DIY Toyota Front Wheel Drive (FWD) Wheel Bearing Replacement

Updated on March 18, 2016
A front-wheel-drive wheel bearing.  Note the two-piece inner race.
A front-wheel-drive wheel bearing. Note the two-piece inner race.

The most common causes of wheel bearing failure are 1) out-of-balance wheels, which a wheel balance job will fix, and 2) out-of-round tires, which a wheel balance job will not fix; the tire must be replaced. If the wheel vibrates constantly, as it will if these problems are present, the front wheel bearing will wear out. Worn out wheel bearings make a low-pitched humming or grinding noise that gets progressively louder as the car's speed increases. It is most noticeable when cruising on the highway.

These instructions for replacing front-wheel-drive wheel bearings will work for the Toyota Corolla, Camry, and Solara; the Lexus ES300; and, with minor variations, for the Nissan Maxima and Sentra and the VW Jetta. If you have the tools discussed below, this article provides a simple method to remove the inner bearing race, thus avoiding removing the steering knuckle and having the bearing(s) pressed out at a machine shop.

Cost Considerations in DIY Wheel Bearing Replacement

New wheel bearings are relatively inexpensive (under $50). Although many parts suppliers provide a kit consisting of a new wheel hub with the bearing, there is no need to replace the wheel hub, since it doesn't usually wear out. Many buy the kit to avoid having to obtain the tools needed to remove the inner wheel bearing race.

Typical repair quotes for a FWD wheel bearing replacement range from $350 - $450 a wheel...enough financial motivation to find a way to do it yourself. Once you have gone through the learning curve of doing one side, the other side will go faster and easier.

Special Tools Needed to Replace FWD Wheel Bearings

Three special tools are needed to perform this job at home:

1. A FWD wheel hub puller with a slide hammer (see (A) below). These tools can be rented at most auto parts stores.

2. A portable FWD wheel bearing removal-and-installation tool (see (B) below). This tool is not typically available for rent. But without this tool, attempting to hammer out an old bearing and hammer in a new one is a complete waste of time, and will damage the new bearings and pop out the inner bearing race.

3. A high-speed rotary tool with a small metal-cutting disc (like a dremel tool).

In addition, a high-torque air or electric impact driver will make it a lot easier to squeeze out the old bearings and put in the new ones.

A.  Hub puller/slide hammer kit
A. Hub puller/slide hammer kit
B. Wheel bearing installation/removal kit
B. Wheel bearing installation/removal kit | Source

Loosen the Axle Shaft Nut

With the car in park and the parking brake on, remove the wheel cover to expose the axle shaft nut. If an impact driver is not available, straighten and remove the cotter pin and remove the axle shaft nut cover (see E, F, G below). Fit a 30mm socket (for a Corolla) to a breaker bar, and torque the nut loose until finger tight.

Remove the Brake Wheel Caliper Assembly

The wheel caliper assembly (which holds the brake pads) is attached to the steering knuckle with two 17mm bolts (C). The brake hose may be secured to the strut assembly and should be unbolted. Wiggle and pull on the caliper assembly until it is clear of the brake rotors. Support the caliper in any way that keeps it from dangling or pulling on the brake hose.

C.  Remove the brake caliper bracket
C. Remove the brake caliper bracket

Remove the Brake Rotor and Axle Shaft Nut

Remove the brake rotor (D); if it is rusted on, a few taps with a brass hammer should free it. Unless you did this in the first step, remove the axle shaft cotter pin (E), axle shaft nut cover (F) and the axle shaft nut (G).

