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WATCH: Why Does a Wheel Bearing Fail?

Today’s bearings can last 200,000 miles or more, but sometimes they don’t. What causes a bearing to fail
prematurely?

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This video is sponsored by BCA Bearings.

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There are a couple of reasons why a bearing might not go the distance. First, let’s talk about the old-style tapered roller bearings. While these aren’t so common anymore, you still might find them on trailers, some two-wheel-drive pickup trucks and older vehicles. Tapered roller bearings need to be cleaned, inspected and repacked with grease on a regular basis. If they’re not serviced regularly, or if they’re not adjusted properly when they’re serviced, the wheel bearings can wear out prematurely.

Most late-model vehicles, however, come with sealed bearings and hub assemblies, which are pre-greased and maintenance-free. While these newer generations of bearings can last the entire life of the vehicle, they will fail prematurely if they’re pushed beyond their design limits. An obvious example would be using your car for racing. The bearings in front-wheel drive passenger cars aren’t designed to handle the severe cornering forces you’d encounter on a racetrack.

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In the real world, though, most people don’t use the family vehicle for racing. But you’ve probably had some customers who’ve used suspension lift kits and installed mudder tires or some other aftermarket performance wheels on their light-duty pickup trucks. While this might look cool, it’s a recipe for trouble, because oversized tires place additional stress on bearings.

Environmental contamination such as water, dirt and road salt also can cause a bearing to fail. If you’re driving through high flood waters or going off-roading through creeks and mud, that can allow water to get inside the bearings, and most bearings aren’t designed to handle that. Driving in northern climates where there’s a lot of road salt also can increase the risk of contamination and failure.

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In the next few videos, we’ll talk about ways to help your customers diagnose bearing failure and understand their replacement options. 

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