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What am I doing wrong in installing rear wheel bearing? UPDATE

It had been about 2 years since I replaced both rear wheel bearings. The left side is still fine, but the right side has worn again, so I replaced it a couple of weeks ago. But this new one I installed was bad right from the start. I thought I got a defective one, so I am returning it. Now, it has been a few days since I did the last defective one and had some time to reflect on it, I am thinking I may have done something wrong and messed up a perfectly good bearing.

Here is a summary of my questions for those who care not to read the entire post.

  1. I am torquing it to correct spec and correct procedure, but the wheel bearing went bad.
  2. What is the Ford’s reason for recommending not to reuse the spindle nut / axle nut? I resued (reinstalled) it 4 times already on the right side.
  3. Could reusing the spindle nut / axle nut be a reason that the bearing went bad?

Here is the long version of what happened.

2 years ago, at about 130,000 miles, I replaced both bearings. I replaced the right one first, but doing it for the first time, I forgot to transfer the ABS tone ring, so I loosened and reinstalled it. The left one was installed correctly the first time. A few days after the installation, I felt some dragging in the right drum, so I had to take off the drum and reinstall one of the springs that hold the brake shoes in place. That was the end of first installation.

I heard the right side wheel bearing go bad, so I ordered a new one and opened it up to find wheel bearing grease seeping out and a bad bearing. I replace it. Having done it a few times, I had no problem doing it, but toward the end of torquing it, I felt some grinding. I went for a test drive and immediately noticed the wheel bearing making the noise. I ordered a new one and asked for a return on the one I just installed.

Now, I have a new one in hand, but I just want to make sure I am doing this correctly.

Here is how I did it.
The torque is 174 ft-lb.
When I tighten it, I do it figner tight, then rotate it counter-clockwise 10 turns. Then, I began tightening it. When the tension gets quite a bit maybe 60 ft-lbs or so, I turn it counter-clockwise one turn every time I tighten about 1/4 turn. I am doing this, because one instruction (Ford) I read tells me to turn it counter-clockwise 10 turns after finger tight, then torque to 174 ft-lb. Another one (I don’t know which manual) instructed me to continue turning the drum counter-clockwise as I torque the drum. I figure I would do both.

Also, the Ford manual said not to reuse the spindle nut / hub nut, but the other one said I can reuse it up to 4 times. But I have reused it 4 times already. Installing the latest drum/wheel bearing combination was resuing the spindle nut for the 3rd time. What concerns me is that after about 100 ft-lbs of tightening torque, it felt funny, felt a little like it was grinding. So, I am thinking the drum/bearing set I received was good, but I messed it up while installing.

Could I have caused the wheel bearing to go bad by reusing the spindle nut? From what I can find on the internet, the spindle nut has features that prevents it from unlocking, but reusing it compromises that feature, so Ford recommends using a new one every time. According to Ford the nut is LAMINATED, whatever that means.

Can anyone see anything wrong I did? It is a little odd that the left side wheel bearing is still good.

Now, the update!

To make a long story short, I did another wheel bearing job, and this time, nothing happened – that is, nothing unexpected happened. This new bearing is fine.

Now, the long version: I went to see the mechanic I usually depend on to fix things I can’t do. He was incredulous that 2 bearings in a row are bad, but he confirmed that it definitely was bad. The first thing he asked me was how I pressed in the bearing. He said that’s where most mistakes happen. Well, I bought the bearing/drum combo, so I didn’t have to press in the bearing. So, that can’t be my fault. I explained to him how I installed the bearing, and he said it seems like everything was done right. I asked him about the torque, he said that the torque I applied had to be far off the spec to cause problems, especially immediate problems. I agree. Most specs for passenger cars are very forgiving. He said it’s basically taking one nut off, replace the drum and put the nut back on. What can be so complicated?

He suggested that I may have just gotten 2 bad wheel bearings in a row, which is rare, but not totally unexpected. He commented that he only uses quality parts, because if it goes bad, he will have to do it over at his expense. I told him that I will try it one more time myself, and if that doesn’t work, I will have him do it.

We had a winter storm in the Boston area and more snow expected this weekend, the ground may be frozen for a while. I wanted to get this thing over with soon, so I did another bearing replacement on Monday, which was the day before the big storm.

