The bearings are important components of the vehicle that assist a certain part’s rotation. Since the car has many moving parts, you should expect that it also has many vehicle bearings which need vehicle bearing maintenance. Vehicle bearings are vital since they support the rotating shafts of the gears, wheels, rotors, and many more, and allow them to rotate more smoothly. When it comes to vehicle bearing maintenance, there are some bearings that don’t really need maintenance, while others need to be serviced regularly.
No or low maintenance bearings, which they refer as bushings, are found on the hinges of your vehicle. These bearings are made of softer materials and don’t need much maintenance or no maintenance at all. Caring for these bearings includes applying fluid lubrication. There are also bearings that need to be maintained or serviced regularly, which are the bushing-type bearings. They are the ones located on the rotating assembly of your engine. Vehicle bearing maintenance for them includes changing your oil and filter regularly as well as by adding conditioning additives.
There are also some bearings that need more vehicle bearing maintenance. These bearings are found in many places on your car. They are the wheel hub or axle, on the drive shaft, and inside the rear axle housing. Wheel bearings need to be greased about every 30,000 miles. They also need to be cleaned with brake cleaner and checked for any signs of damage or wear. However, there are still many bearings found in your car and if you want to know more, continue reading! We’ll discuss all this and more!
Vehicle Bearing Maintenance: What are the Vehicle Bearings?
In order for you to understand why performing vehicle bearing maintenance is important, you need to know what the vehicle bearings are and the roles they play in the overall function of a car. The vehicle bearings are components that assist a part's rotation. They are responsible for supporting the rotating shafts of the gears, wheels, rotors, and many more. Basically, they allow all the car’s moving components to rotate more smoothly. Vehicle bearings might seem like simple components, but without them, your car won’t be able to function properly.
You might ask, what are the vehicle bearings and how do they function? The bearings installed in your vehicle have two main functions, which are:
- To make the rotation more smooth and lessen the friction.
Since a car has many moving parts, they are bound to cause friction and this friction can happen between the rotating shaft and the component that supports the rotation. That is why these parts need bearings and they are used between them. The bearings are also there to help reduce the friction and enable smoother rotation. They are also capable of cutting down the amount of energy consumption.
- To protect the component that supports the rotation.
Another function of the vehicle bearings is to protect the component that supports the rotation, as well as to maintain the right position for the rotating shaft. You need to remember that an enormous amount of force is required between the rotating shaft and the component that supports the rotation. The vehicle bearings will be needed since they function by preventing damage that can be caused by this said force to the component that supports the rotations. They also help maintain the appropriate position of the rotating shaft.
So which parts of the vehicle use bearings? Bearings are used on alternators, turbochargers, steering gears, pumps, transmissions, differential gears, wheels, suspensions, and many more. Standard cars usually have about 100 bearings while the high end cars have around 150 bearings. It might seem much but each of these bearings play a very vital role. Without properly working bearings, the vehicle’s and its components’ rotation will become rough and will consume a huge amount of energy, and the components that support the rotation will not function or will break down almost immediately. It is for these reasons, and more, why performing vehicle bearing maintenance is very important. It can help extend the life of our car’s bearings as well as the life of our car.
Vehicle Bearing Maintenance: Do Bearings Need Maintenance?
As mentioned earlier, performing vehicle bearing maintenance is important and needed since they make sure that the bearings in our vehicle won’t cause any problem. So if you ask, do bearings need maintenance? The answer is yes, they do! However, what type of maintenance and how often it should be done can vary since there are some bearings that require low maintenance or no maintenance at all, and some others need more maintenance, including services that should be done regularly.
To help you understand vehicle bearing maintenance and what they are, we’ll go through each of them.
- Bearings that need low or no maintenance at all.
Since our cars are equipped with a lot of bearings, you might not know but the hinges found on your car have bearings, but they are referred to as the bushings. These bushings are bearings that do not have any moving components inside them. They are just sacrificial parts that are made to have themselves broken instead of allowing the other sturdy parts to fail or be broken down.
If you notice that your trunk lid or door gets loose, sloppy, or won’t close or open easily, then it can mean that your bushings are worn out since they have been working really hard. These bushings can wear out since they are usually made of softer metals, unlike the master parts such as brass, bronze, and aluminum which are commonly used.
You can usually replace the worn bushings but there are some hinge bushing that can’t be replaced. To replace them, you will have to replace the entire assembly. Performing vehicle bearing maintenance to the bushings include treating or applying the bushings with some fluid lubrication.
