Front Wheel Bearings - Packing and Adjustment

 

Front Wheel Bearings - Packing and Adjustment

 

 

This is the beginning of a series of “Back to the Basics” articles. This first one deals with packing and adjusting front wheel bearings the proper way.

There are a couple of methods of properly packing a bearing with grease. First, use a high quality high temp grease. No reason to skimp here. The old method of packing bearings in the palm of your hand will work IF done correctly. This involves placing the bearing and a big dollup of grease in the palm of one hand and working the grease into the inside of the bearing with the fingers of the other hand. It’s time consuming, messy, and there’s a chance it won’t be done correctly without knowing. It’s much easier, faster, and more reliable to get a low cost tool which allows the use of a grease gun to pump grease into the inside of the bearing. It looks like a pair of plastic cones with a zerk fitting that sandwich the bearing in between the cones. You pump grease into the bearing until new grease oozes out from between the rollers and race. If repacking a used bearing, continue to pump until all the old grease is out and new grease begins to ooze out. Lastly smear new grease on the entire outside of the bearing before installing. If repacking the inner bearings, you’ll have to remove the inner seal to get the bearing out and replace it with a new seal after the bearing is back in. Clean off the spindle and clean the old grease out of the hub as much as possible. Coat the spindle with new grease.

Now for the $64,000 question; how tight do you tighten the spindle nut? Per 60’s GM service manuals, here’s the proper method: With the wheel raised and cotter pin out, tighten the nut to 12 lb ft with a torque wrench. Back off the nut one flat and insert the cotter pin. If the slot and pin hole don’t line up, back off the nut an additional half flat or less as required to insert the pin. Note: Bearings should have zero preload and .001” to .008” of end movement. Bend the ends of the cotter pin, replace the dust cap, etc. With a drum brake adjusted for no drag or a disc brake with the caliper removed, it’s normal to have a slight amount of play detectable in the bearing.
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