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How to Change a Front Wheel Bearing

Updated on March 26, 2016

Not sure how to change a front wheel bearing? How do you know which is bad? How do you know if it's a wheel bearing noise or a tire noise? I will show you in depth, how to determine if you have a bad one, I will also show you a short video on how to diagnose which needs to be replaced and what it sounds like when it is damaged.

Diagnosing the Noise

If you have ever tried to diagnose a bad wheel bearing, you know that a wheel bearing sound can travels throughout the car and it is very easy to misdiagnose where the noise is coming from. I just ran into that problem last weekend. While on my road test, I could have sworn the noise was coming from the driver's side. I loaded the driver's side wheel bearing (turning and putting the vehicle weight on that side of the car while driving) and it sounded like the noise was coming from the left front.

After putting the car on a lift and raising it in the air, I used a long screwdriver as a stethoscope. I put the metal tip of the screwdriver on the hub near the wheel bearing, then put my ear on the handle end of the screwdriver and had someone sit in the car and put the car in gear, then bring the wheels up to a speed of about 40mph. If the wheel bearing is bad, you will hear it loud and clear. (See the video for more details) I was fooled once again, much to my surprise, I was wrong; the right front wheel bearing was the culprit, which is why you should never guess at where the noise is coming from.

How to Diagnose

How to Remove a Broken Cotter Pin

Replacement

Once you have figured out which wheel bearing is damaged, it's time to replace it. Almost all wheel bearings in today cars are removed the same way, but I will be using pictures from a 1999 Honda Accord to illustrate the process and walk you through it steps by step. Your objective is to remove the knuckle assembly from the vehicle so you can place it on the press and remove the wheel bearing. This is how the knuckle assembly will look once you removed it from the vehicle.

Knuckle assembly
Knuckle assembly | Source

Step 1. If your vehicle has ABS, the connector is probably routed in to the engine compartment, locate it and disconnect it from the vehicles wire harness and remove all the hold down clips, then feed the wire harness into the wheel well.

Step 2. Remove the caliper assembly and rotor. You may need an impact driver to remove the screws from the rotor.

Step 3. Disconnect the tie rod end, the lower ball joint, and the upper control arm from the knuckle assembly. It is common practice to hit the knuckle assembly with a hammer to release the ball joints from the knuckle where the tapered shaft goes into the casting.

Disconnect the ABS sensor if applicable.
Disconnect the ABS sensor if applicable. | Source
Removing rotor screws with an impact driver and remove rotor and caliper assembly.
Removing rotor screws with an impact driver and remove rotor and caliper assembly. | Source
Disconnect the tie rod end, lower, and upper ball joints from the knuckle assembly.
Disconnect the tie rod end, lower, and upper ball joints from the knuckle assembly. | Source

How to Remove a Ball Joint

How to Replace a Tapered Wheel Bearing and Race

Step 4. Remove the axle nut and remove it from the knuckle assembly

Step 5. Remove the knuckle assembly from the car and prepare it for the press.

Step 6. Set the knuckle assemble on the press and suspend it safely, remove the center hub, starting from the back of the bearing, and only press out the center of the bearing.

Step 7. Flip it over and remove the snap ring or retaining ring from the knuckle assembly. This retaining ring holds the outer race of the bearing in it.

Step 8. Flip it back over and remove the outer race of the wheel bearing.

Step 9. Take the hub assembly and place it in a vice. Using a high speed cutting wheel, cut the inner race that is pressed onto the hub assembly. You only need to cut halfway through the inner race, taking caution not to cut the hub shaft. Using a large chisel, place it in the slice of the inner race and hit it once, it should crack the race, now you can remove it by tapping it off the hub shaft with the hammer and chisel.

Step 10. Clean all metal surfaces with a Scotch-Brite pad or light sand paper. Clean up the snap ring with a wire wheel or sandpaper for easy installation.

Step 11. Reinstall the bearing into the knuckle assembly. Support it on the press; be sure it is level and straight for easy wheel bearing installation. Press the wheel bearing into the knuckle assemble, then install the snap ring.

