10 tips to spot wheel bearing damage

Hassanein Alwan, managing director, Mineral Circles Bearings outlines recommendations by automotive bearings manufacturer NTN-SNR

Wheel bearing, Damage, Mineral Circles Bearings, Aftermarket


Hassanein Alwan, managing director, Mineral Circles Bearings

Prevention is better than cure. You’ve read this cliché in different scenarios and yes, it also applies to automotive components such as wheel bearings. With such a high volume of cars roaming the roads, just imagine the hassle these could bring should there be any parts malfunction such as wheel bearings. 
It is time that vehicle owners see the importance of using wheel bearing kits as they can save maintenance costs in the long run. It’s a practical way to increase vehicle performance and efficiency.

Here are the top 10 ways to easily spot wheel bearing damage.

1. Shoulder dents or breakage

• Dents shown on the bearing  ring’s circumference
• Rolling elements are aligned with the dents
• Damaged or broken shoulder

Possible Causes:
• Incorrect or off-centered bearing mounting
• Incorrect handling which caused bearing to be dropped on a solid surface

• Use proper mounting tools and fitting process
• Load must be applied on the ring and not on the rolling elements

2. Scratches

• Ball scratches
• Scratches on the inner ring tracks

Possible Causes:
• Damaged or deformed grooves
• The driveshaft or the hub not was not in place when the car was moved.
• Incorrect gap between the inner races

• Observe proper car servicing procedures
• Correctly tighten the driveshaft nut before moving the vehicle

3. Flaking

• Rusting
• Red or black stains
• Pitting or dull glow on the rolling element

Possible Causes:
• Damaged oil seal
• Incorrect oil seal used during mounting or servicing
• No cap or non-replacement of cap

• Do not dismantle a sealed bearing
• Spraying of liquid is prohibited
• Follow the standard mounting processes

4. Spalling

• Bearing track’s surface is breaking or chipping into smaller pieces

Possible Causes:
• Incorrect mounting
• Deformed bearing components

• Use recommended mounting tools
• Follow the standard mounting processes

5. Overheating

• Discolored bearing components
• Bearing components are fused together or welded
• Damage on the metal surface

Possible Causes:
• Inadequate or incorrect lubrication
• Grease contamination

• Use the correct grease type
• Use adequate amounts of grease
• Follow the standard mounting processes

6. Grease Leakage

• Loss of lubrication or grease

Possible Causes:
• Overheating
• Incorrect sealing
• Grease contamination by water

• Troubleshoot by sticking hand brake 
• Consistently checking of oil seal

7. Vibration

• Vibration observed while driving

Possible Causes:
• Incorrect bearing mounting
• Incorrect tightening of bearing
• Faulty mating due to bad condition of parts
• Observe the car’s wheel balance
• Follow the standard wheel bearing mounting process

8. Faulty Steering

• Unable to steer straight

Possible Causes:
• Improper bearing tightening
• Worn out ball joints that connects the steering knuckle to the control arm
• Incorrect drivetrain adjustment

• Ensure timely replacement of ball joints
• Observe correct axle fixing

9. Clacking

• When parking, a noise is heard from the front axle.

Possible Cause:
• Limited movement of the stub axle housing which carries the wheel

• Use a stub axle housing with the correct dimensions
• Consistent check-up of the stub axle housing

10. Faulty Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)

• ABS warning light does not turn off or unnecessarily turns on

Possible Causes:
• Bearing was mounted upside down
• Damage in the computer or in the sensor
• Connector issues
• Encoder ring damage

• Follow recommended cleaning process for the encoder ring and the sensor
• Magnet is prohibited near the encoder
• Before mounting, use a test card to identify the correct side.

Self-help tips on identifying automotive wheel bearing damage are indeed useful measures, but any replacement should be done by a licensed mechanic. It is important that the manufacturer’s installation procedures be followed with some expertise to prevent premature bearing damage and vehicle downtime.

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PMV Middle East - January 2019

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