Whether you’re a seasoned car enthusiast or simply a responsible vehicle owner, understanding the ins and outs of automobile maintenance is crucial. From regular oil changes to brake pad replacements, every component plays a vital role in keeping your vehicle running smoothly and safely. One such critical component that often requires attention is the wheel bearings.
Wheel bearings, although relatively small, play a significant role in the functioning of your vehicle’s wheels. These sturdy, metal balls or rollers housed within a hub assembly facilitate the smooth rotation of your wheels. However, over time, they can wear out due to factors like age, mileage, and harsh driving conditions.
The question that often arises when it comes to wheel bearing replacement is, “How long does it take?” Replacing one wheel bearing will take you 90 to 120 minutes based on your vehicle type and complexity. It takes this long because of the many moving parts which require maintenance and proper sealing to complete the whole process.
Understanding the time it takes to replace wheel bearings can help you plan your vehicle’s maintenance schedule and ensure that you’re not caught off guard by unexpected delays.
In this blog post, we will delve into the intricacies of wheel bearing replacement, exploring the factors that influence the time it takes to complete the task. By shedding light on the steps involved in this process, we aim to provide you with valuable insights that will assist you in making informed decisions about your vehicle’s maintenance.
What are Wheel Bearings
Wheel bearings are crucial components in the automotive industry that facilitate the smooth rotation of a vehicle’s wheels. They are a type of rolling-element bearing designed to support the weight of the vehicle and enable the wheels to rotate freely.
The primary purpose of wheel bearings is to reduce friction between the moving parts of the wheel hub assembly. They allow the wheels to spin at high speeds while supporting the weight of the vehicle, ensuring smooth and efficient operation.
Wheel bearings are typically made up of several key components, including an outer race, an inner race, rolling elements (such as steel balls or tapered rollers), and a cage that holds the rolling elements in place.
When a vehicle is in motion, the wheel bearings endure significant loads and forces. They must withstand vertical loads, lateral forces during cornering, and axial forces generated during braking.
Due to this constant stress, wheel bearings are subject to wear and tear over time. Factors such as harsh driving conditions, improper installation, contamination, or lack of lubrication can accelerate their deterioration.
Are Wheel Bearings Easy To Replace?
Modern wheel bearings are easy to replace at home compared to the older ones. Replacing a wheel bearing that comes with the hub and bolts to the steering knuckle or spindle is easy when you have the skills, tools and an installation manual. However, the large axle nut is always very tight and could be difficult to remove.
Disclaimer: This guide is for informational purposes only. It is recommended to consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual and seek professional assistance if you are uncertain about any steps or lack the necessary tools and experience.
Tools and Materials Needed:
- Jack and jack stands
- Lug wrench
- Socket set
- Breaker bar
- Torque wrench
- Bearing press (or suitable alternative)
- Wheel bearing kit
- Brake cleaner
Step 1: Prepare your workspace
Before you begin, park your vehicle on a level surface and engage the parking brake. Ensure you have a safe and spacious area to work in. Gather all the required tools and materials mentioned above.
Step 2: Lift the vehicle
Using a jack, raise the side of the vehicle where you need to replace the wheel bearing. Place jack stands beneath the vehicle to provide additional support. Ensure the vehicle is secure before proceeding.
Step 3: Remove the wheel
Using a lug wrench, loosen the lug nuts on the wheel you’re working on. Once loose, lift the wheel off the ground and remove the lug nuts and the wheel itself. Set them aside in a safe place.
Step 4: Remove the brake caliper and rotor
Locate the brake caliper on the wheel assembly and remove the bolts holding it in place using a socket wrench. Carefully suspend the caliper out of the way, ensuring it does not hang by the brake line. Next, remove the brake rotor by pulling it straight off the wheel hub.
Step 5: Remove the wheel hub assembly
Using a socket wrench and breaker bar, remove the axle nut securing the hub assembly. Once removed, detach the hub assembly from the axle. Depending on the vehicle, you may need to remove additional components, such as ABS sensors or dust caps, before accessing the hub.
Step 6: Remove the old wheel bearing
With the hub assembly removed, you can now extract the old wheel bearing. Using a hammer, tap the bearing out of the hub gently. Be careful not to damage the hub or other surrounding components during this process.
Step 7: Install the new wheel bearing
Clean the wheel hub thoroughly using a brake cleaner to remove any dirt or debris. Apply a thin layer of grease to the new wheel bearing’s inner race before inserting it into the hub. Ensure the bearing is seated correctly and aligned with the hub.
Step 8: Reassemble the components
Reattach the wheel hub assembly to the axle, securing it with the axle nut. Make sure to follow the torque specifications recommended by the manufacturer. Reinstall any additional components, such as ABS sensors or dust caps, that were removed earlier.
Step 9: Reinstall the brake rotor and caliper
Place the brake rotor back onto the wheel hub. Then, reattach the brake caliper and tighten the bolts securely. Ensure the caliper is properly aligned, and the brake pads are seated correctly.
Step 10: Put the wheel back on
Lift the wheel and align it with the wheel studs. Thread the lug nuts by hand initially to avoid cross-threading, and then tighten them using a lug wrench. Ensure the lug nuts are tightened to the manufacturer’s recommended torque specification.
