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New hub bearings

I guys. I need some advice and an opportunity to vent.

First, the advice. My front hub bearings are getting noisy. The car has 180,000+ miles, but I’ve never had a wheel bearing wear out on le before, so I kind of feel it should not have. The below “vent” will explain what I feel happened. However, I have a choice of OEM bearings, Beck-Arey bearings, or Timken bearings. I know from my years in manufacturing that Timken is perhaps one of the most widely used bearing providers for hi-reliability and aerospace bearings. Beck-Arney I’ve not used before. I’m considering going with the Timkens/ Any thoughts? Any sugestions?

Now, my gripe. The basics of selecting bearings have been known since the industrial revolution. Roller bearings withstand far more load (static, dynamic, and impact) and last far longer in high load applications than ball bearings. However, ball bearings have inherantly lower rolling resistance than roller bearings. Every wheel bearing I’ve seen before was a roller bearing. However, my research disclosed that Toyota used dual ball bearings in this application. According to the Toyota design drawings it was for the low rolling resistance. While I cannot access the mind of the engineers involved, it strikes me as highly probably that this decision, this compromise, was implemented in response to a mandate to reduce rolling resistance as much as possible to contribute to compliance with the ever-tightening CAFE standards. In short, I suspect that the manufacturers have now begun to make reliability compromises due to the mandate of the EPA, which will never stop endlessly tightening requirements.

Thanks for letting me let off a bit of steam.
Now, any suggestions on bearing selection?

I’d say 180K out of the original wheel bearings is a good life. They’re not going to last forever, I don’t know what B10 Toyota uses for design.

As far as which one, I’d go OEM. I bought SKF bearings for one of my cars and one failed in a month and i think the replacement (maybe the other one, don’t remember) failed in a year. Since I didn’t have access to proper equipment and facilities the shop I took it to for state inspection (who discovered the failed bearing) replaced it with either NAPA or OEM parts. Hasn’t failed yet.

"“Timken is absolutely a square shooter. Anything which bears his name must be the best that can be made. His ethics are high and his fetish is precision.”

Forbes magazine, November 15, 1924

Ball bearings can deal with side-loads MUCH better than roller bearings and survive better when lubrication is marginal…

Every Timken bearing set that I’ve replaced has been an exact match for the bearings I’m replacing. More than 1 as installed from the manufacturer has, in fact, been a Timken bearing set.

Take that for what it’s worth. I would use Timken, if available, then OEM.


Beck Arnley is a marketing company. I don’t believe they manufacture anything. And Timken may be the OE source. And any Timken bearing may be imported from China.

And I believe that NAPA owns Timken/SKF. NAPA is part of the Motion Industry organization.

It has become a real crap shoot to find and buy parts from known, proven suppliers.

It’s hard to find ANYTHING that’s actually manufactured in The United States anymore…We haven’t lost our manufacturing base completely, but we are headed in that direction…Timken is traded on the NYSE. it closed today at $42/share (TKR)

B/A buys parts and re-boxes them with there own numbers. they do stand behind there parts.

Thanks to all for responding. When something like this stresses me out, it’s really a comfort to have others familiar with these things to bounce my thoughts off of and get some help.

Goodshepard, I too don’t have a lot of faith in SKF bearings. They’re Taiwanese, not one of the big names in bearings, and, well, I guess it’s too unknown a quantity for me to feel comfortable. While I’m sorry to hear you had one fail in only a month, it confirms my “willys”.

Caddyman, that’s true, however tapered roller bearings are (or should I say “used to be”) the norm for wheels. They can withstand thrust loading far better than straight rollers. Far better even than ball bearings. Ball bearings are great for low load and high speed applications, but any first year engineering student knows rollers are the way to go for high loads…unless, of course, one is working for an automotive manufacturer with a mandate to go for the lowest rolling resistance possible to meet CAFE requirements. And I agree that it’s hard to find anything manufactured in the U.S. anymore.

Timken is the top of the heap. They’re probably the best known and most-specified bearing manufacturer in the world. They make bearings to meet military specs, NASA specs, ISO specs, and all others. That means the have the manufacturing systems, facilities, and resources to absolutely guarantee top quality. In industry Timken was always the first place we’d go to when selecting bearings.

