In case you are thinking of the safety of your family while driving your car on the roads because of the wobbling car wheels, you will need to perform the wheel bearing replacement. But before going for replacement you need to check whether the wheel bearings are in need of replacement.
All vehicles normally employ two categories of wheel bearings. The older vehicles make use of serviceable wheel bearings which are different components from the hub. Most of the new vehicles use the hub bearing assembly that has internally pressed bearings that cannot be serviced. However both types of wheel bearings may fail after some time. The bearings perform in a difficult environment which constitutes of friction and heat. They need proper quantity of lubrication; however it doesn’t matter how well you have performed the maintenance tasks, the bearings still wear off after some time. A normal shell life for wheel bearings is in between 85,000 to 100,000 miles under usual conditions.
Jack, jack stand, channel locks, hammer, grease packer for wheel bearing, lug wrench, mechanics wire, ratchet and socket set, honing stone, dial indicator having magnetic base, bearing grease, a small pry tool or straightedge screwdriver, needle nose pliers etc.
Check serviceable bearings
1. Jack up the wheel to be checked and place your vehicle on the jack stand. Spin the wheel in question as fast as possible by using your hand and listen or feel via sidewall of the tire for any large noise or resistance like slight grinding noise.
2. Put your hands one at the top and the other at the bottom of the wheel. Now wiggle the wheel into a rocking motion. Remember the serviceable bearings normally allow a slight movement (about 1/8th of an inch) for free play. If there is more movement than this, you need to retighten, service or replace the bearing.
3. Take off the hubcap and remove the dust cap from the center of the hub by making use of a hammer and a small pry tool. You may also use the straightedge screwdriver. Now check the interior of the cap for lack of grease or dryness.
4. Take off the cotter pin by making use of two needle nose pliers. Take out the castle cap under the cotter pin. Take out the spindle nut by making use of two channel locks. Now remove the washer from the bearing. Hit the top of the tire in inward direction by using one hand and place the other hand on spindle to catch outer bearing. Remove the extra grease from the bearing and inspect it for lubrication, visible dryness and heat damage to the cage or the bearing. If there are any issues, you need to remove the hub and rotor assembly to get the inner bearing out. This requires removal and replacement of grease seal and racers. You should always replace racers and bearings in pairs. Now repack the bearing if they are usable by using good bearing grease and using wheel bearing packer.
5. Now replace the bearing washer of wheel assembly after inspection or replacement. Tighten the spindle nut as far as possible by hands and with channel locks. Spin the wheel in natural forward direction to seat the bearing. Back out the nut by 1/8th of an inch and replace the cap and cotter pin. Fill the inside of dust cap using bearing grease. Replace first the dust cap and then hubcap.
Check hub bearing assemblies
1. Put your hands on the raised wheel at 9.00 and 3.00. Spin the tire quickly while placing inward pressure for feeling any resistance and audible noise while the tire is spinning.
2. Again put your hands on the wheel at 12.00 and 6.00 and make an effort to wiggle it into rocking motion. If there is any free play movement on the hub bearing assembly, it needs replacement.
3. Now take out the wheel in need of repair. Take out the caliper mount and pad assembly from wheel knuckle. Attach the caliper to the chassis by making use of mechanics wire and take out the rotor.
4. Completely clean the hub flange surface by making use of honing stone which will also remove shreds of debris and corrosion built up on the flange. Fix the dial indicator base to knuckle and the tip of the indicator to hub flange. This leaves room to the hands for turning the hub. Now lock the indicator in its place and set it to zero.
5. Now turn the hub flange in 90 degrees rotation back and forth by keeping your eyes on the indicator. If the indicator shows a movement of .0004 degrees in either direction, the hub bearing has to be replaced.
Wheel Bearing Replacement:
If there is need for replacing wheel bearings, get the new bearings and change the older ones. Mount the new bearings into place in wheel bearing replacement time. Remember there is no specific order for placing the new bearing into its place. Once the bearings are seated in right place, apply the grease and mount a brand new seal. After this re-install the rotor of the vehicle and reconnect the brakes in their correct positions and also remount the tires.
After completing the procedure for replace wheel bearing, you need to ensure that the nut on the bearing is tightened. This will allow you to have some peace of mind while driving your vehicle on the roads.
Signs of impending replacement
In general, replacing the older wheel bearings with new ones is the most cost effective way as it will save time, money and effort. So when the wheel bearings have become broken, crunchy or just worn out, you need to replace them immediately. If you are required to exert too much effort on the brake pads, you should inspect the bearings with the method described above. You might get away with some greasing in some cases. However if the wheel bearings are damaged, you will have to replace them.
Another indication of problems with wheel bearing is the noise. In such case there may not be any need to dismantle the parts. Just jack up the wheel and if there is little or no free movement then the bearing is fine otherwise you need to replace it quickly.
Ignorance is the main cause of wheel bearings deterioration. So if you watch out, you can either avoid the wheel bearing replacement or if needed get it done on time to avoid further damage.
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