What Is A Bearing And Why Is It Important?

You’ll find a wheel bearing behind each wheel on your Ford. A wheel bearing is located within the hub assembly to which the wheel is mounted. Wheel bearings play a big role in helping your wheels spin and reducing friction as your wheels move.

What Does A Wheel Bearing Look Like?

Motorcraft wheel bearing

At the center of your wheels, there's a hollow piece of metal. That's called a hub. The wheel bearing goes into the hub, where it fits tightly. The wheel bearing rides on the metal axle shaft or spindle. This setup allows the wheel bearing to reduce friction while the wheel spins.

There are several different types of wheel bearings:

  • Ball bearings
    • Common in skateboards, electric motors, and household machinery
  • Straight roller bearings
    • Common in heavy duty applications that don’t need significant thrust loads
  • Tapered roller bearings
    • Common in wheel bearing assemblies in vehicles

Since we’re talking about Fords, let’s focus on tapered roller bearings. Most or all Ford wheel bearings are tapered roller bearings. A tapered roller bearing looks like this:

Wheel bearing for 2009-2011 Ford Focuses

It's basically a metal ring with a tapered roller element inside.

The Components Of A Wheel Bearing

A wheel bearing has several main components:

  • A set of steel balls or roller element
  • A metal ring (also called a race): inner and outer race
  • Bearing cage (to help the the roller element stay in place)
  • Bearing seal
  • Bearing snap ring
  • Retainer

Finding The Wheel Bearing On Your Vehicle

Image Credit: Ford-Trucks

If you want to see the wheel bearings on your vehicle, take the following steps:

  1. Lift your vehicle and prop it up.
  2. Remove one of the tires.
  3. Now you can see the disc or drum brake system. If you have a disc brake system, remove the caliper and rotor.
  4. Now you can see the outer portion of the wheel bearing. On some cars the wheel bearing is pressed into the hub assembly and you can't easily take it out. On other vehicles it can come out easily.

Why Your Ford Needs Wheel Bearings

The wheel bearing serves as a friction reducer between the axle and the wheel. Its design allows the axle to stay put, and the wheel to move freely. The axle connects to the inner part of the wheel bearing. The wheel is bolted to a hub flange that connects to the outer part of the bearing. So when your wheels move, the roller element allows the hub to rotate with minimal friction around the axle.

What Happens When A Wheel Bearing Fails

If one of your Ford’s wheel bearings fail, you’ll know sooner or later. The first thing you’ll notice a grinding or howling noise when you drive your car. Your wheel won't be spinning as freely as it should. If this goes on long enough, your wheel can start wobbling and fall off.

The first telltale sign of a failed wheel bearing is noise. If you hear noise coming from the wheel area, chances are the bearing is no longer good. This Ford noise guide may help you determine whether the noise you’re hearing is related to a failed wheel bearing or something else.

Another tell is play when moving the tires. First lift up both front wheels, and support the car on a jack stand. Place your hands on 12 o clock and 6 o clock. Start pushing and pulling back and forth. Not too hard though, just enough to feel if there is play. Then get a buddy to do the same thing while you go behind the wheel and check the wheel bearing for play. You should be able to see the hub move slightly more than the spindle. If there is play replace the bearing right away.

If you need to replace one of your wheel bearings, we got you covered. On our site, you’ll find a large inventory of genuine OEM wheel bearings and bushings at wholesale prices. Look up your Ford to find the right wheel bearing part number for your car.