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What Happens When Wheel Bearings Fail While Driving?

Updated March 23, 2017

Wheel bearings are a simple and durable automobile component that rarely fail. However, ignoring a worn wheel bearing could lead to significant damage to an automobile as well as potentially causing a wreck due to the loss of steering and braking.

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Failed Wheel Bearings

Wheel bearings can have long lifespans, but those on a high-mileage car might eventually need to be replaced in time. A wheel bearing might need replacement if it's repaired or installed improperly or in the event of a collision. A wheel bearing that fails can cause the wheel to separate from the vehicle.

Automobile Risk

A failed wheel bearing would likely cause the corresponding wheel to fall from the car. The car would then slide along the roadway and damage much of the underside of the car as well as possibly damage the bumper, fenders, and so on.

Human Risk

A failed wheel bearing that results in a wheel coming off the car in motion could be catastrophic for the driver, passengers, other drivers and others in proximity to the car. A car that loses a wheel due to a failed wheel bearing would be difficult to control; it's possible the car might turn into oncoming traffic, off the road or into bystanders with no way to steer.

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About the Author

Jay Motes is a writer who sold his first article in 1998. Motes has written for numerous print and online publications including "The Dollar Stretcher" and "WV Sportsman." He holds a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in history and political science form Fairmont State College in Fairmont, W.V.

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