Photos D-G

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D.  Pull off the brake rotorE.  Remove cotter pin (A) and axle shaft nut cover (B)F.  Pull off axle shaft nut coverG.  After removing axle shaft nut
D.  Pull off the brake rotor
D. Pull off the brake rotor
E.  Remove cotter pin (A) and axle shaft nut cover (B)
E. Remove cotter pin (A) and axle shaft nut cover (B)
F.  Pull off axle shaft nut cover
F. Pull off axle shaft nut cover
G.  After removing axle shaft nut
G. After removing axle shaft nut

Bolt On the Hub Puller Tool and Pull Out the Wheel Hub

Attach the hub puller tool to the wheel hub using the existing wheel lugs. The lugs must be on tight (H, I, J). Then screw the slide hammer tool onto the hub puller (K). A few sharp tugs with the slide hammer will pull off the wheel hub, including the inner wheel bearing race (L). On Corollas, the wheel bearing outer seal will come out along with the hub as well.

Photos H-L

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H.  Hub puller toolI.  Screw the slide hammer onto the hub puller toolJ.  Hub puller attached to hubK.  Slide Hammer screwed onL.  Wheel hub removed
H.  Hub puller tool
H. Hub puller tool
I.  Screw the slide hammer onto the hub puller tool
I. Screw the slide hammer onto the hub puller tool
J.  Hub puller attached to hub
J. Hub puller attached to hub
K.  Slide Hammer screwed on
K. Slide Hammer screwed on
L.  Wheel hub removed
L. Wheel hub removed

Detach the Lower Ball Joint from the Lower Control Arm

Remove the two nuts and one bolt (M) that attach the ball joint to the lower control arm. Push down on the control arm and pull the ball joint up and away from the arm. At this point, the CV axle shaft can be pulled out and away from the center of the wheel bearing. Afterwards, remove the hub-to-CV joint dust shield (N), using a screwdriver as a pry punch.

Photos M-N

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M.  Remove lower ball jointN. Pry dust shield (A) off axle shaft (B)
M.  Remove lower ball joint
M. Remove lower ball joint
N. Pry dust shield (A) off axle shaft (B)
N. Pry dust shield (A) off axle shaft (B)

Remove the Outer and Inner Wheel Ball Bearings

Now all that holds the ball bearings in place is grease and a plastic bearing retainer. Pull out the outer and inner bearings with the retainer (O). If an inner bearing seal prevents the inner bearing from coming out, the bearing seal can be pushed out with some gentle taps with a screwdriver from inside the bearing housing. Then the inner bearings can be removed. Wipe off any excess grease.

O.  Remove the inside wheel bearing cover
O. Remove the inside wheel bearing cover

Remove Snap Ring Bearing Retainer

The snap ring is a black ring recessed in a groove on the inside of the inner portion of the steering knuckle hole. The steering knuckle must be turned outward as much as possible to gain access to the ring. While holding the knuckle outward, use a pair of needle-nosed pliers to squeeze and then remove the snap ring (P).

P.  Remove the snap ring
P. Remove the snap ring

Remove the Outer Wheel Bearing Race From the Steering Knuckle

From the wheel bearing remover tool kit, select a disc (Q) that is smaller than the diameter of the outer wheel bearing race. Place the flat side of the disc against the outside of the race. Select a bearing cup that is larger than the wheel bearing. This cup can can be mounted against the back of the steering knuckle, and will receive the old wheel bearing when the bearing gets "squeezed" out of the hub. The kit will also contain a cup lid (a large circular step-down disc plate) that will fit snug onto the bearing cup. Fit the cup lid over the bearing cup, with the open end of the cup over the steering knuckle.

Using the long bolt from the installation/removal kit, run the bolt through the cup lid, wheel bearing, and disc (R), and tighten using the kit's two-inch nut.

Hold the installation/removal bolt head with a 27mm box wrench or socket wrench attached to a breaker bar. Begin squeezing the bearing out with a 30mm socket, attached to either a breaker bar or an impact driver (S, T, U). High torque will be required to squeeze the old bearing out; an impact driver makes it easier. The movement of the two-inch nut will be very slow. If it stops moving completely, then either the bearing cup is too small, or the disc pushing against the old bearing is too large.

