Wheel Bearing Replacement Cost, Types, Diagnosis & Fixes

How do you feel after a long busy day at the office? You feel weary and worn out. That is how your wheel bearings feel when it's time for their replacement, and you fail to make the necessary effort. However, you are ready to make that change, and that is why you are even on this page. You need to know the wheel bearing replacement cost as this will help you plan well by getting enough money.

What is a Wheel-Bearing?

If you wonder what a wheel bearing is, it is a set of steel balls held together in a metal ring, known as a race. Wheel bearings fit tightly inside the hub, a hollow piece of metal found at the center of your wheels. Wheel bearings are different from engine bearings as they do not have a constant source of lubrication, which means they must be tight to keep away road dust and water.

Another importance of wheel bearings is that they support the vehicle's weight while driving, which makes them suffer a lot of abuse from potholes, rough roads, and even lateral forces when turning. In addition, with the much work it does, wheel bearing may get overwhelmed and even wear and tear. When this eventually happens, you may need a replacement.

Types of Wheel Bearings

There are two types of wheel bearings that you can choose from when you want to replace your old one. You can choose whichever suits your car needs.

a). Ball Bearings

This type of wheel bearings is the most common and are the stock option on most vehicles. They can exceptionally handle thrust and radial loads. In simpler terms, ball bearings can handle the overall weight and turning pressure. So if you are the type of person who drives on freeways often or small car, ball bearings are the best.

b). Roller Bearings

Roller bearings function similarly to ball bearings. However, they are less common on stock vehicles. So, they are used for large vehicles with heavier loads like trucks and even SUV's.

C). Tapered Roller Bearings

Tapered roller bearings are commonly used by car and truck owners. They have cone-shaped roller bearings, which help to corner the pressure. This feature makes them more commonly used compared to standard roller bearings.

d). Precision Ball Bearings

Precision ball bearings are similar to ball bearings. However, they rotate faster and reduce friction, reducing the amounts of heat released, letting them cope with higher amounts of pressure and load. It, therefore, provides more performance. In addition, they can cope with large amounts of pressure, making them suitable for use in more extreme and demanding tasks. This type of wheel bearings is found in airplanes, race cars and even performance or exotic cars.

Common Types of Wheel Bearing Assembly

Wheel bearing replacement varies depending on various factors, including earing assembly. Let us see how this factor affects replacement cost.

a). Serviceable Hub Assembly

The serviceable hub is the simplest and also the easiest assembly to replace. This is because the wheel bearing is separated from the rotor, also known as the wheel hub. The process here requires the mechanic to take out the old bearing to replace it with a new one. However, the mechanic does not need to dismantle the whole suspension assembly, making it less costly.

b). Non-Serviceable Hub Assembly

.Most new cars come with wheel bearings pre-packed with the wheel hub, which means that the bearing will sit in the wheel hub as a single unit. It will be more costly to replace this as a replacement does not involve only the bearing but the entire hub. Although it is not labor-intensive, it is more costly, as the spare parts will cost more.

c). Non-Serviceable Hub Assembly with Press in Bearing

Non-serviceable hub assembly requires the removal of the wheel, after which you are to put it in a press to remove the bearing. Well, this is not a walk in the park; it is more complicated. It is labor intensive and requires more tools and effort, and this makes the method more expensive. In addition, an unprofessional installation of this bearing leads to premature wear and damage.

Signs of Bad Wheel-Bearing

The hostile environment in which your wheel bearings work makes them wear and tear with time. In addition, they are exposed to heat and cold and other forms of precipitation, making them highly vulnerable. So, if your wheel bearings start showing some signs, it may be because they are bad. So, some of the signs that show you have bad wheel bearings are discussed below.

a). Problems with the Car's Handling

Wheel bearings support and allow your wheels to rotate with minimal friction. Therefore, bad wheel bearings will interfere with how your car handles. You may notice this effect in the different ways below;

i). The car randomly pulls to one side, or when you brake

ii). The car feels lose

iii). The car's response to steering inputs are sluggish

b). Unusual Noises Coming from the Wheels

Unusual noises coming from the wheels are among the most common symptoms of bad wheel bearings. These noises get audible when you make a turn and get louder at higher speeds. This noise is of a specific type and is dependent on the kind and extent of the damage. Some of these noises include rumbling, scraping, clicking, groaning, growling, and whirring, among others.

c). Uneven Tire Wear

Checking the pressure and the general condition of your tires is one way of following the essential maintenance of the car. If you do so, you will notice uneven tire wear s soon as it appears. It is a sign of bad wheel bearing. Uneven tire wear occurs at the start of bad wheel bearing, which causes the wheels to move incorrectly. As the wheels move, they wear unevenly, and this gets worse as the wheel bearings deteriorate.

