Usually you’ll know this part needs to be replaced when your car starts to make a speed related noise that sounds like someone is driving Bigfoot down the road. It is a low frequency hum and maybe an occasional click like gravel in a dryer. One way to be certain this is the problem and not an axle or diff issue is to follow this dianostic proceedure:
Do this at your own risk. The chances of being injured during this test are moderate. Only attempt this test if you have a stock open differential. I do not know if this will work if you have a Phantom Grip or LSD installed and you could end up hurting yourself.
a. Put both of the front wheels in the air and support the car with jackstands. Chock the rear wheels so that the car can’t roll forward or backwards.
b. Start the car and put it in 3rd gear (or low for ATX) and let the engine idle move the wheels.
c. Listen for which side the noise is coming from and use some gloves or something that will protect your hands to stop the wheel that the noise is coming from. This is the reason you need an open differential. Otherwise it might jump of the stands or injure you when you try to stop the wheel from moving. If the noise stops, then that is the wheel bearing, if the noise continues, then stop the other wheel. If the noise still exist then chances are both wheel bearings are shot (not likely) or it is the diff that is making the noise.
This all assumes you have a stock set-up or OEM replacements. Otherwise, tools needed may vary.
B. Sockets - 14mm, 17mm, 18mm, 32mm all 1/2" drive (32mm socket can be rented at Auto Zone)
D. 1/2" drive rachet
E. Narrow flat tip screwdriver or small chisel
G. 1/2" drive breaker bar
H. 3" to 4" 1/2" drive extension
A. Wheel bearing, Auto Zone part# 510013 ($30)
B. Axle nut, Auto Zone part# 304985 ($3)
C. Wheel seal, Auto Zone part# 1932-S ($7)
Note, cost are local, cost vary by store location.
Going to work!
1. If you have an impact gun, or steel rims, you can just remove the wheel and skip the rest of this step. If you have steel rims, you can get to the axle nut by just removing the hub cap. Loosen the lugnuts and jack the car, support it with a jackstand.
From the back of the stock wheel you can knock out the center cap.
2. Looking at the axle nut, you can see that a bit of the outside of the nut is bent into the groove on the tip of the axle. This prevents the nut from coming off while moving. This also prevents you from removing the nut. Using the narrow screwdriver or chisel, hammer into the front of the groove to unbend this part out of the groove.
3. If you have an impact gun, you can go ahead and remove the nut now. If you do not have an impact, then you’ll have to follow the rest of this step. Put the wheel back on and secure it with two lug nuts. You don’t have to get them very tight, you aren’t going to be driving anywhere. Jack the car up to remove the jackstand then put the car back on the ground.
Put the car in gear and use your breaker bar, 32mm socket, and cheater bar to remove the axle nut. I had to actually stand on mine to remove it. It is torqued down to about 180 ft-lbs. Be certain your socket sits square on the nut or you’ll round it off.
After you get the nut off, jack the car back up, put on the jackstand, then remove the wheel.
4. Remove the cotter pin from the tie-rod end and then loosen the nut (18mm) until it is flush with the end of the stud. If you have a separator, then use it to get the stud out of the knuckle. If you don’t have one, like me, then use the hammer to get the stud out. Remove the nut and pull the tie-rod end out of the knuckle.
5. Remove the brake caliper from the knukle. The caliper bolts are 14mm. Use some string to hold the calper to the spring or strut out of the way. You don’t want to let it hang by the brake hose. At this point you can also remove the rotor.
6. Remove the two upper strut bolts. They are 17mm on both ends. Remove the nuts and gently try to hammer the bolts out. If you can’t get them out that way, use the breaker bar to turn the bolts inside the strut to break them loose. Put the nuts back on flush and use your hammer to beat them out. This prevents you from damaging the threads. If do somehow damage them, you can buy more bolts. Once you get the bolts flush with the strut and you can’t pull them out, use the punch to hammer them out the rest of the way.
7. Now you should be able to pull the axle out of the knuckle enough to allow you to get to the nut on top of the ball joint. The ball joint is held in by a nut/bolt and a nut/stud. They are both 17mm. You should now be able to take the knuckle off the car.
8. Once you have the knucle out, use a screwdriver to pry the wheel seal out.
If you have a press at home, then great, you should be able to see how to get the old one out and the new one in. If not, then you’ll have to take it to a machice shop to have it done. Be certain that you install the new wheel seal when you get it back.
Installation is the reverse of removal with the following exceptions:
Use high temperature axle grease on the inside of the splines where the axle goes. The axle nut gets torqued down between 150-180ft-lbs. I just jump on the cheater bar until it feels tight. Be sure to use the punch to stake down the nut into that groove. Try not to crack the nut where you stake it or it may be able to come loose. DO NOT re-use the old axle nut unless you really want to see what happens when the axle falls out when you take a turn.