A wheel bearing is a set of steel balls held together by a steel ring. The job of the wheel bearing is to help turn the wheel and minimize friction while you are driving down the road. They also help the wheel to spin freely giving you a smooth ride. If a wheel bearing starts to get worn, it will start to make a noise. It is not a good idea to drive with a worn wheel bearing because it is an essential part of holding the wheel onto your vehicle.
To make sure your are safe, here are some things to look for if you're concerned about worn wheel bearings:
One sign that you have a worn wheel bearing is a popping, clicking, or snapping sound while you are driving. This sound is more noticeable when you are making sharp turns or taking corners. If you notice sounds coming from your wheels, contact a mechanic to have your vehicle inspected.
If you hear your vehicle grinding while you are driving, you may have a worn wheel bearing. The grinding means there is mechanical damage and this should be checked out as soon as possible. The grinding sound is most noticeable when turning or when there is a shift in the load you are carrying.
A rumbling or humming sound is another sign of a worn wheel bearing. The noise can be heard while you are driving in a straight line, but it gets louder as you turn the wheel to the right or left. The opposite side of the rumbling is typically the worn side.
Wheel bearings become worn out if they get contaminated with debris, or they run out of grease to keep them lubricated. If you start to feel problems with your wheel bearings, it is best to have them cleaned and repacked right away. Since the wheel bearing is not properly lubricated, friction increases on the bearing which can cause the wheel to stop suddenly. This can happen anytime you are driving down the road, which is dangerous for you and those around you.
A worn wheel bearing can be dangerous, especially if it causes one wheel to stop while you are driving. If you hear any unusual sounds coming from one side of the vehicle, especially while you are turning, contact a mechanic right away. If you believe that you need new ones, you can have your wheel bearings replaced by a certified mechanic. The wheel bearings are an essential part of keeping your wheels and vehicle running smoothly, so make sure they are kept at optimal condition to ensure vehicle safety and performance.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as Is it Safe to Drive With a Worn Wheel Bearing? and was authored by Valerie Johnston.