For a wheel to turn and bear weight, you need a bearing. The same goes for other things. There are a lot of moving parts in a car, but bearings are among the more important pieces in the puzzle that are also a part of maintaining your car.
In fact, there are more than just four bearings in a car. Not only do your wheels have bearings, but so do your gearbox, engine, rollers, suspension, and even your interior.
Should there be a rotating part in your car, it is likely that there is a bearing that allows that part to spin freely. Not every rotating component in your car uses a bearing, however, but a good number of key parts are supported by bearings such is the case with your suspension and your steering system. Bearings are located at key joints to keep things moving freely such is the case with your suspension as it moves up and down the compression and rebound stroke.
Also for other things like your clutch and your transmission, shafts, and other parts that rotate use bearings to make sure that there is minimal wear and tear happening in these high-stress points.
Just like your oil, your bearings need replacing after a good number of kilometers, but unlike your oil, you won’t have to replace your bearings constantly as they can last you quite sometime before they need replacing. Typically, a manufacturer will recommend an interval for changing a bearing, but changing it will likely be dependent on its condition as well if it needs to be replaced earlier. As such, you may consult your owner or service manual for the interval so you can plan ahead.
If you’re not big on following the manufacturer’s recommendations, or if you’re not sure about the condition of your parts, there are a few ways that you can tell if a bearing has gone bad. Typically for bearings, you will feel excess vibrations depending on the system that your bearing is in.
For wheel bearings, you will feel a lot of vibrations while rolling down the road whether accelerating, braking, or just coasting down the road. Wheel bearings are among the most common bearings to fail since they’re the most susceptible to damage as they bear the weight of the car. Because they are always under load even when the car is standing still, they’re one of the first ones to go out. If your car always goes down pothole-ridden roads, expect to change your wheel bearings earlier. One way to check your bearings while at home is to jack up your car on one side, then shake your wheel side to side. If a bearing is bad, the wheel will move, if it doesn’t then it lives to fight another day.
Now if your other bearings have gone bad, like your transmission bearings, or your clutch bearings, it’s likely that you will feel an excess amount of vibration as you change gears or accelerate. The same goes for your steering column. Any interaction with the wheel may feel rough. You’d know if your suspension bearings are bad if you feel that your car isn’t tracking straight after a bump, though this can be attributed to your steering alignment as well.
If you’ve identified or have a sneaking suspicion that your bearings are bad, it’s time to take it to a trusted mechanic in order to get it sorted out. Have the mechanic check and replace your bearings. It’ll be best to go early if you need a replacement because bearings are quite hard to get to. Even wheel bearing replacement can take a few hours to get on and to get right.