How to Change Wheel Bearings

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Wheel bearings make up an important part of your car’s wheels, helping them to turn quickly and with minimal friction. They generally consist of steel balls inside a metal ring, are located on a metal axle shaft, inside the hub at the center of the wheel. Although wheel bearings are hardwearing, due to their high-impact role, they can wear out, and you will probably need to change them at least once during your car’s life. You will often be alerted to this need by a grinding or humming noise coming from the wheel as you drive, which increases in volume over time – if this happens, you should investigate the problem straight away, as driving with bad or missing wheel bearings can be dangerous.

How to Change Wheel Bearings

Providing you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, changing your wheel bearings yourself is a useful skill to know, and can save you a considerable amount of money compared to taking your car to a mechanic. However, it’s not the easiest of processes, as it involves removing several parts of the wheel to access the bearings, and we would only advise attempting it if you feel confident in doing so, and ideally have some prior mechanical knowledge and experience.

How to Change a Wheel Bearing

  • Be prepared
  • Secure the other wheels

Before you tackle the wheel with the bearings that need to be changed, you should secure the other wheels of your vehicle. Do this by placing wheel chocks against the rear wheels if you’re changing a front wheel, and vice versa. These wheel chocks will ensure the other wheels don’t move whilst you work.

  • Jack up the wheel

The next step in changing your wheel bearings is to elevate the wheel in question off the ground. Do this using a jack, in the same way you would to change a tire. Most cars come with a jack, but if not, you can purchase one from an auto parts store (or borrow one from a friend). Make sure to position the jack on a sturdy metal part of your car’s undercarriage, to prevent damage to any flimsier plastic parts under the weight of the car.

  • Remove the wheel
  • Remove the caliper
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With the wheel removed, you will now be able to see the brake caliper. Use a ratchet and socket to remove the bolts which hold the caliper in place. Then, take the caliper off with a screwdriver. Make sure to hook the caliper onto the undercarriage of the vehicle, as letting it hang can cause damage to the brake hose.

  • Expose the rotor

Now that the brake caliper is out of the way, the rotor will be exposed. Remove the plastic dust cover so that you can access the components that are holding the rotor in place – you will probably need a hammer for this. Once the dust cover is off, use pliers to take out the cotter pin, and unscrew and remove the castle nut and washer. Place all these parts somewhere safe, so you can easily locate them later.

  • Remove the rotor
  • Remove the hub

Next, you’ll need to remove the hub (this is the part in which the wheel bearings are located). To do this, you should reach under the car to unscrew the bolts holding the hub in place. This part can also prove difficult, and you may need to use a slim socket wrench to help you reach and loosen the bolts. Once the bolts are off, remove the hub from the axle.

  • Take the hub apart

If you’ve purchased a new wheel bearing hub assembly, you can simple place the new hub on at this point, and reassemble the wheel. If you’ve only purchased the bearings, you will need to dismantle the hub. Do this by using a hammer or wrench to take off the end piece, and a specialized tool to remove the bolt in the middle. Once this is done, it should come apart without too much trouble.

  • Remove the races
  • Install the new wheel bearings

You’re now ready to install your new wheel bearings. Do this by greasing and installing your new bearing sets, setting the new races in place of the old ones you’ve just removed, and tapping them into place with a hammer. Check that your new bearings are inserted as far as they will go, and that they’re in proper alignment. Apply plenty of grease to keep everything running smoothly, and ensure your wheel can turn with minimal friction. Proper lubrication is essential to keeping your new wheel bearings in good condition.

  • Put the wheel back together
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Once your new wheel bearings are installed, it’s time to re-assemble the wheel. Carefully replace all the parts you’ve removed onto the wheel, in reverse order. It’s a good idea to lay everything out in order as you take it apart, so you can easily see what needs to go back on where. Once you’ve put it all back together, carefully lower the wheel back onto the ground, and remove the jack. Congratulate yourself on successfully changing your wheel bearings, all by yourself!

FAQs:

Q: What are wheel bearings?

A: Wheel bearings are generally made up of small steel balls contained in a hardened steel ring, which is called a race. They are an internal part of the wheels on your car, located in the hub in the center of the wheel. Wheel bearings help your wheels to rotate quickly and smoothly, and with as little friction as possible, whilst the vehicle is in motion. As well as cars, wheel bearings are also found in many other types of vehicles, including motorcycles, bicycles and airplanes.

Q: How do I know when my wheel bearings need changing?

Q: Can you drive a car with a bad wheel bearing?

A: The short answer to this is ‘no’, you should not drive a car with a bad wheel bearing – although many people do when the problem is in its infancy, prior to diagnosis. If you suspect your wheel bearing is damaged or missing, you should refrain from driving your car, and ask a mechanic to look at it to confirm the problem. Faulty wheel bearings can prevent you from steering properly and cause the wheel to lock. Meanwhile, missing wheel bearings can result in the wheel coming off entirely whilst the car is in motion – seriously endangering not only yourself and your passengers, but anyone else around you.

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Q: Where can I buy wheel bearings?

A: Wheel bearings are generally not hard to find – you can purchase them from auto supply stores and online suppliers, and of course, they are available on Amazon. However, you do need to make sure you’re purchasing the correct size bearings for your make and model of vehicle, and that they’re suitable for either front or rear wheels. If you want to make the job easier for yourself, you can purchase a whole wheel bearing hub, meaning you just need to swap out the old hub for the new one, without taking the old one apart to replace the bearings. Note that this is a more expensive option though.

 Q: How much does it cost to change a wheel bearing?

Q: How long does it take to change a wheel bearing?

A: Changing a wheel bearing can take a little time, as there are a lot of parts to remove before you can access the hub, and some may require hammering and chiseling to get them off. There can also be a considerable amount of cleaning up of old grease involved. It’s a good idea to take your time, especially if it’s your first experience with changing wheel bearings, to make sure you do everything correctly, and don’t misplace or damage any parts. As a general rule, you should allow at least 2 hours to change a wheel bearing, probably more if it’s your first time. If it’s a rear axle bearing on a 4WD drive vehicle, it will take considerably longer than a front wheel bearing replacement.

Q: Can you replace just one wheel bearing?

Originally posted 2023-12-15 08:10:46.

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