Wheel bearings are some of the smallest components on a heavy-duty truck, but they play a big role. That’s because bearings support the weight of the tractor and trailer, allowing the hub assemblies to turn freely, and the tires and wheels to rotate smoothly.
Wheel bearings typically last for hundreds of thousands of miles, and the signs they are failing are minimal – at most a grinding or grating noise. But if you don’t address the problem quickly, a failing bearing can drive up fuel costs, decrease stopping distances and cause the truck to feel loose while steering. Even worse, a broken wheel bearing can cause damage throughout the wheel end assembly and lead to a dangerous wheel-off situation.
Fortunately it’s easy to prolong the life of your wheel bearings and ensure your safety while out on the road. Here are three easy steps you can take today.
1. Make sure your bearings are properly adjusted: When it comes to wheel bearings, setting the correct amount of end play is critical. In fact, the difference between a too loose or too tight bearing is between 0.001 and 0.005 of an inch – the width of just one or two human hairs. The Technology & Maintenance Council has a great nine-step protocol, Recommended Practice 618, to guide technicians when they adjust bearings. Make sure your shop or local repair facility is following it.
2. Lubricate: Inadequate or improper lubrication can speed up bearing wear, leading to spalling or fatigue. Always follow your bearing manufacturer’s recommendations when choosing a lubricant and for proper fill quantities.
3. Avoid contamination: Contamination is the most common cause of bearing failure and can lead to the development of dents or impressions in bearing rollers or raceways. One of the leading entry points for contamination is a failed wheel seal, which can let foreign material in but still hold lubricant in the hub cavity. To avoid contamination, always leave bearings in their original packaging until time of installation, install them in a clean environment, and replace wheel seals at first sign of failure.
WHEN IT’S TIME TO REPLACE YOUR BEARINGS OR SEALS, TURN TO ROAD CHOICE® FOR AN INTEGRATED WHEEL-END SOLUTION.
Durable Road Choice Wheel Bearings protect your wheel end from whatever the road throws its way. These state-of-the-art bearings feature super-finished raceways and rollers to ensure smooth and quiet operation. Plus, they’re coated with a rust inhibitor after final assembly to protect against corrosion and premature wear.
The three-piece cartridge outer wall of Road Choice Premium Wheel Seals provides maximum strength to support installation, while the wide rubber outside diameter forms a complete barrier inside the wheel seal and helps seal hub bore imperfections. In addition, the ribbed design allows the seal to be installed easily without tools – reducing time and costs – but still grips the hub bore so the seal can’t back out once it’s been seated.