Wheel bearings are just one of the parts your car needs to function properly. If one of your wheel bearings goes bad, how long can you drive on it?
If your car has a bad wheel bearing, you should be able to drive on it for another 500-1000 miles. However, you should try to get your car into an auto repair shop as soon as possible, as continually driving on a bad wheel bearing can be dangerous and cause irreparable damage to your car.
If you own a vehicle for long enough, you’re more than likely going to have to deal with some sort of part going bad at some point. Though issues with bad wheel bearings aren’t one of the most common issues car owners face, it is still common enough that you should know what to expect if it happens.
So, how can you tell if a wheel bearing has gone bad, and what wheel bearings even are in the first place? Read on to learn more.
What Are Wheel Bearings?
Wheel bearings, as their name implies, are important components of the wheel assembly. They are essentially a set of steel balls or rollers held together by a metal ring that helps connect each wheel to its axle.
Wheel bearings allow each wheel to rotate with as little friction as possible while also supporting the entire weight of the vehicle while driving. This makes them incredibly important in not only allowing your vehicle to function properly, but also for the safety of those both inside and outside of the vehicle.
What Causes Wheel Bearings to Go Bad?
Because wheel bearings are under constant stress from supporting the weight of the car, it isn’t uncommon for them to get damaged. Normal wear and tear will eventually cause wheel bearings to fail, especially in the long run, but there are also a few other common things that may cause your wheel bearings to go bad much earlier than they should.
Potholes, Curbs, and Speed Bumps
One of the most common things that cause wheel bearings to go bad early are common unexpected hazards on the road. Driving through a big pothole you didn’t see too quickly can easily be enough to damage one of your bearings.
Things like high curbs and speed bumps can also do plenty of damage to your wheel bearings. Essentially, if you drive through or hit anything like this fast or hard enough, you are just about guaranteed to do unnecessary damage to your wheel bearings.
Another common problem that will wear down your wheel bearings prematurely are if outside contaminants get past the seals and inside the bearing. Substances like rock salt, dirt, mud, and water can all wreak havoc on your vehicle’s wheel bearings, contaminating the grease and causing the individual bearings to wear down.
How Long Do Wheel Bearings Normally Last?
The good news is that if you are driving normally, don’t hit too many potholes, and the seals keep any outside contaminants from getting inside your wheel bearings, they normally last quite a long time.
The average lifespan of a wheel bearing can be anywhere from 85,000 to 100,000 miles, meaning that you probably won’t have to replace them very often, if at all.
As long as the driving conditions aren’t too bad and you don’t drive significantly more than the average person, replacing wheel bearings isn’t something you should have to do until you’ve had your vehicle for at least a good 5-10 years.
How Do You Know If a Wheel Bearing Has Gone Bad?
There are a number of different ways you can tell if one of your vehicle’s wheel bearings has gone bad, the majority of which are either audible or able to be felt when driving.
A humming sound coming from one of the wheels is a common first sign that a wheel bearing has gone bad. Also, hearing a squealing or grinding sound that increases in volume and frequency as you accelerate is another telltale sign that one of your wheel bearings has gone bad.
One common visual sign that one of your wheel bearings might have gone bad is uneven tire wear. If you notice that one of your tires is wearing out a lot quicker than the others or that the tire is worn out on onside and not the other, that wheel’s bearing may be the issue.
There are also plenty of clues that you might notice as you drive. Excessive steering wheel vibration while driving at high speeds or noticing that your vehicle is pulling to one side are other possible signs that one of your wheel bearings may be bad.
How Long Can You Drive On a Bad Wheel Bearing?
In short, you really should not drive on a bad wheel bearing at all. Doing so can pose an extreme safety risk to both yourself and anyone outside your vehicle, as a complete wheel bearing failure would almost certainly cause an accident and result in plenty of costly repairs.
However, if you notice that your vehicle has a bad wheel bearing and you aren’t immediately able to get it into an auto repair shop, you should be able to expect that it will last another 500-1000 miles.
It is incredibly dangerous to drive with a bad wheel bearing, so you should avoid driving your vehicle until you are able to get it repaired at an auto repair shop.
What Happens If You Drive With a Bad Wheel Bearing?
As stated before, driving on a bad wheel bearing is incredibly risky and dangerous as they are incredibly important in ensuring your car can function properly.
Wheel bearings allow the wheels to turn and keep them attached to the axle. If a wheel bearing fails while you are driving, the wheel could suddenly stop turning or even just plain fall off, posing a serious safety risk to yourself and everyone around you.
Bad wheel bearings can also contribute to your vehicle’s steering becoming less responsive, adding even more potential danger to an already very dangerous situation.
Driving on a bad wheel bearing can also cause extensive and costly damage to other parts of your car. Bad wheel bearings can cause accelerated and extreme wear on other parts of the wheel assembly and suspension like the VC joint and hub and can also damage your transmission and accelerated tire wear.
Bottom line, continuing to drive on a bad wheel bearing is a dangerous and potentially very costly risk to take, and doing so should be avoided at all costs.
Key Takeaways to Driving on a Bad Wheel Bearing
You can drive on a bad wheel bearing for 500 to 1000 miles.
Wheel bearings allow a vehicle’s wheels to turn with as little friction as possible while also playing a crucial role in supporting the weight of the vehicle.
Wheel bearings normally last anywhere from 85,000 to 100,000 miles.
Signs of bad wheel bearings include humming, squealing, or clicking sounds as well as steering wheel vibration, uneven tire wear, and pulling to one side.
You should avoid driving on bad wheel bearings because it is incredibly dangerous and potentially very costly.