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How To Replace Your Rear Axle Wheel Bearings

Do you have worn wheel bearings in your rear axle? Here’s some guidance on how to replace them.

If You Can, Replace Both Bearings At Once

Replace hub

Mechanics always recommend replacing both wheel bearings at once. They still make that recommendation even if only one of your bearings is bad. It keeps the friction equal on both sides of the axle. Also, if one bearing has gone bad, the other bearing probably doesn’t have much life left. Once you’ve got all the tools you need to do one bearing, it’s really easy to do the other.

You could get away with replacing only the bad bearing as long as the other bearing is still in great shape. That means:

  • No scratches
  • No gouges
  • No visible damage

If you decide to do this, you need to repack the “good” bearing with new grease.

What To Get First

Before replacing your wheel bearings, gather together the following things:

  • Replacement wheel bearings
  • Torque specs for your make and model
  • Lug wrench
  • Axle nut socket
  • Torque wrench
  • Floor jack and jack stands
  • Screwdriver
  • Hammer
  • Nose pliers
  • Large drift punch
  • Brake parts cleaner
  • Clean shop rags
  • Driving tool
  • Bearing packer
  • High-temperature wheel bearing grease

Also, find a clean working area. This is important because you don’t want to contaminate your vehicle’s bearings and hub.

How To Replace Your Rear Axle Wheel Bearings

Once you have everything you need, it’s time to replace the bearings on your rear axle. Here’s how:

Disclaimer: This tutorial is for replacing the wheel bearings on drum brakes.

1. Prepare Your Vehicle

  1. Park your vehicle on a flat surface.
  2. Loosen all the lug nuts on the wheel(s) you’re going to remove.
  3. Lift the vehicle and then prop it up with jack stands.
  4. Remove the wheel(s).

2. Remove The Wheel Bearings

  1. If your vehicle has a drum that just slides off, remove it.
  2. Remove the 8 bolts that hold the axle shaft in.
  3. Please an oil catch pan under the hub. When you remove the shaft oil will drip.
  4. Hit the axle shaft with a large hammer as if you are trying to drive it towards the differential to break the silicon seal.
  5. Remove the shaft and set it aside. It will drip oil so consider wiping it down first.
  6. Next remove the nuts that hold the hub on. This varies from axle to axle, but generally a special socket is required.
  7. Remove the hub and drum assembly. The outer bearing will fall out, so keep your hand over the end of the hub so it doesn’t hit the ground.
  8. Remove the wheel seal. I use a prybar and hook it under one edge.
  9. Remove the outer bearing.
  10. Next both races should be removed, Do this with a dull chisel or a drift. I have one made from a broken 1/2″ extension that works well. Tap it and move the drift 90* and tap it again until the race comes out. To get the front race out tap it from the back and vice versa.
  11. Clean the silicon from the hub and axle shaft. I recommend a wire wheel on a drill. Once you have it clean spray it with brake cleaner and wipe it down for a good seal.

3. Install The New Wheel Bearings

  1. Now to put the new races in reverse order of removal. Most of the time inner and outer bearings and races are different sizes so be sure to put the right one in. Be careful not to damage the new race and to tap it in evenly so it doesn’t get crooked.
  2. Grease your bearings and put them in.
  3. Replace the inner wheel seal.
  4. Install the hub assembly back on the spindle.
  5. Install the locknut and torque it properly. (Please refer to a service manual for proper torque specs.)
  6. If you have a slide on drum put it on or better yet convert to disc brakes.
  7. Put a layer of RTV – silicon on the edge of the hub and reinsert the axle shaft.
  8. Tighten up the axle shaft bolts to the proper torque.( Please refer to a service manual for proper torque specs.)

Consider Doing A Disc Brake Upgrade Too

disc kit

If you can replace the wheel bearings on your rear axle, you’re also very capable of upgrading to disc brakes. It’s actually quite efficient to both replace the bearings and do a disc brake upgrade at the same time. Upgrading to disc brakes brings many different benefits, some of which are outlined in this post.

A high quality disc brake conversion kit is the best way to upgrade to disc brakes. Here’s why:

Lugnut4x4 is a leader in disc brake conversion kits. Our kits are:

  • Affordable
  • Axle-specific
  • Compatible with OEM brake systems

Learn more about our disc brake conversion kits today!