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Your wheel hub is one of the most important parts of your vehicle. A wheel hub is designed to allow the wheel to rotate while remaining connected to your vehicle. The brake rotor and wheel are mounted to the outer portion of the hub. A hub bearing is mounted inside the hub. The inner portion of the hub is designed to bolt on to the suspension of the vehicle.
Over time your wheel hub goes through hundreds of thousands of miles or rotation, as your tires and brake rotors spin. Over time these assemblies go through thousands of heat-cycles and are subject to a lot of abuse from rough roads. We offer a large selection of high-quality replacement wheel hubs.
When a hub fails, it is really the bearing within the hub that is going bad. Both a hub bearing and a wheel bearing will produce the same sounds when failing. A bad bearing will sometimes produce a howling or grinding sound. The sound is lower pitched that the squealing sound associated with brake pads and rotors. Noise from the bearing is often more noticeable at higher speeds, while braking noises are often heard at lower speeds. If your wheels are making other noises, you can learn more about diagnosing those problems here.
A failing wheel bearing can sound much different than a brake pad or brake rotor failure. A wheel bearing (or hub bearing) will make howling, growling, or grinding sound that often can speed up or slow down based on vehicle speed. A brake failure will make sounds when you’re engaging the brakes, but a hub failure may make noises any time the vehicle is moving. If your dash is showing ABS or TSC lights, that could also indicate issues with the hub.
Any time the car is moving, the bearing is allowing for rotational force. A wheel bearing failure can be sudden and will make the car inoperable. Wheel bearings or hubs can have a catastrophic failure where the wheel is released from the car, other times it can completely lock a wheel in place pulling your car to a halt.
If you think one of your hub or wheel bearings is creating noises or dragging, you should inspect the rotational movement within the assembly. Over time a neglected bearing can cause poor steering, premature tire wear, or complete failure. Be sure to regularly inspect your wheel hubs or wheel bearings when replacing your brakes.
A wheel hub reduces rolling friction, allowing the wheels to turn easily. More importantly, they keep the wheels attached to your vehicle. If your car or truck has anti-lock brakes (ABS) and traction control (TCS), the wheel hub assembly also contains the sensors necessary for providing input to those systems.
Both the ABS and TCS systems use the same wheel speed sensor to monitor wheel speed. There is one sensor at each wheel. If one or more wheels are turning faster than the other wheels, the TCS system will send information that enables the traction control to reduce wheel slippage. Similarly, the ABS system monitor the wheels to determine if anti-lock braking should be applied to stop the car.
If any of the wheel speed sensors fail, it can cause the ABS or TSC system to be disabled. This is serious safety problem as it makes it harder to control the car in emergency situations or bad weather. If a wheel hub goes bad, it will slowly tear itself apart. If ignored, eventually the wheel will separate from your vehicle.
A wheel hub is an assembly that contains a hub bearing. A hub bearing is very similar to a wheel bearing, except that a hub bearing is pressed into place during assembly with a hydraulic press. It can also be removed with a hydraulic press. This is time consuming, so when a bearing in a hub fails, it is usually more economical to replace the entire hub assembly. Hub bearings are permanently lubricated.
A wheel bearing is a single bearing on the end of the axle that allows for the free movement of the wheel. Wheel bearings can be taken apart and re-lubricated as needed. They are also relatively easy to replace if they wear out.
While the terms hub and wheel bearing are sometimes used interchangeably, you should know the hub is an entire unit, while the bearing is an individual bearing. Most times a vehicle will use one or the other. Most modern passenger cars and SUVs use hubs. Some pickups and most heavier trucks use wheel bearings.
While wheel bearings or hub bearings are a rotating component of your vehicle, they are built to last many miles. Unlike more “consumable” components like filters or brake pads, wheel bearings often last upwards of 90,000 miles. Bearings can fail earlier due to hitting potholes, etc. While they are built to last it is also important to keep an eye on your hubs so you don’t face a bearing failure.
On some vehicles the inner bearing seal is easily visible at the backside of the hub or wheel bearing assembly. If you can see it, you should look for signs of grease escaping the seal. If you see grease escaping, you should replace the seal asap. This may help prevent bearing or hub failure.