Step 12. Install the hub into the center race of the bearing. Support the center race of the wheel bearing from underneath so that when you are pressing the hub into the center race, it will not push out the rear center race through the back side of the knuckle assembly. The center race is in two pieces, front and rear, you need to support the rear or it will separate, and possible cause the bearing to be noisy. Be sure the hub bottoms out in the wheel bearing.

Step 13. Reinstall the knuckle assembly into the car in the reverse order, replacing all cotter pins with new ones for easy assembly. Make sure you torque the axle nut and peen it into the notch in the axle, the axle nut holds the wheel bearing together, if it becomes loose, you could damage the wheel bearing.

Remove the axle nut and axle from the knuckle assembly.
Remove the axle nut and axle from the knuckle assembly. | Source
Remove the hub from the center of the bearing.
Remove the hub from the center of the bearing. | Source
Press the center of the wheel bearing out first to access the snap ring.
Press the center of the wheel bearing out first to access the snap ring. | Source
Flip the knuckle assemble over and remove the snap ring.
Flip the knuckle assemble over and remove the snap ring. | Source
Using a high speed cut off wheel, make a slice in the center race still pressed on the hub.
Using a high speed cut off wheel, make a slice in the center race still pressed on the hub. | Source
Use a large chisel to crack the inner race at the slice.
Use a large chisel to crack the inner race at the slice. | Source
Support the bottom of the knuckle assemble and press the new bearing in.
Support the bottom of the knuckle assemble and press the new bearing in. | Source
Make sure everything is straight and level for easy installation.
Make sure everything is straight and level for easy installation. | Source
Clean up the snap ring and hub with a wire wheel and a scotchbrite pad or light sand paper.
Clean up the snap ring and hub with a wire wheel and a scotchbrite pad or light sand paper. | Source
Once the bearing is installed and the snap ring is in place, support the bearing from the bottom and press the hub into the center of the bearing, be sure to support the center race from the bottom or you will separate the bearing resulting in damage
Once the bearing is installed and the snap ring is in place, support the bearing from the bottom and press the hub into the center of the bearing, be sure to support the center race from the bottom or you will separate the bearing resulting in damage | Source

Any Questions?

That's all there is to it. I hope this answers your questions. If you have any additional questions, just use the comment box. I have some people emailing me asking questions, I don't mind answering them through email, but it helps other readers when the questions are asked in the comment box. I get a lot of duplicate questions. So, if they're in the comment box, it will help answer someone else's question that is afraid to ask. I say there are no stupid questions, so let it all hang out :)

How to Repack a Tapered Wheel Bearing by Hand

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    • hardlymoving profile image

      hardlymoving 14 months ago from Memphis, TN

      Princesswelsh,

      Try placing a hydraulic jack under the lower control arm and jack the spindle up into the upper control arm.

    • profile image

      Princesswelsh 14 months ago

      I have a 98 Honda Accord. I replaced the drivers side front wheel bearing. Went to put all back together, I put the lower ball joint in and when I push the upper spindle arm towards the upper control arm it won't go all the way to it, like th shaft grown an inch longer. Yes the inner joint it come out, and yes I have turn it many of times to Aline it in place and I can feel it go in place but still can't get the spindle to reach the upper control arm.

    • eddiecarrara profile image
      Author

      Eddie Carrara 2 years ago from New Hampshire

      Hi Joe,

      It all depends on who you ask. When you dissassemble the suspension on most new vehicles, it will go back together exactly the same way it came apart. I say you don't need an alignment after that kind of repair, but if you haven't had an alignment in a while, It's may be a good idea, at this time, while the car is in the shop to get one. Confused yet? lol . Let me know.

    • profile image

      Joseph 2 years ago

      Thank you for the wonderful info, I have one question, Do I need wheal alignment after changing the front wheal bearing?

    • profile image

      Joanna 3 years ago

      It does make a knocking sound I just didn't know where it was coming from. and auto zone is a parts store not a mechanic shop.but thanks I'll let you know what I find.

