Inspect Your Heavy Truck and Trailer
Wheel Bearings Before They Fail

Replace These Bearings

Tapered bearing fatigue spalling Bearing brinelling from impact damage Tapered bearing bruising due to lubrication contamination Tapered bearing roller cage dented due to mishandling

Always replace the bearing cone and race at the same time!

Download Timken's Bearing Analysis Guide for more tips identifying bearing damage and its cause.

It's a bright and sunny Sunday afternoon. The phone is ringing. One of your drivers is calling to tell you that he's been involved in an accident. No one is hurt, but it could have been bad. The driver was on his way back to town with a loaded flat bed when something didn't feel quite right. He checked his mirrors just in time to see the duals come off the front trailer axle and shoot across the median into oncoming traffic. We've all heard the story, and never want to experience it ourselves. How can you avoid getting that call?

When to inspect your wheel bearings

Find and fix problem wheel bearings during regular maintenance. Wheel bearings must be properly adjusted and run in clean lube, or you can expect increased costs from failure. Bearings should also be inspected for wear at regular intervals and whenever you or your driver finds some telltale signs. We've outlined below some clues to finding problems with your wheel bearings before they get really expensive.

Things to look for during a walk around:
  • Low oil level in the hub cap window
  • Discolored or burnt hub cap window
  • Abnormal tire wear
  • The hub cap or hub is too hot to touch
Warning signs while driving:
  • Increased fuel costs
  • Wheel noise or vibration
  • Wheel wobble
  • Increased stopping distance
  • Smoking wheel end
  • Wheel lock-up

Determining when to replace your wheel bearings

Once you've opened up the wheel end, you need to know how to determine whether your bearings need to be replaced. It won't do you much good to clean and reuse worn wheel bearings. They're still worn wheel bearings.

Definitely replace your wheel bearings if you find any of the following:
  • Metal flakes in the lube
  • Dry, caked lube in the hub cap
  • Heat discoloration
  • Visual wear (Do the bearing's rollers have grooves worn in them?)
  • A Bearing cup is spinning in the hub bore
  • A bearing cone is spinning on the spindle
  • Dents or raised metal on the bearing races or rollers
  • Spalling (flaking) of the metal in the races or rollers
Consider replacing your wheel bearings if you find any of the following:
  • Bearing cone is noisy when rotated
  • Rusty bearings or water in the wheel end
  • Axle nut face wear
  • Spindle wear (Is the bearing cone spinning on the spindle?)
  • Hub bore wear (Is the bearing cup spinning in the hub bore?)
  • The bearing has been dropped

Improperly adjusted wheel bearings are just as bad as worn wheel bearings and may be an even larger contributor to wheel-off accidents. We recommend that you follow this wheel bearing adjustment procedure provided by Stemco every time you open up a wheel end for inspection or repair.

We hope that you have found this article useful. can handle all of your heavy truck and trailer wheel bearing needs, so please take a look at our wheel bearings online the next time you have a need.

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