How much does wheel bearing replacement cost? We discuss the numbers so that you have a good estimate for your vehicle.
If you hear your car or truck making growling or squealing sounds when driving, it could be that a wheel bearing is faulty and needs to be replaced. Knowing how much the bearing costs to replace will allow you to plan your finances accordingly and not get ripped off.
So, how much does it cost to replace a wheel bearing? Simply put, you can expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $800, depending on the make, model, and year of your vehicle and the labor rate charged by your mechanic.
Keep reading for a breakdown of the wheel bearing repair cost for both front and rear bearings, as well as other useful information about this rather important component of your car.
What Is A Wheel Bearing?
A wheel bearing plays a crucial role in the movement of a vehicle’s wheels, as it allows the wheels to rotate with minimal friction. It’s part of the assembly that connects the wheel to the axle and consists of a set of steel balls or tapered bearings held together by a metal ring.
Without wheel bearings, your wheels would likely slide over the ground as opposed to roll, which is to say you won’t get far in your car.
Each of your vehicle’s wheels has its own wheel bearing, and damage to any of them can lead to serious accidents, injuries, and repairs. Clearly, they are a safety-critical component that must work optimally at all times.
Wheel bearings have an average service life of 85,000 to 100,000 miles (136,000-160,000 km), though they can theoretically last as long as your vehicle. Of course, high-quality, well-maintained wheel bearings last longer than shoddier ones.
It’s rare for a wheel bearing to fail abruptly after symptoms of damage first appear, but you should have it repaired or replaced immediately once the affected wheel starts acting up.
Types of Wheel Bearings
Wheel bearings come in different shapes and sizes, but they all serve the same purpose, which is to allow your wheels to rotate freely without being impeded by excess friction.
The most common types of wheel bearings are ball bearings, precision ball bearings, roller bearings, and tapered roller bearings.
Ball bearings are the most common type of wheel bearings and also the most versatile. Their design allows them to absorb both thrust and radial loads.
Thrust load pertains to cornering pressure, while radial load concerns the amount of weight placed on the wheel.
Ball bearings are available for wheels of all sizes and vehicles. They can be found in everything from automobile wheels to roller skate wheels.
Precision Ball Bearings
Precision ball bearings are optimized for high performance, featuring a design that produces less friction, less heat, and a higher rotation speed than standard bearings. They are also capable of massive radial and thrust loads.
Precision ball bearings are commonly found in racing car and airplane landing wheels. Understandably, they are one of the most expensive types of wheel bearings.
Roller bearings are also commonly found in many applications, though they’re not as versatile as ball bearings. Their design allows them to handle radial loads fairly well but not thrust loads.
Roller bearings, therefore, work well for wheels that are intended to travel in a straight line such as those on grocery carts and hand trucks but not for wheels used for cornering.
Tapered Roller Bearings
Tapered roller bearings can mostly be found in regular car and truck wheels. They have a cone-shaped design that reduces friction during cornering, when thrust load is at the highest.
Wheels generally angle to varying degrees when a vehicle turns. Tapered roller bearings accommodate this angling to keep the shifting parts from grinding against each other.
Wheel Bearing Replacement Cost
Now that you know what a wheel bearing is and what could happen if it fails, let’s look at how much it costs to replace one. As stated earlier, the cost will vary depending on the make, model, and year of your vehicle, as well as the labor cost charged for the repair.
The average wheel bearing repair cost also depends on which wheel bearings are being replaced — front or rear — and whether on one side or both sides of the vehicle.
Front Wheel Bearing Replacement Cost
Integrated into the steering knuckle arm assembly and connected to your vehicle’s drive axle components, front wheel bearings tend to suffer more stress than the rear bearing due to the steering and wear out quicker, as a result. Even so, they can last the entire life of the car or truck under proper driving conditions.
Should you need to replace the front wheel bearings, whether as a result of extensive wear, impact damage, and the like, expect to pay anywhere from $130 to $220 for just one side of the vehicle. The parts will cost between $60 and $100, while labor will fetch you $70 to $140.
The bigger your vehicle and the more sophisticated the wheel bearing, the more you’ll have to pay. Repairs on large trucks, luxury vehicles, and sports cars, for instance, tend to be more expensive than repairs on average mainstream vehicles.
The front wheel bearing replacement cost for both sides of a vehicle is simply double that of a one-side repair, though you might be able to save some money on labor. Expect the job to cost $260 to $480.
Rear Wheel Bearing Replacement Cost
It’s slightly cheaper to replace the rear wheel bearings than the front. Replacing just one side typically costs around $120 to $240, with the rear wheel bearing parts costing $50 to $100 and labor coming in at an additional $70 to $140.
Once again, the exact amount you will end up paying will depend on your vehicle’s make, model, and year.
The rear wheel bearing replacement cost for both sides, on the other hand, is approximately $240 to $460 — $100 to $180 for parts and an extra $140 to $280 for labor.
Rear Hub Bearings
With a rear hub bearing assembly, the wheel bearing is built into the hub and not a separate component. It’s, therefore, installed and removed with the entire hub assembly as one complete unit.
