Your off-road truck takes a lot of abuse, both physically and mechanically. Even though you do a lot to upgrade your ride with a stronger suspension and steel bumpers to make it more durable, some parts like the front wheel bearings are more susceptible to failure due to the rigors of off-roading.
The time may come when you need to repair your wheel bearings. When it does, prolong the life of your new parts by avoiding installation mistakes that can cause premature wheel bearing failure.
Apply Proper Tensioning
Whether front wheel bearings are tapered roller bearings or cartridge bearings, each require tensioning in a different way during installation. Tapered roller bearings require you to first install two sets of washers and hex nuts, then add a final hex nut to tighten everything down. Cartridge bearings require you to tension a spindle nut during assembly. Either way, you need to turn the wheel hub to ensure even tensioning.
Always follow the recommended tensioning or pre-loading technique so you do not apply too much tensioning. Pay attention to whether the manufacturer recommends that the tire to be on the ground or in the air for the final tension setting on your off-roader.
Avoid Tensioning With Air Impact Guns
Although they are easy to use, air impact guns should be avoided when you are tensioning wheel bearings. As mentioned above, torquing to the proper tension as recommended by the manufacturer is essential for preventing premature wear of the bearings. Impact guns can also damage your axle thread or shock-load your CV joints.
Use the Right Tools
Replacing front tapered roller bearings also means removing the outer races that are on the wheel hubs. Removing them is easy to do using only a steel rod and a hammer to knock them loose; however, reinstalling them is a bit tricky. To prevent damage to the surface of the races as you are putting them back on, use an aluminum bearing driver or a brass drift.
Improper installation of the races can affect the way your disc brakes function by allowing extra play in the wheel bearing. This commonly results in rotor wobble, which reduces the effectiveness of the brakes. If the brakes feel spongy when you first step on them but feel better after a second pump of the pedal, you may have extra play in your wheel bearings because the races were not properly re-installed.
Know Which Parts Can and Cannot Be Replaced
Some wheel bearing assemblies, like tapered roller bearings, can be removed from your off-road truck and replaced with new bearings. Cartridge bearings are complete sealed units that must be completely replaced once they start to fail, so do not try taking them apart. Not all spindle nuts should be reused. Check the wheel bearing manufacturer’s suggestion and replace your spindle nuts if it is called for to ensure proper tensioning.
Wheel bearings are probably not something you think, at least not until they start to go bad. They are an essential part of your truck, just like its steel bumpers and suspension system, and may need attention after a while. If you are like a lot of other off-roaders, you can probably repair or replace the bearings yourself, so always be sure to do it the right way. Pay attention to the tips listed above to ensure the installation is done correctly so your wheel bearings last as long as possible!