Photos Q-U

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Q.  Insert bearing removal discR.  Attach the bearing cup and cup disc, then run bolt through hubS.  Begin squeezing out the old bearingT.  Old bearing, with removal toolU.  Wheel hub with bearing removed
Q.  Insert bearing removal disc
Q. Insert bearing removal disc
R.  Attach the bearing cup and cup disc, then run bolt through hub
R. Attach the bearing cup and cup disc, then run bolt through hub
S.  Begin squeezing out the old bearing
S. Begin squeezing out the old bearing
T.  Old bearing, with removal tool
T. Old bearing, with removal tool
U.  Wheel hub with bearing removed
U. Wheel hub with bearing removed

Squeeze in the New Wheel Bearing

Freezing the new wheel bearing inside your refrigerator before installation will ease installation. Clean out any residual grease within the steering knuckle hole and coat with some penetrating oil. Pick out a disc from the hub installation tool kit of the same or smaller diameter as the new wheel bearing. This disc will pull against the new bearing and squeeze it in the steering knuckle hole. Identify a bearing cup which the new bearing can fit into, to help guide and keep true the movement of the new bearing into the knuckle. Position a disc of a larger diameter against the outside of the steering knuckle hole. Run the wheel bearing installation/removal bolt (same bolt used for bearing removal) through the disc, the new wheel bearing, the knuckle hole, and the disc butted up against the outside of the hole. Screw on and tighten the two-inch nut on the bolt and check the alignment (V).

Begin squeezing/pulling in the new bearing by applying torque to the two-inch nut. Use either a breaker bar or impact driver. Watch the inner disc plate to determine the progress of the bearing movement. Continue applying torque until the outer race of the bearing has reached the lip of the steering knuckle hole.

V.  Set up the wheel bearing tool to squeeze in the old bearing
V. Set up the wheel bearing tool to squeeze in the old bearing

Re-Install the Wheel Bearing Snap Ring

Using a pair of pliers, squeeze the snap ring and position it inside the steering knuckle snap ring groove (W).

W.  Re-insert the snap ring
W. Re-insert the snap ring

Re-install Wheel Bearing Dust Covers

Coat the inside and outside of the steering knuckle hole with additional wheel bearing grease where it meets the bearing.

From the wheel bearing installation toolbox, choose a disc plate of the same diameter as the outer dust cover to press the dust cover onto the outside of the steering knuckle hole. A few light taps against the disc plate will seat the dust cover in place.

Install the inner steering knuckle dust cover the same way. Not all cars have both inner and outer dust covers.

X.  Press in the dust cover (bearing seal)
X. Press in the dust cover (bearing seal)

Remove the Old Inner Wheel Bearing Race From the Hub

Secure the hub on a bench or vise (photo (Y) shows a C-clamp). Using a high-speed rotary tool with an attached metal-cutting disc, cut a deep 45-degree groove into the inner race (Z). Then using a hammer and chisel, apply a few hard hits in the groove to split the bearing (AA). When the race cracks at the groove, it will slide out (BB).

Photos Y-BB

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Y.  Secure wheel hub to benchZ.  Cut a groove at 45 degrees into the inner wheel bearing raceAA.  Split the inner race with a hammer and chiselBB.  Wheel hub with wheel bearing seal and inner race removed
Y.  Secure wheel hub to bench
Y. Secure wheel hub to bench
Z.  Cut a groove at 45 degrees into the inner wheel bearing race
Z. Cut a groove at 45 degrees into the inner wheel bearing race
AA.  Split the inner race with a hammer and chisel
AA. Split the inner race with a hammer and chisel
BB.  Wheel hub with wheel bearing seal and inner race removed
BB. Wheel hub with wheel bearing seal and inner race removed

Press the Wheel Hub Into the Wheel Bearing Inner Race

The wheel hub must be pressed into the inner race of the new wheel bearing. It doesn't have to be pressed completely through, just far enough for the axle threads in the CV joint to protrude through the hub splines. Then in a later step, tightening the axle nut will force the hub completely through the two wheel bearing inner races, with the inside inner race being held in place by the CV joint.

