How to Change the Wheel Bearings on a Chevrolet S-10by Jeffrey CaldwellUpdated August 16, 2023
What is a Wheel Bearing?
The car wheel bearing is an essential part of the vehicle wheel assembly as it allows the wheels to rotate freely and smoothly while transferring the weight of the vehicle. It is a set of steel balls or tapered rollers connected together by a metal ring called a raceway. They help reduce friction when the wheel spins. The most important components of a car wheel bearing are:
- Inner ring(race): This is the innermost circular part of the bearing that is in direct contact with the shaft or shaft on which the bearing runs. The inner ring usually has a small groove in which the bearings are housed.
- Outer race(ring): The outer race is the outer circular part usually attached to the component housing in which the bearing slides. It could be the hub of a car wheel. The outer ring also has a groove that houses the bearings.
- Bearings (balls or rollers): Bearings are small, hard spheres (ball bearings) or cylinders (roller bearings) that sit between the inner and outer races. In fact, they carry the load and reduce friction. They roll along the grooves of the inner and outer races, allowing the races to move with minimal friction.
- Cage: A cage, also called a cage, is a component that separates the balls or rollers of a bearing.This distributes the load evenly across the bearings and prevents them from colliding with each other.
- Seals or baffles: Seals or baffles are used to prevent contaminants from entering the bearing and to keep the lubricant inside. The seals are in close contact and offer better protection, but cause more friction than washers that do not contact the inner ring.
- Lubricant: To further reduce friction and protect against wear, a lubricant (usually some type of lubricant) is used. Forms a protective barrier that reduces direct contact between the bearings and the raceway and helps protect against rust and other forms of corrosion.
It is very important to maintain your car's wheel bearings and replace them when they are worn or damaged as they play a key role in your vehicle's safety and performance. Symptoms of a worn wheel bearing include rumbling or whirring wheels, uneven tire wear, or a loose steering wheel.
Typically, the total cost to replace a bearing wheel is between $150 to $650 including parts and labor. Mechanics charge an hourly rate between $50 to $200 depending on experience and the complexity of the job.
How long will wheel bearing replacement take?
Wheel bearing replacement can take anywhere from 1 to 1.5 hours.
The replacement time varies due to:
- Vehicle Design
- Whether associated components are being replaced at the same time (e.g. water pump)
- These are estimated costs and actual costs may vary.
- Always seek out a trusted professional for a specific quote based on your specific vehicle and situation.
- The cost of replacing a timing belt can vary widely depending on:
- The vehicle make and model
- The specific complexity of the task
- Where you live.
How Long Does a Wheel Bearing Last?
Wheel bearings can last anywhere from 85,000 to 100,000 miles. However, this can more or less depend on the quality of the bearings, the conditions they are exposed to, the frequency of driving and the maintenance of the vehicle. Some bearings even last the life of the vehicle.
Factors that can affect wheel bearing life include:
- Driving conditions: Rough roads, off-road driving or collisions can damage the wheel bearings and shorten their life.
- Maintenance: Good maintenance is essential.For example, if a mechanic damages a wheel bearing while repairing a brake, this can reduce the life of the bearing.
- Bearing Quality: Not all bearings are the same. Some vehicles come factory fitted with higher quality bearings that may last longer than average.
- Ambient conditions: Bearings can deteriorate faster under difficult environmental conditions. Moisture, extremely cold or hot temperatures, and road salt can shorten the life of a wheel bearing.
Remember that it is important to replace wheel bearings at the first sign of failure to avoid further damage to the vehicle. Signs of a damaged bearing can include a buzzing or squeaking noise from the steering wheel, a loose feeling in the steering wheel, or uneven tire wear. If you suspect a problem with the wheel bearing, always consult a professional.
What are the Symptoms of a Bad Wheel Bearing?
Failed wheel bearings can have various signs and it is important to be aware of them because neglecting to repair a worn or damaged wheel bearing can lead to serious problems including losing a wheel while driving. Here are some typical symptoms of a bad wheel bearing:
- Noise: A common symptom is a loud buzzing or growling noise that gets louder the faster you drive. This noise is usually heard from the affected wheel. It can feel like metal rubbing against metal.This noise can easily be confused with tire noise. Therefore, it is important to properly diagnose the problem.
- Loose steering: If the steering feels loose or wobbles from side to side, there may be a problem with the wheel bearings. This is often more noticeable at higher speeds.
- Uneven tire wear: Defective wheel bearings can lead to uneven tire wear. Although there are many reasons why tires wear unevenly, it's worth checking the wheel bearings if you notice this problem.
- Steering wheel vibration: A defective wheel bearing can lead to noticeable vibrations in the steering wheel. As speed increases, these vibrations often get stronger.
- ABS warning light illuminates: Some vehicles have a wheel speed sensor integrated into the wheel bearing hub assembly. If a bearing fails, it can cause the ABS (anti-lock braking system) light to illuminate on the dash.
