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How Wheel Bearings Can Become Damaged During Installation

Wheel bearings are critical components that keep wheels spinning freely on the road, but they can become damaged during the installation process if technicians aren’t careful. Bearings can become damaged if their seals are broken or if the wrong unit is installed on a particular vehicle. Also, bearings can be tightened into place improperly, leading to damage.

Broken Seals

The seals that protect wheel bearings from contaminants are among the most important features that bearings have. Seals keep out salt, water and organic debris that can badly damage the functionality of bearings and cause them to prematurely fail. During the installation process, a seal can become damaged due to mishandling and poor installation procedures, creating the conditions for failure once bearings are installed. When a technician installs a new bearing, they need to handle them with care. Otherwise, they can create more problems than they’re solving.

Installing the Wrong Bearing

There is a full spectrum of wheel bearings on the market designed to fit different makes and models of vehicles. Trying to make the wrong type of wheel bearing fit into a particular vehicle can cause damage to the bearing and to the surrounding vehicle components. That’s why having sound inventory management procedures is a must to prevent this sort of mistake from happening. If technicians realize they’ve tried to install the wrong type of wheel bearing and remove the part from the vehicle, it’s important that the bearing is carefully inspected before the part is returned to inventory.

For example, BCA tapered bearings are designed only for installation on select vehicles. While these parts are made from case-carburized steel and can withstand heavy-duty shock loads, installation on the wrong vehicle can cause the bearings to malfunction. In some ways, this may seem like common sense, but if the mistake isn’t caught, it can cause bearing failure and vehicle damage.

Improper Tightening

Fastening wheel bearings into place is a step that requires care, because if the component is inserted and tightened improperly, it can irreparably damage the bearing. For example, fastening bearings in place using the wrong type of wrench or driver can damage bearing seals and other vehicle components, which can cause the bearing to fail once the vehicle is in motion. Using a torque wrench to ensure bearings and hub assemblies are fastened into place is an important step in preventing damage.

Wheel bearings have to function according to their design specifications, making it important to avoid unnecessary damage during the installation process. If a technician suspects that a bearing was damaged during installation, they need to take corrective action to protect your shop and customers’ property.