In this complete guide to wheel bearing replacement cost, we look at how much a wheel bearing replacement should be priced at as well as first determining what a wheel bearing is, so that drivers can ascertain more easily if the cost that they have been quoted for their wheel bearing replacement is good value for money. We additionally look at why car drivers need to replace wheel bearings so they can more fully understand the car part’s intrinsic importance to the smooth running of an automobile. Lastly, we look at whether a wheel bearing can be replaced by the driver themselves or whether it should always be carried out by a seasoned professional.
What Is A Wheel Bearing?
In a nutshell, a wheel bearing is a whole set of balls that are kept together by a ring. They are important to a car’s smooth running as they aid the wheel to spin around with as little friction as possible.
A wheel bearing is the part of a car that supports the car wheel. It is connected to, or rides on, the axle shaft. The bearing itself fits into the hole in the middle of the wheel. From there, it is kept in position by bolts called lug bolts. It is these bolts that keep the wheel attached to the car itself. If a driver has ever changed a tyre, they should have seen a wheel bearing. It is actually pressed into the back of the wheel and from there it is then bolted into place.
In modern engineering, wheels have been developed to include sealed bearings in an increased effort to ensure that all car parts are as safe from the weather elements as possible. This is a useful development as it is widely known that wheel bearings are often ruined by over exposure to heat or moisture. The heat can come from too much friction in the car owing to a lack of lubrication. If water enters the bearing, it can obviously cause the metal to rust and therefore diminish the strength of the metal until the whole part breaks down.
Why Do You Need To Replace A Wheel Bearing?
At the very minimum, if you can hear an unusually loud noise coming from your wheels, it is most probably your wheel bearings making the problem heard. This can be in the form of a grinding noise or even something that sounds similar to clunking. Other ways that your car may alert you to a problem with the wheel bearings is that the wheels themselves do not move as well as they should do normally or you may even feel your steering wheel shaking when out on the roads.
If you believe your wheel bearing to be faulty, or an issue comes up with them in a routine service, it is imperative to have the faulty part replaced as it can seriously impede the safety of your car, your passengers and those on the road around you if you ignore the problem. This is because a faulty wheel bearing can have a massive impact on your ability to steer your car as it should. The repercussions of not being able to direct your car where you need it to go on the road are obvious.
How Much Should A Wheel Bearing Replacement Cost?
Unfortunately, without knowing the exact age and make of a car, it is difficult to pin down definitively a price on how much a wheel bearing replacement should cost. While the average cost is around $300, it can be as low as $100 and rise to as much as $700.
The price varies hugely depending on the car you have as well as where you go to have the wheel bearing replaced. As ever with having car parts fixed and repaired, a huge variable in costs will come from what the garage you go to charges for labor. This can vary immensely, but it should be directly correlated to the level of expertise offered. I.e. the cheaper the labor, the less experienced a mechanic you will be getting and so the larger the chances that the final result won’t be quite as good.
That’s not to say that a cheap mechanic is a bad mechanic though. Some brand name garages and chains will charge more simply because of their well known reputation. While this can mean that some will charge less than a local garage due to the economies of scale that a bigger company can provide, some will add a premium to their wheel bearing replacement service because customers have heard of them and don’t think to look elsewhere for a better price.
This is the main way that customers can get the cost of their wheel bearing replacement down – by shopping around for a decent quote first. Local garages will always want your business so try to haggle a little to get an even better price, or perhaps think about coupling up your wheel bearing replacement with another service that would need to be carried out in the near future anyway. This way, you will hopefully save in labor costs over time, even if it is more expensive initially to have your wheel bearings replaced in this way.
Should You Have Your Wheel Bearing Replaced Professionally?
In general, given how important having wheels and, as a consequence, a steering system that works in place, it is not really recommended to try to change the wheel bearings on your car yourself, unless you are an experienced and trained mechanic. The cost is just too dear in terms of what could go wrong in comparison to what you are saving by cutting out the labor portion of your bill. Plus, if you do it yourself, you always run the risk of having to do the replacement twice anyway as a faulty installation is more likely to occur the first time for DIYers.
While labor is, more often than not, about half your final total, that is not too bad in terms of what some car part replacements can cost. This is due to where the wheel bearings are and the level of work that is needed to gain access to them. While the car itself does, of course, need to be jacked up and kept on a flat stable surface so the wheel can be removed, once the wheel is off, the process is quite simple – for those that know how. In relation to other car parts like timing belts which require pretty much the whole engine to be removed before the timing belt can be repaired or replaced, replacing the wheel bearing is that little bit more straightforward. It does, though require some specialised equipment, particularly in terms of removing the brake calliper as well as a special tool that can remove the central bolt of the wheel for a mechanic to gain access to the very wheel bearings that need replacing.
Wheel Bearing Replacement Cost – The Bottom Line
Having wheel bearings replaced is one of those things that happens if you own a car. On average, wheel bearings have an average lifespan of around 136,000 to 160,000 km. While this will vary, as all car parts do, on the quality of the wheel bearing and its manufacturer, it is simply a car part that will need replacing at some point in a car’s life – especially if you eat a lot of miles on a freeway or motorway.
To extend the length of your wheel bearings’ life, there are a number of things you can do. Firstly, you can ensure that once they have been repaired, they have been installed properly. Look for a garage that does not reuse bolts, nuts or seals as this will diminish how long a wheel bearing will last. In terms of driving, try to avoid potholes and roads that are of poor quality. When going over speed bumps, go at the correct speed as the impact of lumps and bumps in the road can materially affect a wheeling bearing over its life. As an extension of this, be wary and careful when driving through deep water or mud as this can be a direct reason that your wheels will fail as water or mud may infiltrate the bearings and stop it from working properly.
Lastly, if you like to modify your car to make it more your own, be aware that fitting bigger rims or tires with lower thread walls could impede your wheel bearings and therefore how long they can work for efficiently and effectively.