I didn’t have time to order another one online, so I went to Autozone and got theirs. It comes with a 2-year warantee, so if anything happens, I can get another one. Well, it worked out beautifully. I did the entire job is 35 minutes. That includes taking all the tools out to the drive way and putting them back in the house.

Now that the third wheel bearing turns out to be O.K., I am getting slightly ticked off at the parts manufacturers. I didn’t get the expensive stuff, but I did go with name brands. The first one was AC Delco, the second one was Bendix. I don’t know about the parts business, but I figured if it’s a company well known to most people, it should be O.K. I guess I was wrong. Come to think of it, the third one from Autozone is the no name brand. I hope Amazon would refund my money on the 2 bad drum/bearings.

What’s involved with replacing the wheel bearing? Do you have to press it into the hub? A sealed bearing in other words that you press into the hub? Often when a sealed wheel bearing is damaged during installation , there’s a problem with the way it is pressed into the hub. You have to have the correct adapters for the dimensions of the bearing.

I didn’t want to press out or press in the bearing. I bought the drums with bearings in them. So, there shouldn’t have been any problem with pressing in the bearing, since it was done at the manufacturer.

Oh, one more thing. Just to be on the safe side, I am going to get a new spindle nut from a Ford dealer. It’s about $20, but I would feel better. I looked at aftermarket spindle nut, but they look like regular nut with nylon sleeve to prevent it from backing out. The Ford nut looks totally different.

Well, back in the late seventies we torqued the nut to 100 INCH pounds and backed it off to the cotter pin hole and installed the cotter pin. To me, you are ruining the bearing by over-torquing it. You have at least read the instructions but it seems to me that 175 foot pounds applied to a wheel bearing should destroy it. We had a castellated nut with a cotter pin and never used foot pounds on them.

I am certain the proper torque is 174 ft-lbs. (Front is even higher. I think it’s something like 250 ft-lbs.) I don’t know the diameter of the spindle, but the nut has a 29mm head. For Forcus (2006), the wheel bearing is pressed into the brake drum, and the drum (which has the wheel studs on it) is mounted onto the spindle. There is no cotter pin to keep it from backing out.

You have not replaced a wheel bearing in 40 years?

@Roger124 You said several times the wheel bearings went “bad”, does that mean they became noisy? And this is not tire noise that you hear?

If the wheel bearings are being damaged during installation, inspect the spindles for damage from the other failed wheel bearings.

Initially, I thought it was the tire. So, I swapped the tires front to back, but the noised stayed in the back. The one that went to the back was brand new, and I inspected all tires for uneven wear. I know what a bad tire sounds like, and the bad bearing and the bad tire soound similar. When I installed the most recent one that was bad right out of the box, the noise changed–slightly–but still changed, which indicated that it wasn’t a continuation of an existing noise but a new one.

I thought about your question and my answer and I may be starting to get it. The Ford recommendation to not reuse the laminated nut may be right if it has become easier to turn. The teflon insert locking nut might be a different story and may require less torque. Maybe the factory nut is so hard to turn that it takes 175 foot pounds to get it in the right position.

Somebody asked if I hadn’t installed a wheel bearing nut in 40 years. Good question. I installed the old type of nut with cotter pin back in 1997 on an 87 Ford Tempo. I have “nut” installed the laminated one nor will I get a chance to in the future. A torque wrench long enough for me to put 175 foot pounds on anything would cost way too much. I’ve seen them. 20 years is as good as 40 to me.

I’ve never had to replace a wheel bearing, and I’ve been driving since 1989. I’ve been driving my current car for 18 years and 285,000 miles.

@Roger124, I think what you’re doing wrong is that you’re getting in over your head, and rather than realize you’re in over your head, you keep digging. My advice is to find someone who knows how to do this job correctly from start to finish and ask this person if you can watch the work being performed. If you can find someone who will help you do the job in your driveway, even better, but at this point I’d settle for a shop that has a window in the waiting room that lets you watch what is going on in the shop.

The fact that your last attempt at this job only lasted two years should tell you something, and repeating the same process expecting different results isn’t logical. You can’t possibly be getting that many defective parts.

Like you, I like to do my own work to save money, but hiring someone to replace a wheel bearing isn’t very expensive. Besides, I don’t like to cut corners on a safety issue, and the possibility of having a bearing lock up on you is a safety issue.

