When it comes to detecting wheel-end problems, it pays to take a closer look. Careful observation can reveal early signs and symptoms of wheel-end problems before bearings are damaged and need to be replaced. With prompt inspection and/or maintenance, you can reduce bearing damage in conventional wheel ends, and save on long-term costs. Begin with a simple walk-around wheel inspection.
Walk-Around Wheel Inspection
Bearing damage may have already begun if you notice:
Hub cap sight glass discolored or burnt.
Low lube level in hub cap sight glass.
Lube leakage on any external surface of the wheel hub or tire (inboard or outboard sides).
Sometimes these appear as lube swirl or spiral patterns on the hub or tire surface.
Abnormal tire wear.
Smoking or extremely hot hub cap (too hot to touch).
An alert driver can also detect early-stage problems.
Bearing damage may have already begun if the driver notices:
Increased fuel costs.
Smoke from a wheel end.
Increased stopping distance or decreased braking power.
Abnormal side pull when brakes are applied.
Wheel lock-up or skidding.
Risks of higher maintenance costs and wheel separation increase if these warning signs are ignored and if wheel-end inspection and/or maintenance is not performed. Drivers and service mechanics/technicians who develop a keen eye for detecting these signs and symptoms of wheel-end problems can help lower maintenance and repair costs and may help prevent wheel-end separations.