Not every vehicle uses rear hub bearings, but such a setup makes replacing them more expensive than standard bearings, almost twice as expensive! Replacing hub assemblies on both sides of an axle can cost you anywhere from $400 to $800.
Naturally, the more advanced the assembly, the more expensive the repair.
Why Wheel Bearings Fail
Wheel bearings are designed to withstand a lot of abuse, but many variables can cause them to fail prematurely.
Let’s look at the main reasons why wheel bearings go bad.
Haphazard installation, including re-using old and inadequate components (nuts, bolts, seals, etc.) and poor calibration, can damage the interior and exterior of the wheel bearing, causing premature failure.
You see all those speed bumps you’ve gone over, potholes you’ve driven through, and curbstones you’ve hit? Well, every impact your wheel sustains in everyday driving can damage the bearings and reduce their lifespan.
You get what you pay for, right? Wheel bearings made from low-quality materials are typically less capable of withstanding the extreme abuse wheels normally take, resulting in premature wear and failure.
Lower temperatures increase lubricant viscosity, restricting the flow of lubrication to the bearings, increasing friction, and accelerating their deterioration.
Moreover, any water, mud, or other contaminants that penetrate the seals and enter the bearing will pollute the lubricant, rendering it less effective.
Modifying your car with bigger rims, tires with lower thread walls, stiffer shock absorbers and suspension springs, etc. will cause the wheel bearings to bear higher loads and wear out quicker.
Symptoms Of Bad Wheel Bearings
When a wheel bearing becomes faulty, you will often notice one or more of the following symptoms. Don’t ignore them — get your car or truck inspected.
Uneven Tire Wear
Granted there are other causes of uneven or abnormal tire wear, a loose or worn wheel bearing can cause the affected tire to rotate and wear out at a different rate than the unaffected tires, with the loss of synchronicity resulting in uneven wear.
Vehicle Pulls To One Side
If you notice that your vehicle pulls to one side when driving or applying the brakes, it may be due to excessive runout caused by a severely loose wheel bearing. Runout can make the brakes pulsate or pull in one direction.
Faulty wheel bearings can cause your vehicle to make a variety of strange noises that become more pronounced as it accelerates or makes a turn. You may notice some humming, growling, or rumbling, not to mention loud and persistent whining or grinding noises.
Your car or truck might even make clunking noises when driving over rough surfaces.
Vibration, Shaky Ride
The imbalance created by a bad wheel bearing can cause your vehicle to wobble and/or vibrate while traveling at a constant speed or accelerating. Not only will the car itself shudder or shimmy, but the steering wheel might also vibrate and wobble.
Wheel bearings are often not considered an ABS component, but you might be surprised to know that the ABS sensors have traditionally been integrated with the wheel end bearing.
As such, if your car’s ABS is malfunctioning, it might very well be due to a faulty wheel bearing.
Wheel Bearing Replacement FAQs
Why are we not surprised that you have even more questions not only about how much it costs to replace a wheel bearing but also about wheel bearings in general? Well, keep reading for more answers.
Can You Drive A Car With A Bad Wheel Bearing?
Yes, but you shouldn’t. It’s not safe to drive with a bad wheel bearing.
If the faulty wheel bearing fails due to the pressure placed on it, the damage can spread to other parts of the car, especially the suspension and tires. The wheel may even fall off when driving, potentially causing an accident.
If you suspect that a wheel bearing has become damaged or worn-out, park your vehicle and have it evaluated by a trusted technician as soon as possible. Don’t drive it until the bearing has been repaired or replaced.
Can You Replace Just One Wheel Bearing?
Yes. If one wheel bearing gets damaged by a speed bump, pothole, or curb and the other bearings are still in good working condition, it’s usually safe to replace it without replacing the others.
However, if the bearing is simply worn due to old age, it’s likely that the wheel bearing on the other side of the vehicle is also close to reaching the end of its service life and should be replaced, as well.
What Are The Signs Of A Bad Wheel Bearing?
If your vehicle has one or more bad wheel bearings, you might notice it make rattling, humming, and grinding noises, shake and vibrate, and pull to one side when accelerating. The steering wheel may also feel sloppy and loose.
The wheel bearing is a part of your car’s wheel assembly responsible for spinning each wheel smoothly with as little friction as possible.
Many things can cause it to fail, and having a bad wheel bearing can be an inconvenience at best and downright dangerous at worst. Fortunately, there are many signs that can warn you of a potential problem.
For your safety and everyone else’s, you should replace a wheel bearing as soon as it stops working properly. Don’t wait or take any chances.
The cost to replace a wheel bearing can range from $100 to $800 depending on the make, model, and year of your car or truck, as well as the cost of the parts, and the labor rate charged by your mechanic. To save money, consider shopping around to find the best quotes.
Now that you know the average wheel bearing replacement cost and how much you can expect to spend, read some of our other popular car maintenance and repair articles. Learn how much your car weighs, why a car might produce white exhaust smoke, and the implications of metal shavings in oil.