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Three Contaminants That Can Ruin Wheel Bearings

Even the most well-designed, highly manufactured wheel bearings can fail if contaminants interfere with their functionality. In particular, three types of contaminants -- water, organic debris, and salt -- tend to do the most damage. If seals fail to keep these contaminants out, it can lead to catastrophic bearing failures.

Water

Water is one of the most dangerous contaminants that can seep through the seals protecting wheel bearings. Water can cause corrosion and dilution of lubricants, which can lead to slow failures of wheel bearings over time. Water mixed with other contaminants can be more potent and result in catastrophic failures of wheel bearings, because the contaminants change lubrication and metallurgy. Whether it’s in small or large quantities, water can ruin wheel bearings and cause you and your customers many headaches.
This is also true when it comes to BCA tapered bearings, which are designed to withstand heavy-duty shock loads and have long, useful lives. Though these units are made from case-carburized steel, water can still irreparably damage the bearings if it seeps through their seals. Even the best-designed, toughest bearings on the market can succumb to the elements.

Organic Debris

If organic particles make it past wheel bearing seals, bearings can become damaged and wear out prematurely. Like water, organic particles can interfere with the lubrication that allows bearings to function properly. Organic debris can cause friction that damages bearing components, which can lead to all types of negative results, and even breakdowns. Strange noises are a sign that organic debris have infiltrated bearing seals, and that bearings are close to failure.

Salt

The salt that melts ice and snow on many U.S. roadways is a serious contaminant that can affect the functionality of wheel bearings over the short- and long-term. Mixed with water, salt becomes extremely destructive, and the damage to wheel bearings can be catastrophic. Saltwater can lead to corrosion and increased friction attributable to lower lubrication. If the seals protecting bearings become damaged, those seals must be fixed before salt and water cause problems.

It’s important to install wheel bearings that can withstand tough circumstances and maintain their structural integrity. Otherwise, contaminants such as water, organic particles, and salt can cause bearings to fail, leading to maintenance costs and potential safety risks on the road.