A Brief Explanation of Wheel Bearings
Wheel bearings serve as the hub of a wheel on your car. The main purpose of wheel bearings is to enable your wheels to turn freely with as little friction as possible. If you were to take your wheel bearing apart (a very bad idea) you would see a group of steel balls, usually grouped two by two, and placed inside a steel ring called a race. In turn, wheel bearings are then placed within a hub. A hub is another steel ring that has three "spokes" that help attach to the axle. This is where your lug bolts are placed on your tire.
Wheel bearings are quite simple but intricate. They need to be sealed otherwise they will not work and cause your car tires to seize up. Wheel bearings need to be sealed to ward off damage that can occur from heat and water. Heat will destroy your wheel bearings so they are covered in high temperature resistant grease.
If you have a leak in your wheel bearings this will allow water to penetrate it and cause your car considerable damage. Luckily, this is a problem that most mechanics know precisely how to deal with. Also, if you are handy, you can replace your wheel bearings yourself. While this may be labor intensive, you can save yourself some money. You will know if you have issues with your wheel bearings. You will hear a slight rattling sound, especially as you turn. This is your wheel bearings telling you that something is wrong and that you need to deal with a bit of a problem. It might get a louder as you speed up or it might get louder with changes in the weather. One thing that might be slightly frustrating is the fact that issues with wheel bearings can be quite tricky diagnosing through sound only.
Sometimes you will swear you can hear the noise clear as a bell--a loud rattling bell-- but your companion will tell you that they cannot hear a thing. If you bring your car to a mechanic to work with your wheel bearings be prepared for a long diagnosis process. As I said earlier, wheel bearings are a special issue and they can be quite tricky with their noises.
Ideally, wheel bearings will last the entire life of your car, however, as is the case with many things that are supposed to last, we should be prepared for when our wheel bearings will go out. It is not inevitable but nor is it impossible. Some types of cars are notorious for wheel bearings issues and some types of cars have very few issues with their wheel bearings.
If you suspect that your car is having a problem with its wheel bearings it is fairly important to have this issue dealt with. A qualified mechanic will have your car working soon as this is a fairly simple issue to work with. However, it does involve removing the wheel assembly so the labor costs might be quite high. There is some good news though. If you have your car serviced and catch this problem early on you can save yourself a lot of time and hassle.