From the bearing installation tool kit, select a disc plate that is smaller than the new wheel bearing. Place the disc plate against the inside of the bearing. Get another disc plate of any diameter that is larger than the hub hole wheel mounting lip. Run the installation bolt through the disc plate, inner bearing, wheel hub, and outer disc plate. Screw the installation nut onto the installation bolt, and tighten.

Ensure that the wheel hub is recessed square onto the inner race. Begin tightening the installation nut. While pressure is being applied to the outside inner race, the inner bolted disc plate will keep the inside inner race from being pushed out.

CC.  Pressing the hub into the inner race hole
CC. Pressing the hub into the inner race hole

Reattach the CV Axle Shaft and the Lower Ball Joint

Push the CV axle through the wheel hub until the axle shaft thread can be seen through the hub. Screw on the axle shaft nut so it is finger tight.

Attach the lower ball joint to the control arm. After tightening the bolt and the two nuts, apply the final torque to the axle shaft nut. The torque will squeeze the wheel hub further into the inner bearing race.

Note: Becaise over- or under-torquing the axle shaft nut can cause premature bearing failure, you should look up the torque specifications for that nut. As a general rule, the bearings should be torqued over 150 lbs.

Position the axle shaft nut cover on to the nut so that a path to the cotter pin hole can be seen. Push in the cotter pin and bend the pin end.

DD.  Move the axle shaft into the steering knuckle
DD. Move the axle shaft into the steering knuckle

Bolt on the Brake Caliper Assembly

Align the caliper bolt hole with the wheel hub brake caliper hole. Screw on and tighten the two caliper mounting bolts.

A Better Bearing Design

Nissan has a simple but brilliant FWD bearing design. It's a hub-plus-bearing bolt-on unit that is extremely simple to replace, compared to bearings that have to be pressed in. The hub with its bearing can be replaced without disconnecting the lower control arm to remove the axle shaft from the knuckle. The only drawback is that the hub-plus-bearing replacement unit is a little pricey.

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    • hardlymoving profile image
      Author

      hardlymoving 8 weeks ago from Memphis, TN

      Toyota Sienna 00,

      Without seeing what your problem is, can't really give you a accurate description of your problem. Only thing I can suggest is to compare the left side with the right side and determine the difference.

      Another option is to get another knuckle and hub from the junkyard and hope the bearing is okay if you're looking for a fast remedy.

    • profile image

      Toyota Sienna 00 2 months ago

      My '00 Sienna had a grind on the outer 3/4 inch of the inboard side of the left front rotor against the caliper. Bearing was bad, but, grind not cured by new hub and bearing and rotor. PepBoys only did press work on bearing and new hub into knuckle. I hammered upper ear on knuckle where caliper bolts to try create enough clearance, but, just barely. Rotor still rides all the way towards inboard side of caliper with virtually no room. Is it possible that I was given wrong (too short) a bearing and hub was pressed too far into knuckle? Right bearing, but, still pressed too deep/far? Original knuckle/snap ring worn/damaged and allowed hub to go in too far? Non-Toyota rotor issue?? Could the knuckle ears that the caliper bolts to be bent that badly? I can't figure out why the clearance is off by so much!

    • hardlymoving profile image
      Author

      hardlymoving 18 months ago from Memphis, TN

      dannybragg,

      yes...if you have a bearing removal kit. Without it, knuckle removal is required to be used in conjunction with a hydraulic press.

    • profile image

      dannybragg 18 months ago

      will this same procedure work on a 2008 RX350? Other instructions online require the knuckle be removed and the hub/bearing to be pressed out and back in...?

    • Dan Ferrell profile image

      Dan Ferrell 2 years ago

      Excellent step by step procedure.

    • profile image

      Katherine 3 years ago

      excellent review and documentation. Especially appreciate tips to make access to inner cv easier.

    • Vacation Trip profile image

      Susan 4 years ago from India

      Good read, i like the above hub...

    • hardlymoving profile image
      Author

      hardlymoving 4 years ago from Memphis, TN

      Forthefuture,

      Thanks.

    • Forthefuture profile image

      Forthefuture 4 years ago from India

      very useful hub. great

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