The Ins & Outs of Wheel Bearings:

Any idea of what wheel bearings are and why they are essential for Low Country motorists? It's simple; wheel bearings keep the wheels on your vehicle and/or your boat trailer!

Wheel Bearing are actually very simple parts.They’re precisely made of high quality steel and are designed to last 100,000 miles or more if properly cared for. Wheel bearings do two key jobs: First, they allow the wheel to freely rotate with as little friction as possible. Second, they support the weight of the vehicle. For example, if your car weighs 4,000 pounds, each wheel has to support about a 1,000 pounds. That means that over 100,000 miles that the bearings will turn several million revolutions while supporting 1,000 pounds. That’s a lot of wear & tear on anything!

While wheel bearings are pretty simple parts, they need to be in almost perfect condition to do their job. The bearings are packed with heavy grease to lubricate and protect the moving metal parts. A flexible seal keeps the grease in and water and dirt out. It’s when the seal starts to leak or the vehicle is placed under an excessive load problems can begin. The grease can become contaminated which causes the wheel bearings to overheat, wear  and eventually fail.

The first sign that your wheel bearings are in trouble is an unusual noise coming from a wheel. It could be a chirping, growling, rumbling or a cyclic sound. The noise can change or even disappear at certain speeds or when turning. Your service advisor at Island Tire & Automotive Services can inspect for bearing wear by lifting the vehicle and checking for play in the wheel.

The majority of vehicles produced in the last 10 years utilize “sealed for life” wheel bearing assemblies which are sealed units which means they, cannot be serviced. The good news is that most of them under normal conditions will last up to 1 00,000+ miles. The bad news is that when they wear out, they need to be replaced and it is often a dirty job. Most of the sealed hub assemblies are readily available but they are not inexpensive.

However, many vehicles SUV’s, and pickup trucks still use the conventional wheel bearings on the rear of the vehicle. These can & should be serviced on schedule. The bearings are removed, cleaned and inspected. If the bearings are still good, they’re re-installed – if not, they’re replaced. They are then packed in grease and a new grease seal is installed. If your wheel bearings can be serviced, your owner’s manual will recommend an interval, usually around 30,000 miles.

Now, even a good seal cannot keep out water that’s exerting pressure on the seal. So if you’ve driven your vehicle through hub deep water your bearings should be cleaned and repacked if they’re serviceable. If you have factory sealed bearings, you need to watch for signs of premature failure.

Trailers have wheel bearings too!  If you have any sort of trailer (especially BOAT trailers), don’t forget it has wheel bearings which need to be maintained. Trailer wheel bearings need to be serviced even more frequently than automobiles. This is especially true for boat trailers that are used to launch boats in salt water. These should be serviced every year, usually at the end of the season so that the bearings don’t have the opportunity to rust all winter. We can also install Bearing Buddies to boat trailers to better protect the bearings.

So what happens if wheel bearings fail? Well, a worn loose or vibrating wheel bearing can cause accelerated tire wear, poor vehicle handling and eventually the wheel can fall off of the vehicle or your boat trailer! We don’t need to tell you how bad that could be. So check with your service professional at Island Tire & Automotive Services and see if your vehicle’s wheel bearings can be serviced and when it’s recommended. Listen for warning signs. If you’ve been fording streams or puddle surfing after rainstorms or launching a boat, be especially vigilant.

Visit the automotive professionals at Island Tire & Automotive Services for a wheel bearing inspection, or for a cooling system flush. Call us at either location to make an appointment:

Come see us at either location:
South End - 4 Palmetto Bay Road HHIs.,SC 29928 PH: (843) 785-3841
North End – 271 Wm Hilton Pkwy. HHIs., SC 29926 (843) 681-2513

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