Step 11: Lower the vehicle
Carefully lower the vehicle by removing the jack stands and lowering the jack. Once the vehicle is on the ground, use a torque wrench to recheck the lug nut torque to ensure they are properly tightened.
How Long Can You Drive on Bad Wheel Bearings?
It is advisable not to go more than 1000 miles because driving longer might cause serious problems.
A faulty wheeling bearing is risky, and you should replace it immediately. However, sometimes you might be in the middle of nowhere, and all you need to do is keep driving, hoping that you will be safe.
When your bearings wear out or get damaged, you will hear a faint echo sound from the back, and at a glance, you will note that your wheel is out of balance.
The noise increases, and it’s clear that your bearing is faulty, meaning there is a lack of lubrication from the worn-out wheel to keep it smooth.
In such a situation, avoid a high speed since increasing the speed will create a lot of heat that might crash the wheel entirely.
Therefore, ensure you don’t exceed 1000 miles with faulty wheel bearings.
So, it is best if you drive at a slow speed to ensure your wheel works for a little more time.
At the same time, ensure you drive at a speed of 40mph, stay side by side and ensure you are going slow and steady. Also, shift the car’s weight from one side to the other.
Signs Your Wheel Bearings Need Replacement
Are you worried that your wheel bearings are wearing and require replacement?
Here are the signs to look out for
1. Unusual Noise
One of the most common signs of worn-out wheel bearings is a grinding, humming, or growling noise that becomes more pronounced as you accelerate or make turns. The noise is typically caused by worn-out or damaged bearing rollers or races. It may be more noticeable when driving at higher speeds or when cornering. If you hear any unusual noise coming from the wheels, especially when you’re driving, it’s crucial to have your wheel bearings inspected.
The original sound of damaged or worn out wheel bearings is growling or squealing. This sound increases as you increase the speed of your car.
So, check out where the noise is coming from because it will help you know the location of worn-out bearings.
2. Braking Issues
While the common noises made by a faulty wheel bearing is a cyclic chirping, squealing or growling sounds, if you hear clicking noise as your car accelerates, this could be an indicator of a problem with the wheel hub assembly.
Excess run-out as a result of worn out bearings can make the brakes pulsate and also pull when you press the brake peddle. In addition, ABS failure could also occur which could be as a result of loose bearing clamp.
3. Vehicle Pulls To One Side
When you apply the brakes, worn out wheel bearings makes the car pull to left or right. The side the car pulls towards show the side with the worn-out bearings.
4. Loose Steering and Vibrations
If you notice your steering is less responsive or precise than typically, the wheel bearings have a problem. Additionally, you may start feeling the steering wheel pull and this is an indicator of a problem either in the steering assembly and the drive train.
Faulty wheel bearings might make your steering wheel vibrate. The vibration increases when you increase the speed or turn right or left. Sometimes the vibration can be caused by the faulty suspension.
Therefore, visit an auto repair shop if you notice any of the above signs. They will help you identify the real issue and replace the wheel bearings.
5. Uneven Tire Wear
If one of your tires wear out more than others, that can be a warning that the bearings have worn out or the tire is not inflated or aligned correctly.
Worn out bearings wobble as you cruise on the highway. This phenomenon is also known as bearing play. However, this looseness isn’t felt through your steering wheel but rather via an inspection of your tire.
If you’re tires appear to be worn out despite regular wheel alignments or rotating, then you should have your bearing assessed.
6. Excessive Play
Another indication of worn-out wheel bearings is excessive play or movement in the wheel. To check for play, safely raise the vehicle and try to wiggle the wheel by hand.
If there is noticeable movement or play in the wheel hub, it’s likely that the wheel bearings are worn and require replacement. Remember to perform this test with caution and ensure the vehicle is securely supported.
7. ABS Warning Light
In some modern vehicles equipped with an anti-lock braking system (ABS), a faulty wheel bearing can trigger the ABS warning light on your dashboard.
The ABS system relies on sensor inputs from each wheel to ensure proper brake operation. If a wheel bearing is worn or damaged, it may disrupt the sensor’s reading, leading to the illumination of the ABS warning light. If this light appears, have your wheel bearings inspected as part of the troubleshooting process.
8. Steering Instability
Damaged wheel bearings can affect the stability of your vehicle’s steering. You may notice that the steering feels loose, imprecise, or less responsive.
As the bearings deteriorate, the wheel may have excessive play or feel like it’s wobbling when you turn the steering wheel. This can compromise your ability to control the vehicle, particularly during sudden maneuvers or emergency situations.
Worn out wheel bearings can be stressful sometimes; they might happen when you least expect, and that is worse. However, when you notice your wheel bearings has a problem, drive slowly.
Going with bad bearings is not advisable, but you can take chances and drive to the nearest mechanic but don’t drive for more than 1000 miles.
If you are on a journey and wonder how long it takes to replace wheel bearings, it will take about 90 to 120 minutes, depending on your car type and the complexity.
Replacing bad wheel bearings immediately you notice them will prevent you from unsafe driving.
Hi I’m Marshall based in 1478 Doctors Drive Santa Monica, CA. I’m your DIY Car Repairman with more than 5 years experience in automobile repair, a skill I learned from my old man.
I started this blog to share my experience on both simple and technical aspects of your car.