Repeated wheel bearing failures

toyota
corolla

#1

My stepdaughter drives a 2001 Toyota Corolla with 130,000 miles on it. A couple years ago the right front wheel bearing failed. The loud music she plays in the car covered up the noise, so she drove on the bad bearing for a while and it got chewed up pretty badly. A local shop replaced it, then she moved to another state and the bearing failed again and she took it to an auto repair chain. They replaced the bearing/hub assembly, but since then it has failed seven more times, with failure intervals of a few hundred to a few thousand miles. The shop has replaced the bearing under warranty, and they’ve also replaced the half shaft, CV, steering knuckle, and spindle, all at no cost due to the warranty on the bearing replacement. They have also aligned the front end. The last bearing replacement was a thousand miles ago, and it already sounds like it needs another one. What else could be causing the repeated failures?


#2

Ask your daughter if she has nailed a curb with her car.
Chances are the control arm is bent, and that’s causing stress on the wheel bearing.

Have you taken the car to an alignment shop to see if the alignment is in spec?
They can usually tell if a suspension part is damaged when a normal shop can’t.

Also, try buying an OEM bearing, even if it costs more.

BC.


#3

Well, one thing for sure is that the bearings are not defective from the start. This almost certainly has to be a mechanic error from the first replacement and the last box of bearings may have been damaged from an oversight.

I think(?) on this model 2 bearings are used on each side. On a setup like this there is usually a spacer between the 2 bearings. If the spacer is omitted this means that when someone tightens the halfshaft nut on the axle both bearings will suffer excessive crush. When this happens the bearings will not last long.

My theory? Someone forgot the spacer during the first bearing replacement and during the subsequent multiple replacements they see no spacer so therefore it does not exist in their thinking. One would think that someone would have considered the possibility at some point during all of this.
Hope that helps anyway.


#4

I’m going to back up here a bit and admit I’m wrong. Being curious, I took a look at the parts layout of this and it shows only 1 bearing per side. This means no spacer in the middle. However, the layout was a bit murky on a few points.

It still boils down to an installer problem more than likely. Is it known that once assembled the halfshaft and wheel assembly will rotate freely? It should. If it even feels snug there’s a bearing crush problem.


#5

In one of my many episodes that led me to just doing my own darned car work I kept having recurring problems with the rear wheel bearings in a '95 Caravan. I’d get them done, they’d get noisy before very long, I’d go back, something would be “adjusted” or the bearings would be replaced again only to get noisy again.

I got tired of this and thus did my first set of wheel bearings. Apparently all it took was installing them properly. The shop was doing them by feel. The recommended procedure was much more precise involving a torque wrench (torque to X lb., back of X% of a turn or whatever). Anyway, long story short, I followed the procedure and had no more bearing problems. I’m not sure how one politely asks whether a shop had checked up on the manufacturer specific install guidelines but I’d be working on figuring that out.

It is also possible for other parts of the suspension to create a problem as Bladecutter noted so maybe a good alignment/suspension shop is in order.


#6

Thanks for everyone’s help.

My stepdaughter’s job is delivering Chinese food, so I’ll bet she’s hit a few curbs with the right front tire. I’ll definitely have the shop look at the control arm.

The missing-spacer theory sounded really convincing; too bad it doesn’t work for this car.

With a total of nine bearing replacements, you’d think someone would have accidentally installed it close enough to correctly that it would last. I don’t think I’d have much luck telling a mechanic how to do their job, so I’ll try to find a shop that specializes in Toyotas (maybe even the dealer$hip) and hope they know what they’re doing.


#7

An update: the shop said the control arm is fine, but that the transmission mount and engine mount are shot and they think that’s what’s been causing the problem. Apparently when the engine and transmission can move around too much, they can put stress on the bearings. We’ll know in a few months whether this has fixed the problem for good.


#8

Man, they must really be bad. The CV halfshaft usually does a great job of isolating all but one axis of movement from the wheels to the engine/transaxle assembly. With two CV joints between the engine/transaxle assembly to the right front wheel, both can usually move around independently from each other pretty robustly without translating anything but rotational forces affecting either.


#9

A couple of possibilities come to mind. One is a possible missing or damaged seal on the inside of the knuckle. This would allow water intrusion and early failure. I don’t know if this applies to this car, but I have seen it on some GMs. Another possibility is just plain old cheap parts. I have had bad luck with cheap wheel bearings from big box stores like Advance or AutoZone, so if your shop has been getting the parts there, have them try a different supplier, even if you have to pay extra for it. I have had particularly good luck with CarQuest bearings and hubs. They cost more, but it’s worth it for their longevity.


#10

I was having exactly same problem, turn out it was frozen caliper( pin), frozen caliper(s) causing
brakes works much harder and generate excessive heat that burn out the new bearings in no time.


#11

The OP must have fixed the problem by now.This post is 8 year old.