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Wheel Bearings. How often do they go bad?

I’ve got a Mazda Protege5. I had the wheel bearings replaced right of the box shortly after I bought the car new in 2004. They went bad again in July 2011 and now they seem to be going bad again. That same familiar sound. Seems strange to me. I’m not hearing anyone else talk about regularly having their wheel bearings go bad.

Are you driving over extremely bad roads?

There are good parts and bad parts, mine came with a lifetime warantee, did yours?

I’ve had a couple of wheel bearings go bad over the years. Yet, given the number of cars I’ve had and all the miles driven bad wheel bearings is a rare event. Your experience is either a bad design or someone is using cheap parts.

The roads aren’t too bad. I live in the city of Chicago. Some roads are a little rough though overall they’re fine. I don’t know about the warranty on the wheel bearings. I’ll check with the mechanic. My guess is they don’t have a long warranty given that the mechanic I used did the bearings twice.

Back when I was a kid in the 50’s, a car lasted about 100k miles, and it was not unusual to have to replace at least the front wheel bearings once in the life of the car.

These days, when you hear about someone replacing any wheel bearing, the car probably has 200k or better on it. I replaced all four wheel bearings on my '91 Volvo by the time it hit 250k miles.

Your experience is unusual. Something about that car is not right. Do the bearings look like they have been unusually hot, such that the grease was destroyed?

Of the 8 cars I’ve owned over the years, I’ve only had to replace 3 front wheel bearings. If driven on smooth roads, bearings can last the life of the car. It’s something yoiu just don’t worry about anymore. Owner’s manuals seldom mention bearing service anymore.

The mechanic has shown me the bearings. It looks like the grease is almost gone and you can see rust starting to develop. Does this mean they’re running too hot? Or could there be an issue with sealing?

I actually misspoke in my initial post. The dealer replaced the bearings right out of the box. These lasted from 2004-2009. The same mechanic replaced the bearings in 8/09, 7/11, and now they’re going bad again. I hear the same familiar sound.

Could this be an issue wtih poor parts or could the mechanic do a poor job?

I frankly would do it myself if it didn’t required a press and removing the entire knuckle.

You don;t say how many miles you have on the car, but wheel bearings going bad within two years of driving suggests either an installation problem or poor bearings. Without seeing how they were installed (did the guy on the press force them in by using the inner race?) it’s impossible to guess.

as to brand, I like Timkin bearings. They’re pretty much the “gold standard” when it comes to bearings.

And, I have to ask, are you sure it isn;t the rear bearings going this time?

Back in the day, with RWD cars, the front bearings were open tapered roller type, you could remove them, clean them and re-pack them. This was part of a front brake job…Kept clean and lubricated, they would last the life of the car…Todays cars use sealed straight rollers that perhaps have a little more trouble absorbing side loads than the old tapered roller design…And they can’t be cleaned and re-packed…As with ANY bearing, once the seal fails, the bearing is not far behind…

Bearing failure IMO, is dependent more on vehicle use with th influence of poor design. I wonder how well the bearings are sealed ? Check with the dealer on recalls.

-----You don;t say how many miles you have on the car, but wheel bearings going bad within two years of driving suggests either an installation problem or poor bearings. Without seeing how they were installed (did the guy on the press force them in by using the inner race?) it’s impossible to guess.

-----And, I have to ask, are you sure it isn;t the rear bearings going this time?

About 85K. not sure about the installation process, that is did he force them using the inner race. I’m pretty sure it’s the front . Since it’s happen quite often with this car, I’ve gotten accustomed to the presence / location of the sound.

Infortunately my mechanic isn’t too comfortable talking about his procedures, i.e. being questioned. In the past, he’s said that this just happens wtih some cars and then he hands me the bill. About $175 labor + $50-60 per axle.

Today’s cars use double row “tapered ball bearings”, which are just ball bearings in tapered casings. They do it to reduce rolling resistance. Here’s an example.
http://tijil.org/Scion_Docs/Scion_06_misc_docs/2007sciontc_ncf%20Folder/axle.pdf

I had to replace a left front wheel bearing on a 2006 Chevrolet Uplander at about 65,000 miles and a left front wheel bearing on a 2003 Toyota 4Runner at 72,000 miles. In all my previous vehicles, I never had to replace a wheel bearing. I do remember repacking the front wheel bearings on my rear wheel drive cars that were made back in the 1940s through the 1970s. The rear axle wheel bearings were lubricated by the 90 weight oil in the differential and rear axle.
My only explanation for having to replace the wheel bearings in my more modern cars is that sometimes parts just wear out prematurely.

I just recently replaced my front bearings. I was downright miffed when I discovered that they were using ball bearings for reduced rolling resistance. Darned CAFE requirements.

In the interest of full disclosure, I did have about 180,000+ miles on the originals. I guess I can’t complain too loudly.

I had to replace a left front wheel bearing on a 2004 PT Cruiser at only 40,000 miles. By browsing PT forums I found out that in high salt areas they were discharging static or other elecrtricty to ground through the left front tire and it was causing arcing inside the bearing.

Hey oldtimer, I have a sweet deal for you on a bridge that I have for sale up there in New York City.

ST1168, 69 dollars will get you a press at harbor frieght.
http://www.harborfrieght.com

the last time I stopped by there I think they also had a 30 ton press for under $100.