How to Adjusting wheel bearings

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Wheel bearings need periodic checking – and adjusting if necessary – usually at 12,000 mile service intervals. At longer intervals – usually of 36,000 miles – they have repacking with grease (See Removing wheel bearings ). Bearings on the front wheels of rear-wheel-drive cars and therefore the rear wheels of front-wheel-drive cars are of broadly similar design.

However, driven front wheels and driven rear wheels on cars with independent suspension generally have their hub nuts tightened to a high torque setting, and very often no routine servicing adjustment is specified. Where adjustment to those driven wheels is possible, the tactic varies. The rear-wheel bearings of live axles aren’t adjustable.

What is Wheel Bearings? 

A wheel bearing bears the weight of your car where the wheel meets the wheel hub and allows the wheel to turn freely. Without a wheel bearing, the turning of the wheel would produce an incredible amount of friction at the point where it joins the axle, leading very quickly to a worn out axle and hub.

At its simplest form a wheel bearing consists of a set of spherical or cylindrical-shaped steel rollers encased in a metal frame. The frame is called a race, and it’s made up of two circular tracks in which the bearings are held snugly but allowed to rotate with the wheel’s motion. The interior of wheel bearings is heavily lubricated to assist in friction less motion of the bearings.

As with most automotive systems, the basic form of the wheel bearing gets a little bit more complicated and consists of various types, depending on year, make, or model of vehicle.

Adjusting non-driven bearings

The bearing is adjusted by tightening the hub nut if it is too loose, or loosening the nut if it is too tight. It should be done with the wheel on and raised on an axle stand.

You may need to begin the wheel to get rid of the trim: put the wheel back on before starting adjustment. If you’ve got to get rid of the wheel, loosen the wheel nuts before raising it. Once this wheel is raised, support it on an axle stand. Chock one of the other wheels on each side of the car. If you’re adjusting a wheel on which the handbrake works, release the handbrake.

Price off the dust cap with two medium-sized screwdrivers, levering its raised flange away from the hub on each side directly. A neglected cap may take a while to free. If it sticks you’ll be ready to hammer it off without damaging it beyond repair – but covers are cheap to replace. The hub nut could also be a castellated nut retained by a split pin, or a clear nut under a castellated retainer held by a split pin. It may be a clear nut which has been locked by ‘pining’ it punching its fringes to form the metal spread into a groove within the threaded axle end. Some VWs have the fourth type: a threaded collar which is squeezed tight by a nut and bolt at one side. The collar doesn’t fit an ordinary socket wrench, but are often turned by a self-locking wrench.

Types of hub nut

Check that you’ve got a socket big enough to suit the hub nut. If a split pin is used, you need some replacement pins of the proper size. A peened nut must be renewed whenever you adjust the bearing. There should be some grease on the axle end and nut. If it’s very dirty, the bearing should be stripped down and repacked with clean grease (See Removing wheel bearings ). If there are traces of metal within the bearing, it’s disintegrating and will be renewed directly (See Removing wheel bearings ). If the grease looks clean, wipe it away with a rag.

Straighten the split pin and pull it out with pliers. Discard the pin and fit a replacement one later. Remove any castellated retainer. With a peened nut, use a small set chisel and hammer to raise the peening from the axle groove. you are doing not got to lift it out completely: the leverage of a wrench is enough to flatten any remaining lumps. With a VW collar, loosen the cross bolt. Some cars have a left-hand thread on nearside hub nuts, especially at the rear. Check the thread before proceeding.

Loosen the hub nut a few turns, or if it’s a peened nut remove it and screw on a new one loosely. If you’ve got removed the wheel replace it temporarily, tightening the wheel nuts only enough to carry it firmly. Set your wrench to the right figure for the hub nut. Settings vary greatly from car to oar (from 11 to 60 lb ft – 1.5 to 8.3 kg m) and must be correct. Consult a service manual or an area dealer if necessary. VW hub collars don’t need setting to a particular torque. Use one hand to show the wheel slowly in its normal forward direction of travel, and tighten the hub nut to the right torque with the other.

Tightening the hub nut

You should be ready to feel the wheel spinning smoothly, though it’ll begin to drag as you tighten the nut. If there’s any actual grating or roughness, the hub bearing should be renewed. On some cars you allow the nut at the recommended torque setting. On most, however, you slacken it by a half or quarter turn; though on some you then retighten to the recommended torque setting. Check the precise adjustment method with a service manual or your local dealer. Then repeat the wheel-rocking check. you ought to be ready to feel the barest hint of play. The wheel should also still turn smoothly.

On some cars (including the VW with hub collar), a screwdriver is used to probe alongside the hub nut at the thrust washer behind it. If you’ll just move the washer, the adjustment is correct. Lock the nut in position. A castellated nut must be moved to align one of its slots with the pin hole within the axle end. Move it the shortest possible distance, whichever way that’s. If the move tightens the nut, make sure the wheel still turns freely. If it doesn’t, loosen the nut one notch. This problem doesn’t arise with other sorts of hub nut. Fit a castellated retainer, if used. Insert a new split pin, if used, and cut and bend back its ends.

Give a peened nut a few light taps with a hammer and punch to spread it into the slot. On a VW collar, tighten the cross bolt. On some cars you half fill the dust cap with fresh bearing grease before refitting it. Remove the wheel, if necessary, and refit the cap. Hold the cap squarely in place and tap it home with a soft-faced hammer. Be sure to keep it straight. Refit the wheel and lower the car to the ground.

Classic VW hub nut

Some VWs have a double-nut arrangement with a locking tab washer between the inner and outer nut. To remove, lever up the tab with a screwdriver. Use a new tab washer once you refit. Tighten the inner nut to offer the right amount of play – only enough to let the wheel rotate freely – then bend down the tab. Tighten the other nut hard against it, and bend up the other tab to lock both securely.

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