Negosentro.com | Wheel Bearing Replacement: Helpful Tips for Choosing the Right Grease for Bearings | When it comes to automotive wheel bearings, what do you suppose is the leading cause of premature bearing failure?
According to several studies, improper lubrication is the main cause of premature bearing failure, accounting for up to 50 percent of all premature bearing damage. Selecting the right multi-purpose automotive grease can have a significant impact on your bearings’ overall health.
What do wheel bearings do?
Before we start looking at grease selection and factors like lubricant viscosity, emulsification, and so on, it pays to know exactly what functions wheel bearings play in your vehicle.
Wheel bearings are necessary for the proper functioning of your vehicle’s hub and wheel assembly. They act as the primary link between the static and moving components of your vehicle’s hub assembly. This allows your wheels to rotate with as little friction as possible.
Components of a wheel bearing
The typical wheel bearing found in most vehicles consists of the following components:
- Ball bearings: spherically or cylindrically shaped bearings found inside the bearing assembly
- Race: a metal ring that surrounds the ball or roller bearings
- Bearing cage: a special type of race that keeps the bearings’ in the proper orientation
- Bearing seal: an o-shaped rubber seal used to prevent lubricant from escaping the bearing assembly
- Bearing snap ring: a fastener or retaining ring used to hold the bearing assembly in place
Symptoms of bad wheel bearings
Like any other automotive component, bearings are subject to wear and tear. This eventually leads to failure. Being able to detect the symptoms of a failing bearing will enable you to take the right precautions.
The first and most identifiable symptom of a worn wheel bearing is noise. If your wheel area is emitting a grinding or grating sound, particularly during acceleration, then your wheel bearings may be at fault. Squealing and or growling may also be attributed to bad wheel bearings.
Loose steering is another revealing symptom that your bearings can be worn. If your car feels less responsive or less precise than what you’re normally used to, your bearings might be loose from wear. Steering wheel pull can also be contributed to worn wheel bearings.
Finally, if your tires are displaying abnormal wear, especially if you’ve recently rotated your tires, your bearings could very well be the culprit.
Failing to heed the symptoms above can result in real safety concerns, causing potentially dangerous situations for you and other drivers on the road. If any of the aforementioned symptoms display themselves, it may be time to replace your bearings or consult your trusted technical service provider.
Choosing the right bearing lubricant
Now that we’ve clarified the critical role bearings play in your vehicle and highlighted symptoms of a worn wheel bearing, it’s time to identify the proper lubricant solution for your vehicle.
This is a critical step in the bearing replacement process as a sub-par product will cause further complications. A low-quality lubricant can compromise the functional integrity of your bearing assembly, leading to untimely bearing failure.
As the bearing distributor of premium and trusted economical brands in the Middle East and Africa region we understand that bearings heavily depend on grease to maintain optimal operational functionality. The practical tips and advice below will help you identify the proper bearing lubricants for your needs.
- Know what your OEM specifications are
The first thing you need to do to confirm what lubricant you need is to consult your vehicle manufacturer service information. Consulting the owner’s manual will provide you with the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) specifications.
This is necessary as vehicles have specifications on bearing performance efficiency. Certain vehicles will have OEM specifications based on operating environment and load rating. The OEM specifications will also cover the parameters used to determine what grease you require.
Without getting into too much technical detail, you will want to select a grease type that has a wide service temperature range (-25°C to +140°C) and is rated with an NLGI (National Lubricating Grease Institute) Grade 2. A lower NLGI grade than this may cause leakage, resulting in premature bearing wear.
Knowing what these specifications are will enable you to work with a supplier that can provide you with the right OEM lubricants. Their technical expertise will also come in handy when you need aftermarket bearing components and tools to service or replace your worn bearing.
- Compare your options
After you’ve identified the right lubricant solution for your vehicle, it’s time to start shopping for the right brand. There are many types of brands of grease available to choose from. How can you tell a genuine grease product from a counterfeit one?
The best way to guarantee that you’re buying high-quality grease is by doing your research. The internet will have countless resources that provide verified reviews and ratings of different grease solutions.
Look through automotive forums and participate to get some sage advice. Always consider suggestions and insights from your trusted source of technical news to ensure that the data and advice you get are authentic and up to date.
If that’s not enough, you can always reach out to your car manufacturer or a trusted bearing manufacturer or vendor. Brands like SKF, NTN, SNR, NSK, and others have technical personnel that can assist you with sourcing the right grease type for your application. Likewise, you can reach out to your regional or local trusted service provider to ensure that help is just within your reach.
They may even be able to refer you to a trusted vendor that can assist you with your lubricant needs.
- Use the right lubrication techniques
Now that you have your grease in hand, be sure to follow the right grease application best practices. This means keeping your work area clean. Observing cleanliness will prevent foreign pollutants from contaminating your new bearing.
The correct amount of grease will also need to be applied. Too little grease can cause excessive wear, leading to premature bearing failure. Over-lubricating your bearing can produce extra torque which causes excess heat to occur. This can significantly cut the service life of your bearing.
As a general rule, the correct amount of grease your bearings need will be approximately 30 percent of the free space in the bearings.
You’ll also need the right tools to properly lubricate your bearings. This usually means using specialty tools like a grease gun to properly pack the bearings.
While the article above will give you the required references you need to properly source the right grease for your vehicle, understand that the task of replacing a wheel bearing requires some specialty tools and technical know-how.
If you don’t have either, be sure to take your vehicle into a trusted repair shop. Take the time to confirm that the automotive technician follows the principles outlined here to ensure that your bearings are properly lubricated and serviced for optimal performance delivery.
Hassanein Alwan is the Managing Director of Mineral Circles Bearings with more than 10 years’ experience in the bearing industry’s technical support division, sales and marketing, plus strategic business development consultancy.