your clue that it may be the rear wheel bearings.
Here’s something your car shouldn’t do: Shake. If your steering wheel is bouncing around like popcorn kernels in the microwave, you’ve got an issue. And that issue is a lot less fun than a bag of popcorn.
Busted rear wheel bearings will sometimes make for a car that isn’t driving right, and some abnormal pressure and stress will head through the steering system, into your car’s cabin.
Say goodbye to your wheel
If you ignore everything in this article, then here’s what you’ll end up with: Three wheels. The rear wheel bearings will give you signs of aging as they start to die. Once they fully die, they’ll actually disintegrate, and then the wheel has no way of being supported. And at that point it will fly free.
How urgent is a Rear Wheel Bearing replacement?
Ever drive a car with three wheels? And no, that’s not a challenge. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms above, it’s likely time to get your rear wheel bearing replaced.