I wasn’t really familiar with B/A. Thanks guys for the education.

Now, I wonder what other compromises we’ll have to accept for our vehicles to meet 54mpg avg…

I'd say 180K out of the original wheel bearings is a good life. They're not going to last forever

In 40 years of driving…I’ve never had one fail before. I’ve seen them fail…but that was due to neglect.

Mike, I never had either. It wasn;t until I began to research the Scion websites and the Toyota design drawings that I discovered that (1) front wheel bearings “going out” on these cars was not uncommon, and (2) Toyota uses ball bearings to achieve low rolling resistance. Knowing from my prior life that no engineer given the freedom to make his/her own decision would ever spec a ball bearing for that application. Adding 2+2, I realized that this must be a manifestation of our out-of-control CAFE requirements.

I almost think it’d be easier not to know this stuff.

The move from tapered roller to ball bearings has resulted in a very significant increase in hub failures in my observation. If properly installed and kept dry tapered roller bearings very rarely failed even when severely overloaded. But then, the individual ball bearing assemblies in British FWDs were not as problematical as the ball bearing hub assemblies that are common on domestic FWDs today. I have replaced a great many GM hub assemblies that had failed but had no indication of seal failure or abuse and have had a few that I replaced come back for warranty replacement.

I have a 2004 Monte Carlo and the front hub bearing went bad at 50K miles or so. I replaced these with Timken and now have 87Kmiles on the car. The passenger has some movement when hot but none you can feel when cold. It will get replaced soon.

Interesting observation. When I began doing some research I discovered that wheel bearing failures, something that used to be extremely rare, had become commonplace. A bit more research to find out why led be to my conclusions. In my mind, the Toyota technical reference drawing that specified that ball bearings were used to reduce rolling resistance became the “smoking gun” that led me to suspect that it’s a manifestation of the endless quest for making the manufacturers meet more and more stringent CAFE requirements.

Any engineer knows that roller bearings distribute load and impact across a far larger contact area than ball bearings. Any engineer knows that for uses such as wheel bearings on a vehicle rollers are far more robust.

As to the Engkish bearings, perhaps they simply don’t drive as muc or at as high a speeds. The whole country is what, 200 miles across?

I gotta disagree with all of you on this subject. I come from the time when all wheel bearings were tapered roller bearings and they failed with regularity, even when they were repacked every 25k miles. My Nissan Pick Up uses tapered roller bearings and they have already failed on me at <170k miles.

When I first saw a one piece dual roller sealed wheel bearing on the early FWD mid sized GM cars, I though they were nuts, but they have held up remarkably well. I have only had one wheel bearing failure with this type, and I believe it was bad from the factory. I just didn’t hear that bearing until I replace the crappy, noisy OEM tires.

BTW, that bearing was the rear wheel bearing on my Saturn. I’m really not sure if it was a roller bearing or a ball bearing because it is in a sealed hub, the whole hub had to be replaced. Also, I meant dual row ball bearing in the above post.


“I’ve seen them fail…but that was due to neglect.”

How do you “neglect” a sealed bearing?

In 40 years of driving…I’ve never had one fail before. I’ve seen them fail…but that was due to neglect.
Mike In NH, I have had bearings fail when serviced regularly, But the bearings for many vehicles are not serviceable. Down side the bearing has gone from a 6 dollar part to a hub bearing assembly, for me $180.

Road surfaces and factors such as deep rainwater runoff, etc can also play a part in how long a bearing lasts.

As to compromises, my humble opinion is that every car on the planet has compromises on it; usually to cheap out on the production costs. The Bugatti Veyron might be an exception… :slight_smile:

I think a big issue we should all remember is that most cars these days are now built for assembly and a desired service life for which they are supposed to be relatively maintenance free (i.e. change oil for the first 100k miles). That is probably the one of the big reasons manufacturers have gone to wheel bearing & hub assemblies. It’s likely a whole lot easier for them to torque three bolts than it is to press in the bearing raceway, grease it, insert the actual bearing, tighten the hub to the proper specs and so on. When they fail at higher miles the car is out of warranty and it isn’t their problem anymore.

See also “maintenance free” batteries. They last 5-6 years but the old batteries could last much longer with proper maintenance.