Driving a vehicle with a damaged wheel bearing can lead to disastrous consequences, such as a wheel coming off or loss of steering control, especially when driving at high speeds. The wheel bearing is a major part of the suspension system that helps keep the car balanced while in motion. The common symptoms of malfunctioning wheel bearings include a shaky steering wheel and grinding sounds coming from the wheel.
According to automotive experts, damaged wheel bearings must be changed immediately by a qualified mechanic to prevent accidents and damage to other components.
Aside from normal wear and tear, accumulated dirt inside the housing, overheating from lack of lubrication, and road bumps can cause a wheel bearing to fail prematurely.
Wheel bearings are made of hardened steel. They're designed to carry a car's weight and reduce rotational friction between the axle and the wheel to keep the vehicle moving smoothly. High-speed cornering and steep turns cause premature failure by generating excessive pressure on the bearings. Hitting curbs can also damage wheel bearings.
Unbalanced and out-of-round tires can quickly turn wheel bearings bad, reports AGCO Automotive Corporation. The continuous force exerted by defective tires causes damage to integral components of the suspension system, including tie rods, ball joints and struts.