The wheel bearing seals keep the bearings sufficiently lubricated and free of dust, dirt, and other contaminants.
As such, if the part is not cared for, it may not work as required and could make the bearings fail prematurely.
The best way to remain on top of things is to regularly check the wheel bearing seals for the common signs of trouble and intervene when necessary.
Learn what to check for in wheel bearing seals below.
What should wheel bearing seals be checked for?
There is one major thing you should be on the look out for when it comes to wheel bearing seals: Leaks!
Remember that inside the bearing is a vast amount of grease to keep the bearings running perfectly smooth.
Now, it should worry you if there are noticeable leaks in a wheel seal or from the assembly.
In fact, there should never be a hint of leakage on the seals- not even a single drop of the lubricant is seen as safe.
Why leaks are dreaded
First, you should understand that leaks do not just happen…
To be clear, the most probable source of problems is the grease seal because it could be worn (they wear with time).
It may also have become completely ruined, resulting in grease leaking out from the unit.
What’s actually alarming is that dirt particles and water could easily get into the bearing cavity through the opening, effectively sounding the death knell for the bearings (more on this shortly).
How bearing failure occurs
With the leakage, plenty of contaminants can find their way in including corrosive salt and even organic debris.
The continued contamination can, in turn, cause increased heat inside there since the part is not getting lubricated as it should.
What follows is a gradual deterioration of the condition of the wheel bearings- because of the overheating- and you could end up with destroyed balls, raceways, or other catastrophic failures depending on the kind of bearings in your vehicle.
It is critical that you inspect the bearings and seals frequently for evidence of leaks.
During the inspection, you check if the bearing seals are punctured, have become loose, or have suffered other damage due to the contaminants seeping in.
Should you find any traces of leaked grease, move with speed to have the seals fixed.
Sadly, there’s not much patching to be done on affected seals and a replacement of the bad seal is required.
This is, however, generally only possible on older vehicles because they come with serviceable wheel bearings.
Otherwise, you will need to change the whole hub assembly.
In most cases, this process calls for the involvement of a seasoned mechanic.
Other signs your wheel bearing seals are compromised
As elaborated above, if the wheel bearings seals are jeopardized, contaminants get inside causing corrosion or damaging parts.
The good news is that sometimes you get huge hints and you may not need to wait for checkup time.
You see, because of the friction (remember the lubricant is broken down), the bearing may lock up as well due to parts being deformed.
It, hence, feels like you have applied the parking brake when on the steering wheel.
The other thing you are probably going to observe is resistance when trying to accelerate.
General tips for proper seal maintenance
Wheel bearing seals maintenance instructions vary by manufacturer.
However, the following guidelines generally apply for improved seal performances:
- Wheel bearing seals should be replaced as soon as possible when leaks develop.
- Seals must be checked (and replaced, if essential) whenever the bearing is being serviced (serviceable models).
- Use the OEM recommended replacement seals whenever replacing wheel bearing seals. Care should also be taken when purchasing to ensure you buy the right seal part number.
So, what should wheel bearing seals be checked for again?
Well, as we have seen, the most important this to watch out for is leaks.
Do this often to prolong the life of your bearings and guarantee a smooth ride whenever you hit the tarmac.
One more thing: never re-use seals as used seals might not “seal” properly (so the leak stays).
They’re not even pricey so we don’t get why you would run the risk of mounting a potentially damaged part.