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GM wheel bearings

I have a 2001 Buick Century with 132000 miles. In the past 90 days, I’ve replaced the wheel bearings on both front wheels twice. And now I think one of the new ones is bad. The mechanics say this is not unusual with GM parts, but it’s getting very annoying. Is what they’re saying accurate and I’ll just have to keep taking it back for replacements? Could there be something else going on that would cause problems with the bearing assemblies?

I have heard to only use Timken parts for this replacement. I replaced them on my 2004 Monte Carlo with 60 K miles on the car and now at 90K I have just a little play in the passenger wheel as in bad bearing coming soon. Ask you mechanic which brand part he is installing.

The only way I could envision bearings going bad that routinely is if the installation is done improperly. I mean no disrespect with the folowing questions. I’m simply gatherin information.

Are you doing this yourself? Do you have a proper hydraulic press and mandrels, or are you banging the bearings out of the hubs with a ball-peen?

Banging the bearings into the hubs with a ball-peen, or pressing them in by loading on the side of the inner race, can damage the bearing assemblies internally. If you’re having the work done, suspect a possible improper installation procedure. Try a new shop. If you’re doing the work yourself, try bringing the hubs to a shop to get the bearing assmeblies pressed out and new ones in.

And yeah, Timken is the way to go. They’re the benchmark in the bearing industry.

I’m inclined to think the bearings are failing because of an installation problem so I’m going along with mountainbike’s line of thinking about a potential cause.

Are you saying that you are using original GM bearings purchased from a GM dealership every time?
I ask because it would be highly unusual for someone to purchase something like this repeatedly from a GM dealer instead of the local parts house down at the corner.

I’m going with mountainbike and ok4450 on this one. I’ll add a couple of things. First…find another mechanic. Second…I believe your “mechanic” is leaving the old bearing races intact and just replacing the bearings. I have a hunch that I may be right.

The wheel bearing in this vehicle are the one piece, dual track roller bearings so the races are replaced with the bearings. If the bearings are bad, then I’d have to agree that it is the installation, not the bearing itself.

I’m not sure the bearings are bad. The OP says they are bad, but he has not presented any evidence that that is the case. There could be something else wrong and the Op or his mechanic has misdiagnosed the problem as the wheel bearings.

What are the symptoms? Who diagnosed it as a wheel bearing problem?

The front wheel bearings on your vehicle are a cartridge type bearing. Which means it’s a hub/bearing assembly fastened to the steering knuckle by four bolts. If these bearing assemblies are failing prematurely, then one has to guess these are bad parts. I get my bearing assemblies from CarQuest which are manufactured by Moog.


Tester is correct. I have had both front wheel bearing assemblies replaced twice … first in Massachusetts this summer by a local mechanic, and again this week in Kansas by a Firestone service center that’s been around and successful for many years. They’re in a CarQuest box. And this is after the ORIGINAL bearings lasted for ~120,000 miles with no problems.

The mechanics say the only reason for failure is bad parts. The symptoms are …

  1. A groaning noise when making turns at very low speeds
  2. Sometimes, brakes behaving like the ABS is on
  3. Sometimes, ABS light comes on

I had a front wheel bearing go on my 74 Olds at 20K, then non of the others went bad for over 200K. On my 95 Olds, I replaced both at about 140K. I suspect just the luck of the draw but who knows where they are made now. Most bearings seem to be Chinese now. No point not trying a known quality brand instead.

With this new information, and considering Tester’s correct correction of my bogus assumption, I’m inclined to think it’s spmething other than the bearing(s). I’m inclimed to suggest an ABS problem. Have the system fault codes downloaded and post them here.

Having already posted a post based on bogus information, my credibility is probably shot, but try this avenue anyway.

@DPS you said 90 days is all you got out of these bearings. Am I reading this thread right that you got 12K miles in that 90 days? Days can be a bit confusing, how many miles did you get?

Was alignment done right after replacing the bearings? Side load from steering pull is very hard on these bearings also. Any shake from warped rotors will also cause degraded lifetime on these bearings.

From my personal experiences

The biggest problems with these types of bearings causing them to have high rates of failure are 1 cheap bearings and 2 lack/type of lubrication… If you buy cheap $30.00 hubs expect a high failure rate as opposed to buying a $200.00 OEM hub that’s how companies keep you spending money.

Timken WAS the goto in the aftermarket at one time when you could get your hands on the hubs made in the USA, however even Timken is outsourcing to Korea now and the hubs are failing rather quickly…

Before condemning the hub because of the ABS/Traction Control lights coming on… Low speed abs activation on dry pavement under 5/10 mph ALWAYS check the ABS wiring integrity first I was having this problem frequently and kept changing hubs until I found the test procedure in the service manual and the hubs were fine it was actually the wiring harness from the hub to the main harness

Have seen plenty of failure on this type of front drive bearing with new parts due to improperly torqued axle nuts. The proper torque is very critical on these vehicles. Not to mention the nut needs replaced every time a bearing is replaced. After all, once used, they are USED lock nuts. And you can’t just simply put them on with an impact.

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I agree with @pete_peters.

I have replaced these GM front bearings, before.

One of my GM Factory Service Manuals (for FWD GM passenger cars) says to replace the bolts that retain the bearing/hub assemblies with new bolts.

Also, the front axle nut must be replaced with new and torqued to 159 foot-pounds (while locking the brake rotor to keep the axle from turning).

To be careless with replacement or to do so without knowing what you’re doing could very well lead to bearing failure.

Garbage in, garbage out. To half-bake a replacement and then blame the parts is low.

I have replaced the front right twice, 120k and 160k, and the front left once, at 140k or so. Never had an abs light,

The bearing/hub assembly obviously includes the wheel bearing, but it also includes the wheel speed sensor utilized by the ABS and traction control.

Wheel bearings can wear out and become loose and/or noisy. Speed sensors can become faulty and fail. It’s possible (and common) to have a bearing go bad and have the speed sensor still work or vice versa, or both together. The sensor includes wiring (pigtail to harness) that is subject to problems.

If either component fails it usually results in have to replace the entire bearing/hub assembly which includes the speed sensor.