You can use lubricants such as WD-40 or dry graphite sprays. The dry graphite can help give extra life to the bushings since they can make a barrier layer of slippery graphite that does not get greasy or sticky, making the components stay clean. This can help since dirt, dust, and other debris can cause premature wear of your bushings. Removing the dirt and cleaning your bushings can extend their life.
- Bearings that need regular maintenance and servicing.
There are bearings in your car that need to be maintained and serviced regularly. However, many car owners don’t have any idea that these bearings need vehicle bearing maintenance on a regular basis. However, because you are doing maintenance on your car regularly, these bearings are also maintained as well, even without you knowing.
These bearings that need regular maintenance and servicing are mostly the bushing-type. They are serviced and performed vehicle bearings maintenance every time you have your oil changed. This is one of the many reasons why you have to change your engine oil and oil filter at the recommended interval.
Vehicle bearing maintenance on these bearings, which are located on the rotating assembly of your engine, are the most vulnerable to problems. This is because these bearings are made from a small base of steel that is coated by a thin aluminum layer. Because they are made of fragile materials, the bearings’ aluminum tend to melt and be wiped away on high heat.
These bearings are referred as bi-metal ones, which are more sturdy and durable than the tri-metal bearings that have a copper or lead layer. The tri-metal bearings might not be as sturdy and durable as the bi-metal ones, but they are more tolerant when it comes to dirty or contaminated oil.
These bi-metal bearings are the reason why modern car engines are able to last for as much as 300,000 miles. However, if you are not following the recommended oil change interval set by your car manufacturer and you don’t change your filters, then it is most likely that your bearings will fail since dirt and other debris may eat them all away. When this happens, your engine won’t be able to spin smoothly.
Aside from changing your oil and filters regularly, another vehicle bearing maintenance you can perform on your bearings is adding an oil stabilizer which can help lessen friction by covering the bearings with a thick film. Using it won’t add any stress to the oil pump. It just adds a layer of protection from dry starts that can happen whenever you turn on your engine after sitting idle for a few hours.
Aside from the bearings on the rotating assembly of your engine, your transmission bearings also need some vehicle bearing maintenance. You can do so by following your car’s transmission fluid change interval as well as adding a conditioning additive.
- Bearings that withstand demanding use or stress.
Bearings on your car that are made heavy-duty since they deal with stress or much demanding use need vehicle bearing maintenance too. They need specific maintenance and servicing. These bearings are located in various places on your car which include each of your wheel hubs or axle, on the drive shaft, and inside the rear axle housing.
Wheel bearings are often neglected and car owners usually forget to have them serviced. This should not be the case since these bearings need to be protected and this can be done by applying fresh grease for about every 30,000 miles. There are newer cars that use sealed wear bearings that are not serviceable, but the owners of these cars should not take it for granted. They still should have them inspected.
The vehicle bearing maintenance on the wheel bearings is a bit easy and straightforward. You will just have to take off the dust cover and seal, remove the bearings, clean them using a brake cleaner, visually inspect them for any signs of wear and damage, and repack them with new grease. To do this, you can use a bearing packer, but if you want, you can also pack them manually. Remember to purchase a new seal since you should not reuse the old seal.
Another type of bearings that can be performed with vehicle bearing maintenance is the u-joints on the drive shaft. This type of bearings are 4-way bearings, which have grease inside them that is keeping them spinning. There are tiny cylinders in each cap which are called needle bearings. If you have experienced a u-joint break or have dropped a cap, you might have an idea on what a hassle it can be since they tend to go everywhere.
Just like the ball bearings, needle bearings function by rolling between the inner and outer halves of the bearing. This is done so they can provide a reduced friction for the parts. These parts also need a proper lubrication, just like with all metal to metal contact, to make sure that they will not overheat and cause some issues.
Experts are recommending that you should have your car’s u-joints serviced every 5,000 to 15,000 miles, depending on how often they are used. For cars that are used for city driving, they should be serviced every 5,000 to 8,000 miles, while for cars that are frequently driven on the highway, they can be serviced every 10,000 to 15,000 miles. There are also some vehicles that have u-joints that are not serviceable since they are sealed. These vehicles may not need to be serviced, but they should be inspected every 25,000 miles.
Vehicle bearing maintenance is basically some maintenance done on your bearings which can help extend their life. It is usually done by following the maintenance or service intervals set by your manufacturer, especially the oil, fluids, and filter changes. It also involves treating the bearings with fluid lubricants, grease, and adding oil additives. Inspecting the bearings, especially the wear bearings, should also be performed to check if there are any signs of cracks or damage. All these and more are part of vehicle bearing maintenance. This should be done regularly since the bearings play a very important role in the overall function of your car.