Certain car components play a significant role in helping your car move from point A to B. One of such component is your car’s spindle. When the spindle is faulty, several things may go wrong in your car, which is visible in the way the car acts.
In this article, I will outline the signs of a bad spindle on a car you should watch out for. So you can make a quick fix before it gets worse. However, let’s first see what a spindle is and how it works.
What is a spindle on a car, and how it works
A car spindle is a small metal shaft used to connect two crucial components in the steering and suspension system. It is used to connect the wheel hub and rim.
Its name was probably coined from what it was built for, “spindle.” This is true because components connected by a spindle can spin individually from one another yet stay connected.
The spindle is why your steering system can independently rotate from your wheels, yet allowing both parts to move smoothly.
What are the signs of a bad spindle on a car?
Car spindles are not car components that require regular servicing, hence may be challenging to spot a bad one easily. In fact, in many cases, it’s not noticeable, while on a few occasions, it’s visible to the eyes. Hence, this article will teach you how to tell if a spindle is bad, so you can act fast.
The spindle connects the wheel hub and rim, with the rim helping to hold the tires firmly to the wheels. If the spindle is bad, there will be some sort of disconnection between the wheel’s hub and rim, causing the wheel to loosen a bit. So if you notice your wheels are loose, you may need to check your spindle condition.
Another bad spindle symptom on a car is noises coming from the spindle direction. When spindles are bad, their damaged parts rub against each other, causing a grinding or rattling noise. When you hear noises, especially from the wheel hub (spindle area), check if your spindles are worn out.
Damaged spindles will not keep the wheel hub and rim tightly connected, eventually affecting the wheel balance. Because the wheels are not balanced and firmly pinned to the road, your car may start vibrating when driving. To know the cause of the vibration, have your spindle examined by a certified mechanic.
Uneven tire wear
If your spindle is bent, cracked, damaged, or does not fit properly, it can lead to uneven tire wear. This is true because there will be an altercation between the hub and rim which invariably affects how the tires make contact with the road. These affected tires will wear differently from the others.
So if your tires are not wearing evenly, it could be the spindle is faulty and needs to be replaced. However, while bad spindles can cause uneven tire wear, other car components may also be responsible. So ensure you perform a proper diagnosis.
Difficulty controlling the steering
The spindle also connects your steering wheel and steering column. A telltale sign that your steering spindle is bad is you are losing speed abruptly, leading to difficulty controlling your vehicle.
Handling and steering difficulty may also occur if the steering wheel and column aren’t rotating and connected as they should. Driving with a broken, cracked, or damaged spindle is dangerous and poses a risk not only to you but to other road users.
While spindles most times don’t physically show they are bad, sometimes, they can be visibly damaged. It’s not new that spindles can become bent, cracked, and even have bad threads. These could be due to taking abuse or being used for too long as spindles have life spans. Seeing these on your spindle is a call to visit your mechanic.
What causes spindle damage?
An excellent way to avoid spindles from getting damaged is first knowing why they go bad. The following are possible reasons your spindle is damaged.
Driving Behavior (impact)
Regularly hitting curbs or the like can cause the spindle to bend over time. So you may want to avoid hitting curbs or going through anything that looks like one, especially when driving at high speeds.
Spindles have certain life spans, so when they have worked past it, they wear down and are unable to work as they should. So you may need to change them if they have recorded a high mileage before they break down totally.
Improper installation or removal of the spindle
Spindles can also fail if they are not properly installed or removed without following the correct procedure. Improperly installed or removed spindle can damage spindle bearings and other components aiding its work.
Excess vibration of Spindle
Spindles work with other components like nuts, bolts, bearings, etc. If the bolts are loose, bearings are worn, or other spindle components are imbalanced, it can lead to excess vibration of the spindle, eventually causing it to fail.
Spindle bearing failure
The spindle’s bearing synchronizes with your spindle to ensure the spindle works as intended. Particularly, bearings help in directing the movement of the spindle so your vehicle has a smoother performance.
Bearings typically influence your vehicle speed, frictional level, and energy consumption. If the bearing is not correctly lubricated (too little or too much), it can seize up and overheat. Thus, leading to bearing failure and eventually affecting the spindle.
Here is how to tell if spindle bearing is bad. Amongst many others, bad spindle bearing will cost your car to produce much noise, vibrate and experience a noticeable increase in temperature.
Improper installation of Spindle bearing
Bearings not correctly installed can eventually cause the spindle to fail.
Not using the manufacturer’s recommended spindle.
Every vehicle has its manufacturer-recommended spindle. Using spindles not designed for your car’s model, make, and year will result in fitment issues and, eventually, damage. And even if it fits, the spindle may not be able to carry your car’s weight, eventually leading to damage.
Using the recommended spindle not only prevents spindle damage but also ensures you have optimal performance and safe driving. Damaged spindles can result in handling issues.
How to replace the spindle on a car
Replacing spindles on cars is simple if you know your way through it. While the process below explains the spindle installation process of a 2008 Dodge Ram, the process is almost the same for other car models or brands. Here is how to replace spindles on your car wheels.
- Park your vehicle on a solid, level ground
- Using your socket and breaker bar, lose the lug nuts on your wheel.
- Insert a sizeable socket into the center cap and breaker bar to loosen the axle nuts.
- Use your jack to lift your car from the ground and support it with your jack stands.
- While lifted, remove the other lug nuts.
- With the lug nuts and axle nuts out, remove the wheel and tire from the hub.
- Locate the old spindle by removing components surrounding the spindle, such as the caliper bracket assembly, rotor, axle nuts, control arm, upper and lower ball joints, etc.
- Remove the old spindle and reinstall the new one after reinstalling the ball joints.
- Test drive your car.
However, for a better understanding, I recommended watching this video for a more detailed explanation. It is also important to note that the process varies as the spindle design varies from vehicle to vehicle.
How much does it cost to replace the spindle?
Spindle replacement cost ranges from $200-$2000 depending on the size, quality, number of faulty spindles, who is doing the installation, and the number of other components that need replacement.
Hollow tubular or aluminum spindles are usually costlier than forged steel and solid steel bar spindles. Depending on the type, a new spindle costs from $200-500, with used ones from $25-$65. While labor fees lurk around $50-$200 per hour, you can save this if you can replace it yourself.
More importantly, before replacing faulty spindles, make a proper diagnosis to be sure the spindle is truly bad, as bad rear wheel hub symptoms or knuckles are similar to spindle symptoms. Also, change faulty components around the spindles that can damage them again.
Being able to identify signs of a bad spindle on a car early enough will not only guarantee the smooth running of the vehicle and safe driving but also prevent further damage. So do the needful when you notice any of those symptoms discussed above.
However, note that some of the signs highlighted could also result from a bad wheel hub and steering knuckles, as bad steering knuckle symptoms and wheel hub failure symptoms are similar to bad spindle symptoms. More importantly, install only spindles recommended by your manufacturers for optimal performance, safety, and spindle longevity.