    • eddiecarrara profile image
      Author

      Eddie Carrara 3 years ago from New Hampshire

      Hi JoAnna, ball joint's don't usually cause a vibration, ball joints make a knocking noise when driving over bumps or rough roads, plus if the ball joint was worn, the vibration would not come and go, it would be constant. The mechanic probably ripped the boot while replacing the hub, so maybe you should have them fix that too, because ball joint boots just don't usually rip on their own, unless the rubber is dry rotted. I would rule out bushings as well, vibrations usually come from something that is turning like a tire, rim, axle, drive shaft, etc... Let me know what you find JoAnna, thanks.

    • JoAnna Cotton profile image

      JoAnna Cotton 3 years ago from New Orleans, Louisiana

      Hardlymoving,Bolt on hubs, and I think its the lower ball joint and my bushings, the rubber is completely ripped off.

    • JoAnna Cotton profile image

      JoAnna Cotton 3 years ago from New Orleans, Louisiana

      Ok I'll let you know

    • eddiecarrara profile image
      Author

      Eddie Carrara 3 years ago from New Hampshire

      Hi JoAnna, at this point I would bring it back to Autozone and let them know that the problem you came in for is not fixed and that your very unhappy about having to take so much time out of your day to keep coming back. Talk to the service manager and tell them that you just want the problem fixed and you want to know, what can they do to fix it. Don't let them push you around and spend money on replacing parts, tell them to find the problem and fix it, that's what you paid them to do!

      Tell them you would like to road test the vehicle with the mechanic so you can show them what you're talking about, it really is the best way to get to the resolution because now you have the service manager involved and you're talking to the mechanic directly.

      I could keep guessing and telling you all kinds of things that cause vibrations, but without driving the vehicle and experiencing the problem first hand, it's just a guess. I want to help, but I don't want to confuse you. Let me know what you think, and if you figure it out, could you come back here and let me know what they found? That would be very much appreciated, thanks.

    • hardlymoving profile image

      hardlymoving 3 years ago from Memphis, TN

      Was it a bolt-on hub/bearing assembly or pressed in bearings? If a bolt-on hub/bearing, the only thing that makes new bearings go bad is the axle nut not being torqued on tight enough. Also, you may have one bad tire (a tire that is out of round) or a bent wheel. Easiest way to find out is to move the front tires to the rear ... instead of steering wheel shaking, you will feel shaking in your butt. Also bad Control Arm bushings, upper strut mounts and lower ball joints can cause problems as well.

    • JoAnna Cotton profile image

      JoAnna Cotton 3 years ago from New Orleans, Louisiana

      And my tires are new.all four

    • JoAnna Cotton profile image

      JoAnna Cotton 3 years ago from New Orleans, Louisiana

      Well I took it to a shop to get an alignment but they said they couldn't do it cuz the bearings in my hubs were bad and my inner tie rod was no good,so I took it somewhere else and they told me the inner tire rods were fine but my hubs was no good.so I brought them back to Autozone for warranty replacement and replace the hubs.it was fine after we replaced them then later that night coming from work it started to shake again.could it be my bushings, the rubber on the ball joint are split with no grease in it.

    • eddiecarrara profile image
      Author

      Eddie Carrara 3 years ago from New Hampshire

      That was my same thought lol, that's why I asked "who is doing the work?", bearings just don't fail that quick, some bearing last the life of the car without ever failing. You think like I do David, lol.

    • hardlymoving profile image

      hardlymoving 3 years ago from Memphis, TN

      Eddie,

      Was wondering if the same repair shop was performing these hub bearing replacements for JoAnna over and over again? If so, could be mechanics sledge hammering the bearings in because they won't invest in a hydraulic press? If so, the bearings are good for a little while then go bad.

      Did a recent bearing replacement on a Honda Element. When I removed the Steering Knuckle, saw hammer marks all around the Knuckle. The shop also tore the lower ball joint dust cover.

