A wheel bearing allows your car's wheels to rotate for thousands of miles by serving as a cushion between the spindle and the wheel. Together with plenty of grease, this component reduces the friction between rotating or moving parts, letting your car's wheels to move freely without losing contact with the road. Over time, however, the grease on the bearing will eventually attract plenty of metal and dust particles that can damage the bearing.
Checking for signs of wear and tear
Fortunately, checking a wheel bearing for signs of damage is an easy task; you don't even have to remove the wheels. Simply follow the steps below:
Step 1: Jack up your car.
Lift up your vehicle by installing jack stands underneath. Make sure you're doing this on level ground.
Step 2: Try to rock each wheel.
While the car is lifted up, push each wheel and try to rock it. Look for any movement. Any excessive play is a good indication of a worn-out wheel bearing that has to be adjusted or replaced.
Step 3: Put the shift in neutral and watch out for noise or roughness.
If you have an automatic vehicle, make sure to put the gearshift in neutral. If your car is manual, take it out of gear. Then rotate the wheels as you watch out for weird noises and signs of resistance. A busted bearing will usually make unusual noises and will make it harder for you to rotate the wheels.
Replacing a busted wheel bearing
Once you've determined that a bearing needs replacing, change it as soon as possible and regain control over your car's wheel and suspension systems. You don't have to bring your car to a mechanic because replacing a bearing is relatively easy. Just check out the steps below:
- Rubber mallet
- Breaking bar
- Socket set
- Jack stands
Step 1: Loosen the lug nuts to remove the wheel.
Before lifting up the wheel with a jack stand, loosen the lug nuts first because this is easier to do if the ground is holding the wheel I place. Once the lug nuts are loosened, lift up the wheel with a jack. Removing the lug nuts and the wheel should be easier since the lug nuts are already loosened. Using a wrench, unscrew the lug nuts and lift off the wheel from the assembly.
Step 2: Uninstall the brake caliper.
Use a ratchet and socket unbolt the caliper. Then pry off the caliper with a screwdriver.
Step 3: Remove the cotter pin, dust cover, castle nut, and rotor.
Using the right tools, remove the rotor and the various parts it protects. Once the rotor is removed, the outer bearing should easily fall off. When dealing with a stuck rotor, tap it with a rubber mallet. However, avoid tapping the mallet if you're planning to reuse it.
Step 4: Remove the old wheel hub.
Since the bearing is inside the hub, you'll have to uninstall the hub. Simply unbolt it with a wrench or socket. Once the bolts are removed, you can lift off the hub from the axle. Then disassemble the hub to access the bearing.
Step 5: Uninstall the races.
To completely remove the bearing assembly, you'll have to break the races apart with a hammer or grinder. This is why you'll need to have replacement races in handy. After removing the old races, it's a good idea to clean the insides of the bearing assembly.
Step 6: Install the new wheel bearing.
Install the replacement races as well as the new bearing. Make sure the bearing is aligned and enough grease is applied.
Step 7: Reinstall all the other parts you've removed.
Once the bearing is installed and greased, reinstall the other parts you've removed starting with the hub. Then reattach the rotor and its components, as well as the brake caliper and the wheel.