The wheel seals of every vehicle are manufactured with the intention of safeguarding the wheel bearing lubricant within the wheel end. It has the function of protecting the lubricant to prevent dirt and debris from making its way into it.
However, with use, the wheel seal can damage and start to leak, when this happens, what do you do? Do you continue driving the vehicle? How long can you drive with a leaking wheel seal?
You should not drive for too long with a leaking wheel seal especially when the seal is leaking too much oil. If the leakage is minimal, you can continue driving till you get an auto shop for replacement. You must keep an eye on the leakage while driving.
Can You Drive with a Leaking Wheel Seal?
Yes, you can drive with a leaking wheel seal but it’s not advisable to do so especially if the leakage is too obvious.
How Long Can You Drive with a Leaking Wheel Seal?
You should not drive for too long with a leaking wheel seal to avoid spoiling other things that will cost you more money to replace. Replacing a wheel bearing is much more expensive and not worth risking. So anytime you have a wheel seal leak, have it replaced immediately.
Moreover, even if you wish to continue driving with a wheel seal leakage, maybe because the leakage started in the middle of no where, you can continue driving with much cautious such as:
- You need to check the level of the leakage. Is the seal so bad that the oil is leaking too much? If this is the case, then you should not continue driving the car except you have a way of replacing the leaking oil as you drive.
- If the oil is not leaking too much, you can continue driving the vehicle until you get to a mechanic where the seal will be replaced. However, while driving the vehicle, you should keep an eye on the leakage and add more oil as you drive.
Disadvantages of Driving with a Leaking Wheel Seal
- Leaked Oil on the Brake Shoes: One common disadvantage of driving with a leaking wheel seal is that it can leak everywhere onto the brake shoes and cause it to be too oily. This alone is enough to make you replace the brake shoe when replacing the leaking seal.
- Leaked Oil on the Tire Sidewalls: It can cause oil to make its way it into the inner sidewalls of the tire which is not beautiful to behold. When you have oil on the sidewall of your tire, it can easily attract dirt and debris.
- It Can Damage the Wheel Bearing: It can damage the wheel bearing if the oil leaks out and not able to lubricate the wheel bearing. The cost of replacing a wheel bearing is not something to write home about.
Why Do Wheel Seal Leak?
What causes wheel seal to leak are:
1. Bad Installation
Installing the wheel bearing and its seal the wrong way can cause it to leak overtime. The technician doing the job must have to be very careful during the installation and must use the right tool.
2. Cocked Seal not Seated Correctly
If the cocked seal is not seated properly, it can cause the seal to leak. Therefore, during installation, the technician should ensure to use the right tool and must not hit it too hard to avoid getting it crooked when it’s dialed in.
3. Incorrect Bearing Adjustment
The common cause of wheel seal leakages is mostly attributed to incorrect bearing adjustment. If the technician did not get the bearing adjustment right, it can affect the seal and cause it to leak.
4. Bad Shoulder or Hub Bore
If the shoulder or hub bore has gone bad or worn out, it can cause the seal to start leaking overtime. Again, these parts are not meant to last forever, it’s likely to get worn out because of constant usage, when this happens, it’s best to have it replaced otherwise, it can cause the wheel seal to leak.
5. Clogged Hub Cap Vent Hole
The hub cap vent hole should never be clogged for whatever reason. If this happens, it will prevent it from breathing properly which can cause pressure to build up and damage the seal.
6. Clogged Drive Vent
The same goes to the drive vent. When it’s clogged up, there won’t be enough room for it to breathe causing pressure build which will eventually blow up the seal.
7. Contamination or Not Cleaning Properly
This is also the reason for wheel seal leakage. The vents should be clean and free from any clogs. If there are debris on the vents, you can use a paper clip or anything else to clear the dirt. While doing this, ensure to use the right tool to avoid enlarging the vents
8. Old Age
You don’t expect to continue using a factory fitted wheel seal of a 2005 vehicle till forever. Its bound to get old as a result of constant use and might starts to leak as a sign that its time to have it replaced
How to Know if a Wheel Seal is Leaking
- To know if a wheel seal is leaking, check your tire inner sidewalls, sometimes when the seal starts to leak, it can leak onto the brake shoe and into the tire sidewalls.
- Another way to know if wheel seal is leaking is by using a flashlight to shine to the area to inspect the seal. You should be able to know whether it’s leaking or not.
Driving for long with a leaking wheel seal is not a good idea especially if the oil is leaking too much. However, if after inspection, you discover that the leakage is not too much, you can still be able to drive home or to a mechanic where the seal should be replaced. However, while driving, ensure to keep an eye on the leakage and add more oil to avoid starving the wheel bearing the recommended oil it needs to function.