    • eddiecarrara profile image
      Author

      Eddie Carrara 3 years ago from New Hampshire

      Hi JoAnna, I don't think it's your hubs, and if it i your wheel bearings, someone is not doing the job right. worn inner CV joints can cause a vibration on acceleration and so can tires. Have you had the tires looked at or balanced yet? Who is doing the work? Let me know JoAnna, thanks.

    • JoAnna Cotton profile image

      JoAnna Cotton 3 years ago from New Orleans, Louisiana

      It only shakes on acceleration.30mph and above

    • profile image

      joanna 3 years ago

      Hi, I have a 2006 Pontiac grand prix.I changed the hubs on the front if my car because the bearings went bad, five months later the car stats shaking really bad again, so yet again I replace the hubs, the shaking stops, and the next day I went to go to work and the cat stats shaking again.this is the third time I have replaced the hubs, do you have any insight on my issue.

    • eddiecarrara profile image
      Author

      Eddie Carrara 4 years ago from New Hampshire

      Sure Kazeem, if you ever need me, I'll be right here :) take care!

    • profile image

      Kazeem Raheem 4 years ago

      Thanks Eddie for everything. Remain blessed!

    • eddiecarrara profile image
      Author

      Eddie Carrara 4 years ago from New Hampshire

      Hey Kazeem, if you can torque the nut to about 120ft lbs, do it by hand, but I usually hit it with the air gun full bore, then peen the nut.

    • profile image

      Kazeem Raheem 4 years ago

      Thanks Eddie! It was the Arm that I wanted to remove not the ball joint. Anyway, i end up changing both the ball joints and the tile rod end (outer) Everything is all set now.

      Another question: Is it advisable to hand tight the axle nut or use Impact Gun? Stay blessed.

    • eddiecarrara profile image
      Author

      Eddie Carrara 4 years ago from New Hampshire

      Hi Kazeem, what's the problem,are you having a problem removing the ball joints from the control arm? Hit the heavy metal part of the control arm (where the tapered end of the joint goes through) with a hammer, do not hit the ball joint or tap up on the joint where the nut goes, you'll ruin the joint! Once you get the arm off, you can work on getting the 3 allen bolts out, you may have to bring it to a garage for some extra help and heat. Let me know how you're making out Kazeem.

    • profile image

      Kazeem Raheem 4 years ago

      Eddie, I think I need your help right now, please. I want to remove the whole arm of the front passenger side of my '03 isuzu rodeo 4wd v6 3.2l, in order to change my hub bearing and am stocked. I already loosen all the three nut but couldn't get it out (ball joint, tile rod, upper arm). 3 of the 4 Allen nuts behind the hub is not catching and seems to be worn out. More so the pulley I got to separate the hub from axle will not work and I resolved into removing the arm. Please help me.

    • eddiecarrara profile image
      Author

      Eddie Carrara 4 years ago from New Hampshire

      Hi Kazeem, and welcome back :) I think you're hearing a wheel bearing. The reason the noise changes with the crown or curve of the road is because just a slight turn of the steering wheel can unload pressure off the bearing, causing the noise to disappear temporarily. Let me know if this seem about right Kazeem, thanks.

    • profile image

      Kazeem Raheem 4 years ago

      Hello Eddie, Thanks a lot! You are a God sent. The impact gun alone did the job. About 800 ft/lbs whacked the Nut open with in a twinkle of an eye.

      Another thing Eddie, is my car is making noise around 35mph and the steering shakes, too. I had sears did the alignment with the old tire on it. It was still the same thing when I was living sears. I went ahead and bought new tires the same day and mounted them at the tire shop but still making noise. When on highway I discovered that when the road was curved to the left the noise became smooth but when the curve was to the right the noise was like hammering on the driver side (not like sledgehammer). Please, help me with this one. Thanks.

    • eddiecarrara profile image
      Author

      Eddie Carrara 4 years ago from New Hampshire

      If the nut is peened over, that's not usually your problem, that little peen will stop the nut from backing off on it's own, but not with tools. We usually use an impact gun. You can try using heat if you're changing the hub, even a plumbers torch sometimes will heat it just enough to expand the metal and loosen things up, but be careful not to ignite the wheel bearing grease. Keep me posted Kazeem, thanks.

