Car Wheel Ball Wheel Bearings

What Kind Of Wheel Bearings Are Used On Cars Today?

Most wheel bearings on late-model vehicles are part of a sealed hub assembly or cartridge.

A. Many different types. Most wheel bearings on late-model vehicles are part of a sealed hub assembly or cartridge. Sealed hub assemblies may be used on front-wheel drive (FWD) as well as rear-wheel drive (RWD) cars and trucks. Press-fit cartridge style wheel bearings are often used in the knuckles of FWD cars. Bolt-on hub assemblies, where the wheel bearings are sealed inside the hub, also are commonly used both front and rear on many vehicles. Sealed cartridges or hub assemblies do not require periodic maintenance or adjustments. However, they should be inspected when rotating tires, doing a brake job or other suspension-related repairs to make sure they are in good condition.

A sealed hub assembly or bearing cartridge typically contains two sets of bearings: an inner set and an outer set. They may be ball bearings or tapered roller bearings. Tapered bearings have cylindrical rollers between the inner and outer race. The rollers are held in place by a steel or phenolic cage. The rollers are larger on one end than the other and rotate in a cone-shaped path. This allows the bearing to handle sideways loads and well as vertical loads. The larger surface area of tapered bearings allows them to support greater loads than ball bearings, which is why tapered bearings are often used in larger, heavier vehicles.

Double row ball bearings have round steel balls between the inner and outer race. Like roller bearings, the balls are held in place by a steel cage. Ball bearings are less expensive to manufacture than tapered bearings, and produce less friction, which helps improve fuel economy. However, ball bearings don’t handle severe side loads as well as tapered bearings. As such, they may not stand up well to severe side loading created by hard cornering or racing.

Wheel bearings are made of high-grade steel, and the inner and outer races (called the cone and cup) as well as the rollers or balls are all heat-treated to harden their outer surfaces. This improves wear resistance and the bearing’s ability to handle loads. Most wheel bearings are capable of lasting upward of 200,000 miles under normal driving conditions.

Premature bearing failure can occur if outside contaminants such as water, dirt or road salt get past the bearing seals and enter the bearing. This can lead to corrosion and wear, and ultimately bearing failure. Grease leaks also can kill a bearing very quickly. The loss of lubricant can lead to spalling, flaking, pitting, cracking or even bearing seizure.

Q. How can you tell if a wheel bearing is failing?

A. Grease streaking radiating outward from the hub is a sure sign the seal that protects the bearing is leaking. The bearing is doomed and will need to be replaced soon.

Any noise (squealing, chirping, squeaking, whining, humming, rumbling, etc.) from the vicinity of the hub is another clue to a failing bearing. The sound may come and go at various speeds, or be heard all the time.

Any visible looseness in a wheel is a sure sign of wheel bearing trouble. Such a vehicle may be unsafe to drive, and repairs should be made without delay. If a wheel wobbles when it rotates, the cause could be a loose wheel bearing, a bent spindle or a bent wheel. Further investigation is needed to determine the exact cause.

On most vehicles with sealed bearing assemblies, the amount of play allowed is typically no more than .003 to .004 inches. More than .005 inches of play is too much and usually indicates a bad bearing. On older rear-wheel drive cars and trucks with serviceable wheel bearings, up .010 in. of play may be allowed depending on the application. 

You May Also Like

The Hidden Expense of Inexpensive Brake Pads

With premium products, it’s often the “extras” that people don’t consider when comparing them to lesser brands.

Like many product lines in our inventories, brake pads are often dual or even triple lined. To service a wide variety of vehicles and customer types in a dynamic market, it has become a necessity to offer various price points on one of the most critical safety items we offer. 

SMP Releases 2023 Corporate Sustainability Report

The report provides insight into the company’s initiatives, future goals and achievements, Standard Motor Products said.

Less Is More With Cordless Work Lights

There are huge safety and efficiency benefits of LED lights for your professional automotive service and repair customers.

Crow-Burlingame Names Richard Webster VP of Company Stores

Advancement shows company’s commitment to fostering internal talent and promoting professional growth.

MEMA Aftermarket Suppliers’ BMC to Host Summer Meeting

The Brake Manufacturers Council meeting will be held on May 31, in Naples, Florida.

Other Posts

AAPEX Web Training Series Set to Begin This Month

Online educational series to run from May to October, costing attendees nothing.

AACF Announces Inaugural AACF Humanitarian Award

Sponsored by NEXUS North America, award nominations will be accepted until Feb. 1, 2025.

Advance Auto Parts, Worldpac Wrap Up STX 2024

Nearly 3,400 registrants attended STX in Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.

HDA Truck Pride Recaps 2024 Annual Meeting

The HDA Truck Pride community celebrated a successful year, adding more than 130 new North American locations.