What Is an Axle Bearing?
Before we get into details about how to notice the signals of a worn axle bearing and how it can be fixed, we first need to understand what axle bearings are and what do they do.
First, there’s the axle, which is the central shaft for a rotating gear or wheels. On wheeled vehicles, the axle can be fixed in two ways:
- One in which the axle rotates with the wheels (referred to as live axle)
- One in which the wheels rotate around the axles (referred to as dead axle)
In both cases, bearings are required in the following:
- Mounting positions where the axle is supported
- Inside a central hole in the wheel or gear so that it rotates around the axle
The term ‘axle bearing’ refers to a device located at each mounting end of a live axle, allowing it to spin without resistance or wear.
What Do Axle Bearings Do?
Cars have countless components, and when they rub against each other, they produce friction, which leads to heat. To prevent excess heat from forming, either lubrication or bearings are used to reduce friction.
The axle and bearings help in maintaining the position of the wheels relative to each other and the vehicle. The axle serves as a driving torque to the wheel and supports the weight of the car. The axle bearing ensures that the axle’s rotating movement is frictionless.
So when these wheel bearings start to wear off or break down, drivers will begin noticing a significant difference in the drive.
Wearing of the Axle Bearing
The wheel bearings can be found in either the front or rear, or both. Their constant spinning causes them to deteriorate after a while. Factor in the car’s weight and added cargo, and you get a car part that wears out relatively fast.
Foreign contamination, loss of grease, and improper adjustment also cause the wheel bearings not to roll effectively and thus making the drive less smooth.
Signs that the Wheel Bearing Has Worn Out
These are some of the telltale signs that the wheel bearings are starting to wear out.
- Unusual Sounds
As the wheel bearings deteriorate, this leads to more friction between the components, and that inevitably leads to weird grinding noises that increase in volume as the speed of the car increases.
- Uneven Wear of the Tyres
When the wheel bearings start to fail, the corresponding tyre will start to wear unevenly from the rest too.
- Vibrations on the Steering Wheel
At slower speeds, vibrations can be felt on the steering wheel if the wheel bearings have worn out badly.
- Wobble in the Wheels
You can test this by lifting the car with a jack. Rotate the tyres clockwise and anticlockwise to check for any sounds or resistance. Check the movement of the wheels by rocking back and forth.
If the wheels make unusual sound or play a lot and rocks back and forth when in motion, it could mean indicate issues with the wheel bearings.
- Steering Difficulty
When wheel bearings become worn out the steering becomes loose and less precise.
- Vehicle Pulls to the Side
Corroded wheel bearings will cause the vehicle to vibrate when travelling on rough surfaces, and pulling to one side is quite common. The side it pulls to is worn outside, and it mostly occurs when brakes are applied to the vehicle.
It is best to have the bearing assembly inspected by a trusted technician to avoid any hazards, such as wheel bearings coming loose. Worn-out bearings can also make the vehicle less responsive and wear the tyres faster too.
Axle Repair and Installation
Wheel bearings don’t deteriorate very quickly and may even go beyond 200,000 km without any issues. But once a problem arises, you should act immediately to avoid further damage.
A cost-effective approach is axle shaft repair bearing. In this, the axle assembly replaces both the bearing and the conventional seal without requiring extra parts.
Before attempting a new axle bearing installation, examine the old axle assembly for corrosion or any other complications that might hinder the repairing process.
The housing depth of the axle tube should be checked to ensure if the repair bearings can be used. The axle tube’s outside and inside diameters should be measured so that it compares to the width of the bearings.
The proper guidelines provided on the owner’s manual or manufacturer’s website should be checked to avoid any complications. Follow the instructions on how to disassemble it properly. Observe the following tips:
- Use only fine-grade emery paper to clean the axle shaft.
- Dip the new bearing in differential oil, and then remove the excess before installing.
- The seal should be facing out when installing the bearing. When assembling, apply force to the bearing ring and not to the seal.
- The re-installing process of the axle should be as recommended by the manufacturer.
- The differential housing should be cleaned before filling up with clean differential oil.
It’s a good thing that axle bearings don’t deteriorate quickly, but if you are an owner of an old car, be aware of the signs and try to solve the issues as soon as they arise. If one of the axle bearings is damaged, it would be a good idea to check on the other too.
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By Tauseeq Magsi