Most people overlook the importance of their wheel bearings. But, the reality is that wheel bearings play a much bigger role than most people realize.
Not only can driving on bad wheel bearings cause serious damage to your car but it’s also dangerous.
Your probably wondering is replacing your wheel bearings going to break your bank?
In this post, I’ll go over the cost to replace your wheel bearings, the signs of bad wheel bearings, and some tips on how to choose your next wheel bearings.
Let’s get started.
Front Wheel Bearing Replacement Cost
You can expect to pay between $400-$650 to replace your front wheel bearing and for the hub assembly.
The cost of a front wheel bearing replacement can be broken down into parts and labor.
The cost of the parts to replace a wheel bearing will range from $50 to $200, depending on the quality of the wheel bearing you purchase.
Below is a breakdown of the average prices for different quality of wheel bearings and the hub assembly:
- Budget Wheel Bearings: $30 to $60
- Mid-Range Wheel Bearings: $70 to $120
- Premium Wheel Bearings: $140 to $220
It’s recommended that you replace both your wheel bearing and the associated wheel hub assembly at the same time. Pairing an old or worn-down wheel hub can cause your new wheel bearing to wear down faster.
Note: In most cases, even if you only have one bad front wheel bearing, it’s recommended that you replace both front wheel bearings. This is because if one is going bad, it’s likely that the other wheel bearing has uneven wear or will soon experience the same wear and tear.
Rear Wheel Bearing Replacement Cost
You can expect to pay between $200 and $500 to replace our rear wheel bearings and hub assembly.
The price for a rear wheel bearing replacement consist of two parts: labor and parts.
The rear wheel bearing and hub assembly replacement parts will cost between $125 and $350. The price of the parts will typically vary based on the quality of the rear wheel bearing you buy.
At mechanic shops, they may have a limited selection of wheel bearings you can purchase. To have a wider selection of wheel bearings, you can buy them online.
Below is a breakdown of the expected cost of the different qualities of rear wheel bearings.
- Budget Wheel Bearings:
- Mid-Range Wheel Bearings:
- Premium Wheel Bearings:
Cost to Replace Wheel Bearings On One-Side
To replace only one wheel bearing, you can expect to pay between $130 and $220.
This is around half the price of a two-wheel replacement cost. When only replacing one wheel bearing, you only have to pay half the cost for parts and a fraction in labor costs.
While you always have the option to replace one wheel bearing, it’s often recommended that you repair both.
This is because if one wheel bearing is starting to wear down, the other wheel bearing will likely go bad soon as well.
Symptoms of Bad Wheel Bearings
1. Noises coming From Wheel Bearing
One of the most common signs of a bad wheel bearing is going bad is if it starts to make noise.
There are several different noises that your wheel bearing can make that signal an issue:
Depending on the type of wear and tear that the your wheel bearings have the noise can vary.
Typically, these noises will become more noticeable when you are turning or increasing your speed.
When driving over bumps in the road you may hear clunking or groaning noises as well.
You will typically hear popping noises when turning sharp. This popping noise is possible due to excessive play in the whole wheel assembly.
2. Reduced Handeling
Wheel bearings play a crucial role in your vehicles handling. When your wheel bearings begin to go bad, your car will get harder to drive.
Some key symptoms of reduced handling are:
- Your vehicle will pull left or right giving you a swing feeling while driving the vehicle.
- The vehicle steering feel will be off and feel sluggish while turning.
- The wheels of your vehicle could feel not attached fully to the vehicle, lowering driver confidence.
3. Uneven Tire Wear
A bad wheel bearing can cause uneven tire wear on the side with a bad wheel bearing.
If you see unexpected wear on one tire you should inspect your wheel bearings.
You will often see excess wear on the edges of your tire. This often happens either because the wheel is wobbling and not flat on the ground.
Another reason that uneven tire wear occurs is because the weight of the vehicle is no longer spread evenly.
As a result, the side with a bad wheel bearing will not have the support of a wheel bearing. This will cause your tires to experience additional weight and uneven tire wear.
4. Smoke Coming From Wheels
One of the main functions of the wheel bearing is to reduce friction and to ensure your car can turn smoothly.
When your wheel bearing stops functioning properly this will increase the friction inside your wheel bearings.
When the friction becomes so severe smoke can begin coming from your tires. This smoke will typically come from your rim or around the tire well.
You are likely to hear loud grinding noises before the smoke.
5. Wobbling or Play On the Tire
Another common sign of a bad wheel bearing is a wobbly tire or play on the tire.
A wobbly tire is typically noticeable when you drive. If you are not sure if your tire is wobbly you can have someone inspect your car as you drive.
