Replacing and Installing Gen 1 Wheel Bearings

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A first-generation cartridge or press-fit wheel bearing takes a long time to install, and it’s hard to perform this service for a flat rate if you don’t know what you’re doing in the first place. So what are some of the big mistakes we see in our industry when technicians try to install one of these?

Well, first is the disassembly. It can be a nightmare with circlips, rust and corrosion. Separating it will always be a challenge. But when you go to reinstall it, the first thing we consider wrong is that most apps are going to have a magnetic encoder for ABS. The other side may look the same or have a metal shield on it, but facing it the right way – towards the engine or the wheel – will cause an ABS light to come on or off. This is the number one installation problem.

For beginners, their main concern is whether they install it correctly when they do the job for the first time.

Before they start disassembling, they should do an assessment to see if they just need the bearing or if it needs to be repaired. In many cases you’re going to pull the dust cap off, you’re going to see an axle, and if it’s corroded beyond belief, you’re going to see the wheel flange is completely rusted as well, and maybe pitted. The snap ring that holds the wheel bearing cartridge in the knuckle is going to be rusty and will likely break when you take it apart. So in Rust Belt, make sure you have all the parts you might need to get the job done.

Keep in mind that the rust belt is also the pothole belt. A good question to ask is, should a technician be concerned that the joint itself (as well as the bore it goes into) is square or has other issues?

Generally no. Chances are slim that the pothole will deform the hole that goes into the join. There may be further damage to other parts of the join, but usually what you will see are rust pitting. Depending on whether it’s a metal or steel seal it’s coming out of, you may have material transfer, so the new bearing may be looser. Be aware of this too. Once you’ve pressed the bearing, take a look and see if there are any large holes or cracks or any type of distortion that could set off any alarms.

A tip to remember is that when you start the job, look at the press or kit you have to do it on the vehicle and make sure everything is there before you start dismantling that vehicle and disabling it in the bay.

So how do techs know if the encoder ring is facing the correct inboard or outboard?

Well, the easiest way to find out, if you don’t have any swipe cards or high tech stuff, is to take a simple paper clip, whatever is going to be metal, and clip it to the magnetic encoder. If it sticks, that’s the side you want the wheel speed sensor facing. The other will simply fall.

If you don’t have a paper clip, iron filings might work. Key #1 is that if you insert the bearing, you reinstall and seat the wheel flange to the same depth it was when it came out. Take a look and see the bridle stop and maybe take some measurements, take pictures, just to be sure until you get familiar with it and are comfortable doing this type of work.

But you might be wondering: if I install it upside down, can I just flip it over and take it apart?

No. Once you go to uninstall it, the bearing will separate and it is not good, and you will destroy it by removing it.

These Gen 1 wheel bearings are commonly found on Ford, Toyota and even some Nissan vehicles.

This video is sponsored by BCA Bearings by NTN.

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