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A wheel bearing assembly consists of rolling elements, such as hardened steel ball bearings or roller bearings, that roll on and around hardened steel bearing races. The wheel bearings support the front and rear axle, and all the weight of your car. Wheel bearings are made with a high-precision technique using extremely hard steel in order to withstand all the normal impacts that occur to the wheel and tire assembly as you drive along the road.
The complexity of wheel bearing replacement varies greatly depending on the vehicle make, model, year, the wheel position (front versus rear), and the drive type (AWD versus FWD):
No. Wheel bearing failure is usually gradual, although in some cases it starts immediately after the dramatic impact of the wheel and tire assembly with a deep pothole. Wheel bearings can sometimes make noise for quite some time before you experience a catastrophic failure that would result in complete separation of the wheel and tire assembly from the axle. Generally, the risk of sudden failure increases with the noise level. But strictly speaking, once the bearing has started to fail it is impossible to predict exactly when it will fail completely. So it should not continue to be driven. Were a failing bearing to seize or break while you are moving, you could experience loss of control of the vehicle. Once you receive a conclusive diagnostic that a wheel bearing has failed, replace the bearing promptly.