DIY Replacing a Front Wheel Bearing
Most people don’t realize if or when wheel bearings need service — we just drive, never really thinking about them. Car manufacturers generally recommend a wheel bearing clean, inspection and repack every 30,000 miles, and any bearing found to have scoring and pitting requires replacement. This inspection is usually done along with front brake service.
If your wheel bearings become noisy, it’s important to take your vehicle in for inspection or take the time to check them out yourself.
These instructions apply to bearings in a non-drive wheel. In other words, if your car is front wheel drive, we’re talking about the rear wheel bearings. If it’s rear wheel drive, you’ll be replacing the front wheel bearings.
What you’ll need:
- Large adjustable wrench and Channelocks
- Bearing race driver tool or various size punches
- Socket and ratchet set or assorted wrenches
- Dead Blow Hammer
- Lots of rags
- New wheel bearings
- Wheel bearing grease
- New cotter pin
- New grease seals
- Wheel blocks
- Safety glasses
- A jack and a pair of jack stands
- Rubber gloves (Optional)
Make sure that your car is parked on a level grade, rather than on any sort of hill or inclined driveway. Jack the car up, placing jack stands under the frame to support the vehicle. Block the rear wheels to prevent rolling. Set the parking brake and if you have an automatic transmission, be sure that it is in Park.
Remove the Old Wheel Bearings
In most cases, you will need to remove the disc brake calipers and caliper bridge to remove the rotor. Removing and replacing your disc brake pads is a fairly simple process, with proper guidance. However, if your car has drum brakes, ignore this step.
- First, remove the bearing cap. This is a press fit, so to remove it, grab it with Channelocks and work the cap back and forth until it pops off. Be careful not to crush it in the removal process.
- Once the cap is removed you will see a cotter pin. Remove the cotter pin and the retainer ring. If your vehicle has a castellated nut, you will not have a retaining ring.
- Using your Channelocks or adjustable wrench, remove the nut from the spindle.
- Next, remove the outer wheel bearing and washer and lay them aside.
- Slide the rotor or drum off the spindle. This may be difficult, but it will come off. Don’t worry about compromising the grease seal; we’re going to replace it anyway.
- Once the rotor or drum is off, use a suitable tool to remove the grease seal and take out the inner wheel bearing.
- Using some of the shop towels, wipe all of the old grease from inside the hub.
- Next, remove the bearing races from the hub: Take a punch with a flat narrow tip and place it on the back of the race. Most hubs have gaps in them which expose the back of the race to make removal easier. Tap the race out, alternating from side to side so that it comes out evenly and doesn’t get cocked in the hub. Once it’s out, flip the rotor or drum over and do the same for the other race.
Once both races are out, clean the inside of the hub and the spindle well with shop rags and carburetor cleaner.
From this point forward, cleanliness is extremely important — no dirt, sand or metal chips can be allowed inside the hub.