The wobble in the tire will typically become more apparent at higher speeds.
Another symptom of a bad wheel bearing and often associated with a wobbly tire is play in the wheel.
If you life the vehicle using a jack and pull on the sides of the tire, the wheel will jiggle or shift.
In many cases this play will eventually lead to a wobbly or unstable tire which is much more severe.
6. Wheel Separating From Your Car
When this happens you have ignored all other signs of a bad wheel bearing.
This is one of the worst things that can happen if you have a bad ball bearing.
At this point your bar bearing and bearing wheel hub are completely destroyed and have come apart from your vehicle.
How To Check Your Wheel Bearings?
There are multiple ways you can check to see if your wheel bearings are bad.
1. Listen or feel for bad wheel bearings
If you can hear howling or knocking noises this is one way you can check your wheel bearings. These sounds typically get louder the faster you go.
2. Physically touch the wheel
If you pull on your tire and there is movement or play in the tire this is a sign that your wheel bearing is bad.
3. Use OBD scanner.
This method will typically only work on newer vehicles. The car must use a sensor in the wheel hub bearing. This will allow you to easily determine if there is an issue with a wheel bearing.
4. Have a mechanic inspect your car
This is the easiest way to check your wheel bearings but its also the most costly. If you are unfamiliar with cars or don’t have the tools readily available to use the other steps you can seek professional assistance.
What is a wheel bearing?
Wheel bearings do two key things for your car:
- They help your wheel rotate smoothly with as little friction as possible
- They help evenly support the weight of your car.
This part of your car looks like a metal ring with small metal balls inside.
The anatomy of a wheel bearing is broken down into five key parts.
- The outer ring or outer race
- The metal balls
- The retainer – this holds the balls in place
- The inner ring or inner race
The metal balls can rotate between the outer race and inter race allows for your wheel to rotate smoothly without any friction between metals.
Types of Wheel Bearings
There are two types of wheel bearings you can choose from: ball bearings and roller bearings. Depending on your car and needs you can make a choice between the two.
1. Ball Bearings
Ball bearings are the most common type of wheel bearing. These are typically the stock options on most cars.
These bearing are the standard option because they can handle both thrust and radial loads exceptionally well. This means that they can handle both turning pressure and overall weight.
If you are looking for a more tailored option, ball bearings perform better on small vehicles and at higher speeds.
This is an ideal option if you have a small car or drive on freeways often.
2. Roller Bearings
Roller bearings function similarly to ball bearings, except that they use long rollers instead of balls to reduce friction.
These roller bearings are less common, although on stock vehicles.
They are often used for larger vehicles with heavier loads, such as SUVs and trucks.
Frequently Asked questions
Is It Worth Replacing Your Wheel Bearings?
Yes, replacing your wheel bearings is worth it. Not replacing your wheel bearings can be dangerous.
In severe cases, the wheel bearing can break off entirely, causing your wheel entire wheel to fall off your vehicle.
In other situations, your wheel bearings can become so damaged that they will lock up causing making it difficult to control your vehicle.
Both of these situations are extremely dangerous for yourself and others on the road.
Is It Safe To Drive With A Wheel Bearing Problem?
No, ideally, you should get your wheel bearings inspected and replaced as soon as possible.
Having your wheel bearings inspected will help you understand the level of wear and tear, and how much longer you can drive on your wheel bearing.
Driving on bad wheel bearings can be dangerous and heavily impair your ability to steer your vehicle.
If your wheel bearings are severely damaged, this can lead to catastrophic problems such as your wheel bearings locking up or your tire falling off.
How long does a wheel bearing last?
Wheel bearings are typically expected to last between 80,000 and 125,000 miles. For most people, this will take anywhere from 7 to 10 years to reach.
The lifespan of your wheel bearing will depend on the quality of the wheel bearing and your typical driving conditions.
Higher quality wheel bearings last longer.
Likewise, driving in calm conditions will extend wheel bearing lifespan.
Why Do Wheel Bearings Fail?
The most common reasons that wheel bearings go bad are hard impacts from a pothole or running over an object or natural wear and tear due to harsh driving conditions.
Below are some of the reasons that your wheel bearing may be going bad
- A car accident
- Excessive use such as more than 100,000 miles
- Consistent rough road conditions such as driving offroad or poorly maintained streets are used frequently.
- The impact of a foreign object or the road on or near your wheel bearings.
- Debris and moisture build-up can damage the seals and increase friction inside wheel bearings.
- Faulty installation
- Poor quality wheel bearings can wear down and break much faster.
- Car modifications can cause wheel bearings to wear down much faster. This includes lifting your car, using wider rims, among other modifications.