Each wheel contains a bearing to keep it running at optimal speed. The wheel bearings are available on the front and rear wheels. That said, the bearings wear out at different rates. It is possible to have one damaged bearing while the rest are in good working conditions. Understanding this will save you several dollars for wheel-bearing replacement costs.
What are the signs drivers should look out for if they have a damaged wheel bearing?
Signs of a damaged wheel bearing
Grinding noise at the wheels
Loud grinding noises are a sign that the wheel bearings are worn out. It occurs when the lubrication is low and the bearing damage causes a heat buildup around the wheel. The grinding noise is a result of metal-to-metal contact. The noises are louder when turning or shifting gears.
Uneven tire wear
There are several causes of uneven tire wear. A bad wheel bearing is one of them. The tire on a wheel with damaged bearings wears out faster than others. Its rate of wear is faster than the rest. When using this to quantify wheel bearing damage, it is good to evaluate other causes such as wheel misalignment, damaged control arm bushings or unbalanced tires.
Steering wheel vibrations
A damaged wheel bearing causes the steering wheel to vibrate. The vibrations are evident when driving at low and high speeds. The vibrations worsen when driving at high speed. The symptom differs from the vibrations caused by unbalanced tires. If driving with a damaged wheel bearing, the vibration occurs irrespective of the driving speed. For unbalanced tires, steering wheel vibrations occur at high speed only.
The vehicle pulls to one side
Corrosion or pitting of the wheel bearing strips it of the smooth linings. The roughness of the bearing causes vibrations. These vibrations will cause the vehicle to pull in the direction of the bad bearing. The pulling could also occur when braking.
Excessive wheel play
Diagnosing wheel play requires hoisting the vehicle. When the wheel is free and tries to shake it, the driver notices that the wheel wobbles. It indicates that the corresponding wheel bearing is damaged and requires immediate replacement.
Wheel Bearing Replacement Costs
These are durable bearings built into the steering knuckle. The average cost for replacing the front pair ranges from $260 to$480. Labor costs between $120 and $200.
When replacing the wheel bearing on a single side, the cost drops to around $130 to $220.
The cost for replacing the rear wheel bearing ranges between $240 and $460. Materials take between $100 and $180. Replacing one side costs an average of $120 and $240.
A damaged wheel bearing causes a myriad of challenges. Drivers can identify these problems without consulting a mechanic. Once you notice any of the aforementioned symptoms, visit a repair shop that will handle the diagnosis and repair on your behalf.
Do wheel bearings need replacement in pairs?
No. Drivers need to replace the damaged wheel bearings only.
How much does a new wheel bearing cost?
The average cost of a new wheel bearing is between $100 and $180. The charges are higher for luxury brands.