d). Steering Wheel Vibration and Wobbling

Bad wheel bearings lose their tight manufacturing clearances as they wear. This makes the wheel bearings lose, hence creating an opportunity for vibrations to be transmitted to the driver and passengers as the car moves. If the front wheel bearings are wrong, you will feel the vibrations through the steering wheel. You can also feel like the car is shaking apart if you are driving at high speed. The best thing to do if this happens is to slow down and get off the road.

e). Wheel Separating from the Car

At this stage, it means that you neglected your wheel bearings, and they have reached a point of no return. It means that it is destroyed completely and can no longer retain the wheel. If this happens when you are at highway speeds, you will have difficulty steering the car to safety.

f). Smoke coming Out of the Wheel

It would help if you didn't wait till you see smoke coming out of the wheel to take action. But, unfortunately, if you wait too long, this is what will happen. It means that the wheel bearing is far gone, and the intense heat and friction produced by the damaged internal parts has ignited whatever is left.

How Do I Check My Wheel Bearings?

How can you tell if your wheel bearing is bad? Just like there are many ways to kill a rat, there are different methods you can use to check the condition of your wheel bearings, and they include;

a). Touch the Wheel

You will know your wheel bearing is bad if you pull your tire and there is movement.

b). Use OBD Scanner

This works only on newer vehicles, and the car needs a sensor in the wheel hub bearing. In this way, you can quickly tell whether or not the car has a bad wheel bearing.

c). Feel and Listen

You can also check the wheel bearing of your car by listening if you can hear knocking or howling noises. The faster you go, the louder these sounds become.

d). Let a Mechanic Check the Car

This may be costly, but it is the best way to check your wheel bearings. Bringing a mechanic is especially important if you don't have readily available tools or are unfamiliar with cars.

Wheel Bearing Replacement Cost

How much does replacing a wheel bearing cost? This factor varies with whoever is doing the job, the cost of parts and the degree of difficulty. The hostile environment of your wheel bearing my lead to rusting and corrosion. Other parts of the suspension and the braking system could also need repair or replacement.

Some vehicles with four-wheel drive or front-wheel drive may require you to remove certain parts out of the way to remove the bad wheel bearings. This will affect your total cost of repair.

Other factors that may influence wheel bearing replacement costs include the year, make and car model. Depending on these factors, the average cost of wheel bearings replacement could be at least hundreds of dollars and can go up to over a thousand dollars. If you want the best service, then ask from several highly-rated car repair shops; this will help you get estimates of repair costs.

a). Front Wheel Bearing Replacement Cost

If you want to replace the front wheel bearing and the hub assembly, you can expect to pay $400-$650. To understand this with ease, it is important to break down the cost into parts and labor.

A front wheel bearing replacement ranges from $50 to $200, and this depends on the quality of the hub assembly and the wheel bearings.

Let's have a look at a breakdown of the different qualities.

  • Premium wheel bearings- $ 140 to $220
  • Mid-range wheel bearings- $70 to $120
  • Budget wheel bearing- $30-$60

Replacing the wheel bearing and wheel hub assembly at the same time is more recommended than replacing one at a time. This is because when you pair a worn-out wheel hub, the new wheel bearing tends to wear down.

It is also important to note that it is better to replace both front wheel bearings together, even if only one is bad, which is for obvious reasons; if one is bad, the other has uneven wear, or it will also wear and tear soon.

b). Rear Wheel Bearing Replacement Cost

Replacing rear wheel bearings is slightly more costly than replacing the front wheel bearing. So, you can expect to spend around $200- $500. Rear-wheel bearing replacement cost consists of two sections; labor and parts.

The replacement parts of the rear wheel bearing and hub assembly will cost approximately $125 and $350, and the price varies depending on the quality of the rear wheel bearing you intend to buy.

Mechanic shops may have a limited selection of rear wheel bearings, so buying them online is the best option to have variety. A simple breakdown of the cost of different qualities of rear wheel bearings is shown below;

  • Premium wheel bearings
  • Mid-range wheel bearings
  • Budget wheel bearings

c). The Cost of Replacing Wheel Bearing on One Side

Replacing only one wheel bearing can cost you approximately $130 to $ 220, which is roughly half the price you would pay to replace wheel bearings on both sides. The option of replacing one is always available. However, it is more recommended to repair both at the same time. Replacing one at a time means that the other one would also get damaged before long.

Frequently Asked Questions About Wheel Bearing Replacement Cost

1. Is it safe to drive a car with a bad wheel bearing?

Driving a car with a bad wheel bearing can be fatal as it may make the wheel stop as you are driving. Such a wheel bearing will also stress the hub, the CV joint, and even the transmission itself.

2. How long does a wheel bearing last?

Wheel bearings are designed to last between 80,000 to 125,000 miles, approximately 7-10 years for most people. However, the lifespan depends on your driving conditions and the quality of the wheel bearing. Using a higher quality wheel bearing and driving in calm conditions makes the wheel bearings last longer.