    • profile image

      Kazeem Raheem 4 years ago

      Thanks once again! I have bended two pipe already, and also broke and bended my torque wrench, too. Very pathetic uh. In fact your suggestion of putting back the tire was my last result. It took me the whole day before I realized this. What I tried was to lift the tip of the nut with screwdriver and hammer from the shaft end groove, but still will not unlock. I showed the picture to the people at a well known Auto parts store, in fact they suggested to destroy the nut and look for new one. I went through all my four wheels, but they are all the same. I felt there should a way to do this instead of destroying. It's my first time encountering this situation. If i may ask how is that of Honda prelude done?

    • eddiecarrara profile image
      Author

      Eddie Carrara 4 years ago from New Hampshire

      Yeah , I checked out the link and it brings me to the first page of the Prelude Forum, Hubpages does not allow links in the comment boxes, so I cannot publish your comment. Try installing the wheel back onto the vehicle and putting on the ground, then use the breaker bar, slide a piece of pipe over the handle of the breaker bar to extend the handle, it will give you more leverage. you will either break the nut free or break the bar. Keep me posted on what happens.

    • eddiecarrara profile image
      Author

      Eddie Carrara 4 years ago from New Hampshire

      Hi Kazeem, you can go to my YouTube channel and email me a picture. Or make a short video, post it on YouTube and send me the link through email. Let me know if this helps, if not, maybe I can just try to talk you through it :)

    • profile image

      Kazeem Raheem 4 years ago

      Hi Eddie, you are really very good in what you do. Please do keep it up. I read some of your articles and saw the supported video! They are awesome. Please, i need your help to solve the puzzle of my 2003 Isuzu Rodeo 4WD V6 3.2L Hub nut (spindle Nut). The shaft end has a groove in it, and the NUT was tapered into the groove, I guess to lock the nut. I have problem loosening this Nut in order to be able to change the Hub along with the bearings . I wish I can upload the photo for you to be able to see what am talking about. I will be looking forward to hearing the solution to this puzzle. Thanks and stay blessed.

    • eddiecarrara profile image
      Author

      Eddie Carrara 4 years ago from New Hampshire

      No problem Amber,

      Could you come back and give me an update once the job's done? I would really appreciate it :)

    • profile image

      Amber 4 years ago

      Thanks so much for the advice. The $1600 was quoted by the dealer, so I'll shop around before subjecting my family members to a long afternoon in the cold!

    • eddiecarrara profile image
      Author

      Eddie Carrara 4 years ago from New Hampshire

      Thanks David, I really appreciate it, good luck with the turbo unit, fun fun :)

    • hardlymoving profile image

      hardlymoving 4 years ago from Memphis, TN

      Local parts vendors were charging between $120 - $200 per Hub Bearing Assembly. I went to Rockauto and got them for $45 each. The next manufacturer wanted $75. After that, everyone else wanted over $100. Never had had problems with parts ordered from Rockauto. If the part didn't fit, just ship it back and they refund in 5 days. They also honor the manufacturer's warranty where they'll deal with any parts issues. Had a problem with a Sienna Front Motor Mount that failed after 6 months (Beck Arnley Part) and they gave me a full refund.

      Back to replacing a Turbo Unit on a Jetta TDI. Lots of fun.

    • eddiecarrara profile image
      Author

      Eddie Carrara 4 years ago from New Hampshire

      Hi David,

      Happy New Year!!!

      That's great news, so maybe Amber's dad and brother could do the job after all? How much did the parts cost, just curious?

