Hardlymoving writes about do-it-yourself automobile maintenance on various makes and models.
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 for a 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). This tool can be rented at most auto parts stores, or you can buy it on Amazon.
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. You can buy this bearing tool kit on Amazon.
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.
The below video shows a similar repair performed on a FWD Ford Fusion vehicle:
The below video shows a similar repair performed on FWD Ford Focus vehicle:
If the outer CV axle shaft spline gets stuck inside the wheel hub spines (usually through corrosion), do not attempt to hammer it loose. It will damage the shaft nut threads. The below video will show you how to do it with a electric jack hammer. If a jack hammer is not available, a heavy metal punch can be substituted.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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).
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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).
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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).
11. 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.
12. 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).
13. 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.
14. 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.
15. 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.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: I recently had the front whell bearings replaced on my RAV4. After one day of driving, I have an apparant axle failure. Is this likely a result of a mechanic's mistake?
Answer: What exactly was the failure? Is there a bearing noise, CV boot split or has an axle bent, causing vibration? Did the shop advise you that something was wrong with the CV axle? Is the car old with high mileage? These are things to consider.
hardlymoving (author) from Memphis, TN on June 25, 2019:
Could be you have a lot of rust build up between the cv axle spline and the wheel hub spline groved hole. Does the cv spline slide freely in the wheel hub hole? If not, you may have to use a powered (air or electric) hammer tool to get the cv axle moving. Believe a combination of the stuck cv in the wheel hub and the hub being pressed in the inner bearing race is too much holding tension for the slide hammer to overcome.
Nigel on June 25, 2019:
Replaced the right front bearing on my '15 corolla; nice and easy. Need to replace both bearings on my '05 corolla now; bearing noise, the wheel rocks even when fully tightened. Problem is, I can't get the hub pulled out. I've used the slide hammer, and bolts between the hub and the knuckle. No go. I've read of some people bolting an old brake caliper on backwards and hitting it with a hammer to shock the bearing loose. I don't know if I like the idea, but I'm running out of ideas and I would rather not remove the knuckle. Any thoughts?
santhov on February 24, 2019:
Excellent, Very easy to understand,
Tom on January 17, 2019:
Brilliant thank you
hardlymoving (author) from Memphis, TN on August 26, 2018:
NO WAY. You can't press out a wheel bearing by soaking it in solvent and applying heat! They probably damaged the bearing, put themselves at a point of no return and want you to pay for their screw up or lack of expertise. Replace the knuckle? The knuckle has a big hole for the bearing. They should just press the bearing out and press in the new one. What's the big deal? I worked at a Cadillac dealership and was amazed they didn't have a hydraulic press machine. Appears they don't have one either AND techs that don't know how to press the bearing out. Just tell them to put it back together and you'll bring it too another shop ... then they'll go into freak out mode because the dealership will have to pay for anything they damaged to get you back on the road. They probably assigned a low level tech to do the job and they want you to pay for his screw up. Ask them if they have a press machine? If not, why not? This is why I won't work at a dealership again.
Thomas Kirwin on August 26, 2018:
My local Toyota dealer tried to replace the bearing in my '04 Camry but they could not remove it. They tried soaking it in solvent overnight and applying heat. They now want to replace the entire knuckle hub bearing assembly on my left front. Could this situation be true?
hardlymoving (author) from Memphis, TN on April 14, 2018:
Replacing a front bearing on a Toyota under 50k miles is extreamly unusual unless the wheels have been out of balance (noticeable with steering wheel vibration) for a long time.
I would get a second opinion from another repair shop as to the cause of the premature wear before proceeding with the repair. Insist on either a Timken or National wheel bearing to obtain longevity with the replacement bearing.
BTW - on the Camry, hubs are not replaced when the bearings go bad ... the bearing is pulled from the hub and the new one pressed in.
Jim French on April 14, 2018:
Wheel bearings on my moms 2009 toyota avalon may be shot at 46000 miles. That seems odd considering my folks have service all the time. However last year a local shop replaced the left front wheel bearing and hub, leaving the right alone. I drove the car and immediately noticed the humming whine of a bearing sound. The steering vibrates when beaking at highway speed. I am getting it looked at now...
My question is would doing one bearing at 45000 miles on the front end make any sense at all? Particularly for a long time customer that is 77 and widowed. I wouldnt do one but I am not a mechanic. I believe that they charged for a bearing and hub and did nothing from looking at the underside dust protector. Just curious what a pro would say.
monica on April 03, 2018:
what is the correct tools to change a 2005 toyota sienna front passenger wheel bearing
hardlymoving (author) from Memphis, TN on October 15, 2017:
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.
Toyota Sienna 00 on October 12, 2017:
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 (author) from Memphis, TN on June 10, 2016:
yes...if you have a bearing removal kit. Without it, knuckle removal is required to be used in conjunction with a hydraulic press.
dannybragg on June 10, 2016:
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 on February 11, 2015:
Excellent step by step procedure.
Katherine on October 24, 2014:
excellent review and documentation. Especially appreciate tips to make access to inner cv easier.
Susan from India on December 27, 2012:
Good read, i like the above hub...
hardlymoving (author) from Memphis, TN on December 27, 2012:
Forthefuture from India on December 27, 2012:
very useful hub. great