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Let’s try and explain this using a smaller item than a car, because it might make it easier to understand. Have you ever looked at a skateboard wheel? If so, you’ll notice a small circle in the middle of the wheel, kind of like the pupil of your eye. You can spin the wheel freely all you want, and you’ll notice the smaller circle spinning perfectly with it. That’s a bearing. It’s a device that allows a wheel to spin freely. And your car has them, too. Your car has one bearing for each wheel, because each wheel needs to spin, yeah? 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. And on top of that, they need to be able to spin freely, while attaching to the wheels. That’s a lot of different responsibilities, but the design of bearings is still quite simple. They’re made of an incredibly strong steel, because they’re subject to a whole bunch of abuse, and the design is highly precise. But at their core, they’re simple and important. It’s pretty rare for your wheel bearings to wear out, despite the amount of wear and tear they deal with. But if they do, they’ll need to be replaced immediately.
As one of the 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. And, basically, that’s what’s going on. You may also notice your car pulling to the right or to the left when you’re trying to drive straight.
If the wheels aren’t being used evenly, then the tires won’t be used evenly. And that will result in some uneven wear on your tires. 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. If one or more of the wheel bearings are failing, you’ll end up with tires that aren’t evenly worn. The earlier you spot that, the better.
This is something that hopefully you already know: Your car shouldn’t make noises, beyond the engine noise and whatever you’re blasting from the stereo. Anything else should get your attention. Busted bearings can result in a whole range of noises, including groaning, grinding, scraping, and growling. The most important part to note is that the noise will be coming from one of the wheels. So, if you’re noting any number of noises from the direction of a wheel, you may have a bearing issue.
Do you like hand massages? Great. Go to a masseuse. If you’re getting your hand massage from your steering wheel, then something is wrong. That something might be a wheel bearing causing vibrations.
Well, you kind of asked for it. Ignore all the aforementioned signs, and you’ll eventually end up with a wheel that comes all the way off. This happens because the wheel bearing fully fails, to the point where it no longer really exists, and now you have a floating wheel that will fly right off.
Did you read that last symptom? Faulty wheel bearings can result in a lot of different issues, but at the very worst, you could lose a wheel. Ever try driving with just three wheels? No, that’s not a challenge. Do the smart thing here, and get your wheel bearing replaced.
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