      @ Amber, you're you're reading this, go to Davids page and print it out for your dad and brother, just click on his link near his picture and you'll go to his page, the article he wrote also has pictures, it's called DIY Nissan Murano Front Wheel Bearing Hub Replacement, it's the first article that pops up. let me know how you make out, thanks Amber :)

    • hardlymoving profile image

      hardlymoving 4 years ago from Memphis, TN

      Hey Eddie,

      How's it going? With respect to Amber's problem, the Infiniti M35 is a Hub and Bearing bolt on assembly. The design is similar or the same as the Murano which I replaced last week and took me less than an hour per wheel. Very simple procedure, nothing to press out and I did a write up last week on how to do it. Didn't even have to remove the CV axle from the knuckle or detach the lower ball joint.

    • eddiecarrara profile image
      Author

      Eddie Carrara 4 years ago from New Hampshire

      Hi Amber,

      It would be very unusual for your wheel to fly off, lol, it would have to be extremely damaged. If you have a light noise, you really don't have to worry about it too much, it will get progressively louder with time. My daughter drove her 99 Accord with a bad wheel bearing for about a year, I just kept an eye on it.

      If you brother and dad are not mechanically inclined, I wouldn't recommend taking on the job, but I am positive you can find an honest mechanic who would do it for a lot less than $1600. Replacing a wheel bearing would cost about 1.5 - 2.0 hours labor, for each complete wheel bearing, plus about $40 - $80 per bearing assembly (Parts). So even if you found a shop who's labor rate was $100 per Hr, it would only cost you $560 on the high end to have 2 wheel bearings replaced. I recommend shopping around for a better price. Let me know if you have any other questions Amber, I'll be right here :)

    • profile image

      Amber 4 years ago

      I have an '06 M35x and was given a quote a $1600 to change the problem bearings. Do you think it's something I could do myself...and when I say "myself," I mean my dad/brother? (Neither has a great deal of car knowledge.) Also, how long from when you first start hearing the noise do you usually have to get the work done, and what are the consequences? I'd hate to have my wheel fly off when I'm driving down I95 :).

    • eddiecarrara profile image
      Author

      Eddie Carrara 5 years ago from New Hampshire

      Hi Craig,

      I would love to help you but I'm not sure what your question is, if you have a little more detail, maybe I can help :)

    • profile image

      Craig 5 years ago

      So, I have the bearings change but I had one fuse to - heck I don't know what it is - what can I do??

    • eddiecarrara profile image
      Author

      Eddie Carrara 5 years ago from New Hampshire

      Hi Jesse, I have done that myself a few times. Wheel bearing noise travels throughout the car and it's really tricky to identify where it's exactly coming from. The best way to diagnose the problem is to use the long screwdriver or a stethoscope like in the video. Let me know how it works out for you, and thanks for your input, it's much appreciated :)

    • profile image

      jesse Troutman 5 years ago

      It's definitely a tricky noise. I'm doin one right now and think I took off the wrong side. Gonna get them both checked out.

    • eddiecarrara profile image
      Author

      Eddie Carrara 5 years ago from New Hampshire

      Hello my friend, Yes the Hub shark is the tool you are talking about. I have only used it once and found using a press was much easier in my opinion. For the price of a hub shark you can buy a press which is much more versatile, but it's definitely personal preference. Thanks for the comment because I never had mentioned the hub shark in the article, and it give readers more options :)

    • hardlymoving profile image

      hardlymoving 5 years ago from Memphis, TN

      Good article. Only thing is that most people would have to bring their steering knuckle to a machine shop to have the old bearings pressed out and the new ones pressed in. In some unfortunate instances, the new bearings were pressed in so hard that they damaged the bearings and the bearing replacement had to be repeated a few months later.

      What I now do in lieu of using the press machine is use a wheel bearing removal tool consisting of a group of different sized circular cups and discs with holes in them. The cup is attached to the knuckle and a smaller diameter disc butted up against the bear. The cup and disc is joined in the center with a large nut and bolt. But applying torque on the bolt with an impact driver, I can press the bearing out without having to remove the knuckle off the car. I reverse the process to press in the new bearings. I also use a slide hammer for removing the wheel hub. I use your same technique for removing the outer race stuck to the hub. If I'm lazy, I'll just chuck the hub and replace it with a new one.