How Long Can You Drive On A Bad Wheel Bearing?

A wheel bearing is a set of steel balls packed together in two steel rings with the set of balls in between. The wheel bearing is responsible for minimizing friction while the vehicle is in motion. The genius design of the wheel bearing is the reason why the wheel can spin freely.

A lot of car owners have this question in mind: How much longer can a worn bearing go? If you have the same query, you have come to the right place. 

On this page we will discuss how long can you drive on a bad wheel bearing as well as discuss some other important matters regarding the issue.

How To Know the Bearing is Already Worn

The bearing is probably the most imperative element of your wheels, making it a bad idea to drive with a worn set. To start, you need to be more vigilant in hearing sounds – it’s the most common warning sign.

Here are the symptoms of a worn wheel bearing:

Shaky Steering

You can easily spot a shaking steering wheel. When you are on a drive and your steering wheel shakes, it serves as a hint of worn bearings.

Snapping Noise

The most obvious symptom of a worn condition is when the bearing starts making noise. If you can notice a snapping, clicking, or popping sound on the wheel part while you are driving, then that’s it. You probably have a worn wheel bearing.

You can even observe greater noise when you take corners or make sharp turns. Once this symptom is spotted, call your mechanic and have your car inspected.

Rumbling Sound

A humming or rumbling sound also potentially means a worn bearing. This type of sound is evident when you are cruising on a straight road and becomes quite louder when you turn your wheels on either direction. There’s a little trick behind; the worn side is usually on the opposite side of the rumbling.

Grinding Sound

A grinding sound while driving is also an indication of a worn wheel bearing. The grinding is more noticeable when there’s a shift in your carried load or while you are turning. Further, the grinding sound suggests mechanical damage that you need to check out as soon as possible.

Related: 5 Symptoms Of A Bad Failing Alternator

What Causes Worn Wheel Bearings?

Wheel bearings can wear when they run out of grease to lubricate them. It’s also likely the bearings have accumulated dirt and debris after periods of driving operation.

When the bearings lack proper lubrication or clean up, friction between the steel balls will significantly increase, consequently resulting in wear.

There are even cases when friction within the bearing can cause a sudden, unexpected brake. This situation is quite fatal especially when you are on the road.

The Dangers of Worn Bearing

It may sound like a simple issue to think of random noises in your wheels. However, learning more about the matter leads you to the realization that a simple worn bearing can actually lead to unexpected fatalities. Simply put, a worn bearing can kill.

When friction significantly gains power, it could cause the bearing to fall off which further results to catastrophic consequences.

You could suddenly lose control of your car while in fast motion. The broken axle can cause your car to spin and flip while on the road. The scenario is quite possible even if you’re just cruising at around 30 mph!

The situation can become worse when your car veers off to the oncoming traffic, resulting in an inescapable collision; potentially injuring both parties.

These probable scenarios will serve as your greatest motivation to not take this matter for granted. But don’t worry too much; the fatal possibilities will not occur without you getting warned in the first place. The wearing will start with small symptoms like the ones discussed above. Pay attention to the noise your wheels are making and never let it get worse.

Liabilities

There are discussions about a driver’s responsibility of maintaining his car. Your vehicle can be considered like a ‘loaded weapon.’ You can be held liable, say for example, if your wheel suddenly comes off, hitting somebody or damaging someone else’s property in the process.

If you knew it was hazardous to drive your car, knowing your bearings are worn, you can possibly be involved in what the authorities call as ‘involuntary manslaughter.’ That is when you got into a car accident resulting to another person’s injury or death. 

How Much Longer Can A Worn Bearing Go?

So here comes the question again. It’s really not a matter of how long that worn wheel bearing can hold on and still operate. It’s more of taking immediate action of replacing the worn wheel bearing before accidents can occur. 

Would you wait for your wheel to stop suddenly while you’re driving before you decide to replace them?

If any of the warning signs above manifest, then it’s your go signal to contact a mechanic and have those bearings exchanged right away.

If you are in the road and mobile services aren’t available at the moment, you can slow down and slowly make your way to the nearest garage. A sudden misfortune above 30 mph can already inflict injuries. Immediately switch to the outermost lane and gradually drive your way to the closest mechanic who can help you.

The mechanic can verify the faulty parts which need replacement. The mechanic will also ensure the wheels, fasteners, as well as the wheel bearings are torqued to their factory specifications. Further, he can also inspect for other possible damaged or worn components like steering systems and car suspension.

Conclusion

Wheel bearing makes it possible for your wheel to turn smoothly so it is essential to ensure they are working in optimum condition all the time.

Now that you know the symptoms of worn wheel bearings, you can now be always alert and wary of the signals your car components send to you.

The signs are your car’s way of telling you something is not right. And it’s your responsibility to take proper measures for your own safety. 

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