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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. It’s an extremely simple device that allows a wheel to spin freely. Most things with wheels have bearings. And that sure as hell includes your car, which relies on bearings to… well, allow the wheels to spin. Which is kind of important if you want to use your car for more than just sitting in your driveway and rocking out. Your car has four bearings; one for each wheel. I’ll let you figure out where the front wheel bearings are. I’m not gonna spell that one out for you. Wheel bearings need to be strong enough to support the entire weight of your car, because they’re ultimately the focal point of the spinning wheels. Which makes them the focal point of the car, really, since all of the car’s weight is ultimately supported by the wheels. But in addition to that weight bearing (hence the name), they need to be able to spin freely, while attaching to the wheels. Despite how important bearings are, their design is quite simple, albeit extremely precise. They’re made of an incredibly strong steel, because they’re subject to a whole bunch of abuse, as you could probably guess. Yet despite all of that wear and tear, front wheel bearings rarely die. It’s common for bearings to last the life of your car.
Look, I don’t want to have to tell you this, because you should already know it. Pay attention to how your car feels on a daily basis, so that you know the moment it starts to feel abnormal. If one of the front wheel bearings begins to fail, the handling in your car will likely change. The handling will feel loose, as though the wheel isn’t fully attached, because that’s essentially what’s happening as the bearing wears out and can no longer support the wheel. This can also result in the car pulling to the left or to the right when you’re on a straight stretch.
If one of your front wheel bearings starts to fade and die, then you’ll end up with one wheel that isn’t being used quite properly. That will lead to uneven wear on your front tires, with one looking more worn out than the other. Or at least worn in a different pattern. 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 front wheel bearing failure.
This is something that hopefully you already know: Your car shouldn’t make noises, beyond the engine noise and your stereo. Any other noise should get your attention. Dying front wheel bearings can result in a whole range of noises, including groaning, grinding, scraping, and growling. Those noises will be coming directly from the front wheels. So, if your front wheels are talking to you, listen to them.
Here’s something your steering wheel shouldn’t do: Shake. If it does shake, you’ve got issues. That issue could be a busted front wheel bearing. If the bearings aren’t supporting the wheels, the steering system might vibrate, leading to a steering wheel that’s as jittery as you after a third cup of coffee.
If you ignore everything in this article, then here’s what you’ll end up with: Three wheels. Losing a wheel is well past the point of being a warning sign. But if you don’t pay attention to the warning signs, it’s exactly what will happen. As the front wheel bearings wear and tear, they’ll eventually disintegrate, leaving you with something that can’t support the wheel anymore. And then the wheel will head off on a new journey.
Did you not just read that last symptom? If your front wheel bearing is giving out, you’ll experience a multitude of symptoms…and the worst being losing a wheel. Pretty sure you don’t want to put yourself in that position. Do the smart thing and get it replaced asap.
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