Preventing Wheel Bearing Failure
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Preventing Wheel Bearing Failure

Most manufacturers recommend lubrication at 24,000 miles for the front-wheel bearings on rear-wheel drive vehicles, but bearings often are not lubricated until the brakes are replaced. That means bearings may go nearly twice as long as recommended before being relubricated, which can lead to problems.

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While most vehicles will likely need wheel bearing replacement between 80,000 and 118,000 miles, the bearing experts at SKF point out that, with a bit of care, those intervals can be extended.

By observing basic preventive maintenance procedures and regular inspections, the service life of wheel bearings can be maximized and unexpected, expensive wheel bearing failure can be avoided.

For maximum safety and reliability, SKF recommends inspecting the wheel bearings during any brake replacement work, regardless of the vehicle’s age.

Be alert for the early warning signs of worn bearings, which include friction noise on wheel rotation or unusual slowness in the turning action of the suspended wheel assembly.

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Most manufacturers recommend lubrication at 24,000 miles for the front-wheel bearings on rear-wheel drive vehicles, but bearings often are not lubricated until the brakes are replaced. That means bearings may go nearly twice as long as recommended before being relubricated, which can lead to problems.

When replacing wheel bearings, SKF recommends replacing the bearings or hubs on both wheels. That’s because both wheels have the same mileage and are subjected to the same wear and road condition.

When working with bearings, make sure that the workplace is as clean as possible, as even tiny particles of dirt or grit entering a bearing will damage it internally, inevitably shortening its operating life.

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In addition, use the right tools, follow the mounting instructions in the car manufacturer’s workshop manuals, and always treat bearings with care. While they have a solid feel and boast a rugged construction, they are sensitive enough that even slight mishandling can damage a bearing’s inner geometry.

Other tips from SKF include:

Always choose the correct grease.

Check the contact surface for the seal lip. Even the smallest mark or rust will damage the seal lip and allow water penetration and eventual corrosion.

Never use a hammer to hit directly on the bearing.

Do not try to set clearances on hub units, as they are set at the factory with the correct preload. However, tighten the nut to the correct preload as written in the workshop manual.

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Do not try to set clearances on “set right” arrangements. These bearings are manufactured so that the bearing will have the correct clearance when the locking nut is tightened to the torque specified in the car’s shop manual.

Never take a hub unit apart before mounting. The raceways and seals will be damaged and the bearings destroyed, causing the unit to fail prematurely.

Do not try to move or adjust the seal on a hub unit. The seal will be destroyed and water penetration will occur, leading to corrosion and premature failure.

Courtesy of SKF.

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