Chances are, if you’re able to find a knowledgeable and experienced friend to help you with this job, you’re going to discover what you did wrong. If you don’t have a a knowledgeable and experienced friend to help you, farm it out and get it done right. It’s worth the expense not to have to deal with this problem again two years from now.

173 ft-lb seems to be the correct tightening torque. But what about this instruction, did you follow it?

Rotate the hub assembly 10 times in the opposite direction when tightening the wheel hub retaining nut to prevent damage to the bearing.

If you did it that way, then I think you are looking at

  • Torque wrench isn’t properly calibrated or reading accurately
  • Spindle damage
  • retaining nut is cross-threaded, hitting at an angle
  • Bearing/drum ass’y bad out of the box, try again

One instruction says I should finger tighten it, then turn counter-clockwise 10 revolutions before tightening. The other one says I should turn it counter-clockwise while tightening. I did both. I finger tightened it, turned it 10 revolutions counter-clockwise, then turned it as I incrementally tightened it further to 174 ft-lbs. My torque wrench should be OK, because I bought it just for this job, and I stored it with the spring tension unwound at the lowest setting for the last 1.5 years. I didn’t use it any other time, because I generally use the one with 150 ft-lb limit for other jobs. I know I wasn’t cross threading it, because I was able to finger tighten it several turns before I put any torque on it.

How would I know if the spindle is damaged? the drum slides smoothly onto the spindle.

Do you think reusing the spindle nut have anything to do with the problem?

Are you installing a new cap over the bearing nut or sealing it with RTV so no water or dirt gets into the bearing?

I don’t think re-using the spindle nut is what’s causing the bearing to go south on you. It could perhaps come loose and you’d notice the wheel going down the road in head of you one day. If they say you can re-use it 4 times, you can. If you’re not the origi9nal owner however, it would be hard to tell how many times it has been used already, so replacing it w/a new one would be common-sense. Spindle damage enough to damage a bearing would usually be pretty obvious. Compare one side to the other, do some measurements with micrometers maybe. The spindles I’ve dealt with (mostly on my truck) always look pretty pristine, no grooves, out of round distortions, blemishes, discolorations, etc. If the spindle is damaged you’d likely notice that when hand spinning the hub as a test as soon the job was complete too, as there’d be some scratching noise or slight catching. It wouldn’t spin smoothly in other words.

@asemaster 's comment above is a good one. If the bearing is getting wet, that could quicklly damage it. It would usually show up as rust you could see if you took the seal off the bearing tho. Usually there’s other seals involved in hub replacement that you have to install as part of the process. On my truck as I recall there’s two or three seals I have to deal with. I’ve always just reused them as long as they look ok. But if you are re-using the seals, maybe one of them is distorted and not keeping the water out.

Don’t discount the possibility that there’s nothing you are doing wrong, and just the part you got at the parts store was bad out of the box. Suggest to purchase at a completely different vendor next time. I had a problem w/my Corolla w/a part I replaced 3 times, bad each time within a month. I finally bought one at another vendor, and worked fine for years. A parts place can get a delivery of a box containing all bad parts sometimes. Best of luck.

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I fixed it. It was bad parts. I didn’t do anything wrong. Thank you everybody for help.


Thanks for letting us know the result. Glad you are back on the road w/a smooth & quiet ride.

That happens sometimes, glad everything’s fixed :slight_smile:

What brand parts did you install . . . the ones that failed?

What part #, if you still have the receipt?

I’m wondering if you didn’t spend enough, perhaps a “budget” part just didn’t hold up very well?

The first one was AC Delco, the second was Bendix, and the third that turned out OK is actually the one I wouldn’t normally trust, It was Autozone’s own stuff. I went to Autozone, because it has a 2-year warranty and I didn’t have time to get one online. I am returning the two defective ones to Amazon.

Wow . . . !

That is not what I expected to hear

We install a lot of AC Delco parts at work, including bearings and hubs. AFAIK, none of the parts we’ve installed has failed early

The Moog or the Duralast? I actually had a Moog bearing go bad on my Town & Country in under a year, but they were good about replacing it under warranty and it was a lot easier to do the second time than the first time :slight_smile: