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Can A Bad Wheel Bearing Affect Acceleration?

A bad wheel bearing will affect acceleration and eventually fail.

Your car's wheel bearings are an essential part of the drivetrain. However, since they are constantly in motion when you drive your vehicle, they can wear down over time and cause problems.

A bad wheel bearing can affect your car's acceleration by causing extra friction between the metal parts that are in contact with each other. A bad wheel bearing can also cause too much drag on your axle if it can't spin freely.

Read on to learn more about wheel bearings and how they can affect your car's performance.

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    A bad wheel bearing will affect acceleration and eventually fail.
    A bad wheel bearing will affect acceleration and eventually fail.

    What Are Wheel Bearings?

    Wheel bearings are sealed metal discs that contain small metal ball bearings or roller bearings that spin on a track called a "race."

    These bearings are packed in grease to lubricate them and prevent friction between the metal parts.

    Wheel bearings are pressed into the hubs on a car's axle to support the axle's weight at each end and still allow free movement when the vehicle is being driven.

    As the wheel bearings wear over time, they begin to break down and lose their normal function.

    Can A Bad Wheel Bearing Affect Speed?

    There are a few ways that a bad wheel bearing can affect the speed of your vehicle.

    If the seals that hold the grease inside the bearing deteriorate, the bearing will lose its lubrication. This will cause excess metal friction, requiring more effort from your engine to keep the wheels turning.

    A worn-out wheel bearing can sometimes lose some of the ball bearings inside of it. If this happens, the rest of the bearings won't be able to spin together like they're supposed to.

    This will cause harsh vibrations as the remaining bearings bounce around each other while in motion. This vibration is another way that your vehicle speed can be affected.

    Occasionally, a failed wheel bearing can lock up and stop spinning freely. The engine will continue to power the wheels, but the locked-up bearing will cause drag on the axle.

    This drag will require much more force to keep the wheels moving, which can significantly affect your vehicle speed.

    A mechanic packing a wheel bearing with grease.
    A mechanic packing a wheel bearing with grease.

    Can Bad Wheel Bearing Affect Transmission?

    One serious downside of having a bad wheel bearing is the effect that it can have on your car's transmission.

    The extra friction and drag created by the bad bearing will be carried through the whole drivetrain.

    This can cause your transmission to work harder to account for the loss of power, which can lead to premature wear.

    The vibrations from the bad bearing can also damage the components of the transmission.

    Most modern automatic transmissions are built to handle some vibration from the normal bumps in the road while driving.

    However, the extra vibration from the wheel bearing may cause too much strain on the transmission.

    This is especially true if the damaged bearing isn't replaced quickly and can continue vibrating for an extended period.

    What Happens If You Keep Driving On A Bad Wheel Bearing?

    If you continue to drive on a bad wheel bearing, several negative consequences are possible.

    The effects of the bad bearing can harm your vehicle's gas mileage and performance.

    The drag and vibrations from the bearing can damage many of the components of your drivetrain.

    Most importantly, a complete failure and separation of the wheel bearing can cause you to lose control of your vehicle while driving.

    This can be extremely dangerous and could lead to a severe accident.

    Can Bad Wheel Bearing Affect Gas Mileage?

    A bad wheel bearing can have a noticeable effect on your car's gas mileage.

    Since your engine has to work harder to overcome the friction caused by the bearing not rolling smoothly, it will use more gas to keep your wheels turning.

    A pile of broken wheel bearings.
    A pile of broken wheel bearings.

    What Are The Signs That A Wheel Bearing Is Failing?

    A failing wheel bearing will give you a few signs to watch and listen for.

    Noises

    A bad bearing could cause unusual noises around your wheels and axles.

    These noises can sound different and get progressively worse, depending on the condition of the bearing.

    A slight squealing could be a bearing starting to leak its internal grease, although the brakes could also cause this noise.

    A bearing that has lost some of its rollersmay start to vibrate and cause a rattling or popping sound.

    A bearing that has lost all of its grease and is starting to experience metal friction will usually cause a loud groaning or grinding sound.

    The noises a bad wheel bearing make will get louder or vibrate as the vehicle's speed increase or the vehicle turns, and the vehicle's weight shifts onto the bad bearing .

    Visible Signs

    You may also be able to see the signs of a bad wheel bearing.

    A grease buildup around the bearing housing on the axle or wheel hub indicates a bad wheel bearing.

    What Does It Sound Like When A Wheel Bearing Is Going Out?

    A bad wheel bearing will usually make a metallic squealing or screeching sound.

    Bearings can also make a loud grinding or groaning noise if they are badly damaged and have run out of bearing grease.

    A mechanic installing a new wheel bearing.
    A mechanic installing a new wheel bearing.

    How Long Will A Wheel Bearing Last After It Starts Making Noise?

    It's hard to predict how long a noisy wheel bearing will last.

    Some bearings that are still mechanically sound could keep working for a few more thousand miles, but they can also deteriorate quickly once they begin to fail.

    The only way to know the condition of your wheel bearing is to have it checked by a professional mechanic.

    They will give you a much better idea of the condition of your wheel bearings.

    How Long Can I Drive My Car With A Bad Wheel Bearing?

    Again, this always depends on the condition of the bearing in question.

    A bearing starting to leak grease may keep working for a while, but it's only a matter of time before it runs dry and risks locking up or separating.

    If your wheel bearing is causing harsh vibrations or metallic grinding noise, it should be replaced as soon as possible. Putting it off can cause severe damage to your vehicle.

    Limiting your driving to only emergency situations is important if you have a wheel bearing that has reached this point of failure.

    If you don't, you're gambling with your safety and the safety of those on the road with you.

    How Expensive Is It To Replace A Wheel Bearing?

    The cost to replace a wheel bearing depends on your vehicle type.

    Some vehicles have a hub assembly that contains wheel bearings that can be removed and replaced without replacing the entire hub.

    The bearings for these vehicles are usually cheaper, averaging between $50 and $100 for a single bearing.

    However, these bearings must be removed and new ones pressed in place with a special tool.

    With the cost of labor included, this repair can cost around $200 or $300 to replace bearings on one hub assembly.

    Other vehicles have a hub assembly with sealed bearings that can't be removed.

    You must replace these hubs as a whole if the bearing goes bad. A complete hub and bearing assembly will usually cost anywhere from $100 to $300, depending on the vehicle model.

    Since these hubs are also best left to a mechanic to replace, the additional labor cost can take the total cost of repair to $400 or $500 per hub assembly.

    Conclusion

    Pay attention to a wheel bearing starting to go bad on your vehicle.

    Ignoring a wheel bearing that is grinding or vibrating can end up causing serious damage to your vehicle. It can also be a safety risk for you and everyone you share the road with.

    If you have a wheel bearing going bad, it's best to play it safe and get it checked out as soon as possible!