- Pull to one side when braking: If the car pulls to one side when braking, it could be a bad bearing.This attraction will usually be quite subtle.
If you notice any of these symptoms, it is important that you have your vehicle checked by a professional as soon as possible. Bad wheel bearings are a serious problem and if left unchecked, the wheel can fall off the vehicle while driving.
Urgency of Wheel Bearing Replacement
The urgent need to replace a failed wheel bearing is quite high due to the crucial role it plays in the safety and operation of the vehicle. While you don't have to stop driving at the first sign of a potential problem, you should have it checked out as soon as possible.
Here are some reasons:
- Safety: A badly damaged wheel bearing can cause the wheel to come off while driving, posing a major risk to your safety and that of other road users.
- Damage to other parts: The longer a failed bearing is left unchecked, the more it can damage adjacent parts like the hub, wheel, and even the axle, resulting in more costly repairs.
- Drivability: Poor wheel bearings can affect the vehicle's handling, steering and braking, making the vehicle less responsive and harder to control.
- Comfort: A failed wheel bearing can produce loud and persistent noises such as hums or growls that can make driving uncomfortable.
In short, while you can drive a short distance with a damaged wheel bearing, it is not advisable to continue driving your vehicle for any length of time without repairs. This is an important security issue that requires immediate attention. Therefore, schedule an inspection and repair as soon as possible. Don't forget that preventive maintenance is often less expensive than major repairs or troubleshooting.
How to Replace Wheel Bearing?
Removing the Brake Caliper
Raise the front of the vehicle with an automotive jack. Support with jack stands placed underneath the front frame.
Unscrew the lug nuts on the front wheels using a lug wrench.
Pull both front wheels off the lug studs with your hands and set them out of the way.
Unscrew the two bolts that secure the brake caliper to the caliper mounting bracket, using a socket. Do not unscrew the bolts entirely. You only need to back them out enough to separate the caliper from the mounting bracket.
Lift the brake caliper off the brake disc. Use a plastic wire tie to attach the caliper to the coil spring. Do not put stress on or allow the caliper to hang from the rubber hydraulic hose.
Removing the Brake Disc
Pry the grease cap from the center of the brake rotor using a flat blade screwdriver.
Straighten the cotter pin behind the grease cap, then pull it from the castle nut using a needle nose pliers.
Unscrew the castle nut from the spindle, using a wrench.
Pull the brake disc off the spindle using your hand. Be careful--the outer wheel bearing and washer will come out with the disc.
Clean the spindle using an automotive solvent. Allow to air dry.
Disassembling the Wheel Hub
Pull the outer wheel bearing and washer from the hub assembly, using your finger. The hub assembly is located in the center of the brake disc.
Pry the inner wheel bearing grease seal from the inboard side of the hub, using a flat blade screwdriver.
Pull the inner wheel bearing from the inboard side of the hub, using your finger.
Pry the inner and outer wheel bearing races from the hub using wheel bearing removal tool No. J-29117 or equivalent.
Clean the hub/brake disc assembly with an automotive solvent and allow to air dry.
Packing the Bearings With Grease
Clean the new wheel bearings with an automotive solvent and allow to air dry. (Do not use compressed air to dry the bearings--doing so can damage the bearings.)
Apply a sizable amount of fresh bearing grease to the palm of your hand.
Press the wheel bearing into the grease using your other hand. Be sure to press the grease through to the inside of the bearing.
Rotate the wheel bearing and continue working the grease into the bearing completely.
Reassembling the Wheel Hub
Drive new inner and outer wheel bearing races into the hub, using wheel bearing installation tools J-8092 and J-8850 or equivalent.
Apply a thin film of grease onto both the inner and outer bearing race.
Slide the inner bearing into the inboard side of the hub.
Apply a 1/4-inch layer of grease to the back of the wheel bearing.
Drive the new inner grease seal into the inboard side of the hub using a flat plate, until the seal is flush with the hub.
Installing the Brake Disc
Apply a thin film of bearing grease to the spindle.
Slide the hub/brake disc assembly onto the spindle.
Slide the outer wheel bearing and washer onto the spindle and into the hub.
Screw the castle nut onto the spindle. Tighten to 12 ft. lbs. using a torque wrench, while rotating the brake disc.
Insert a new cotter pin into the castle nut and bend the end, using a needle nose pliers.
Press the grease cap into the hub using a block of wood and a hammer.
Reinstalling the Wheels and Tires
Drop the brake caliper into position in the caliper mounting bracket.
Tighten the bolts that secure the caliper to the mounting bracket using a socket.
Lift the wheel assembly onto the lug studs using your hands.
Screw the lug nuts onto the lug studs and tighten using a lug wrench.
Lower the vehicle.
- "Chilton's Repair Manual: Chevrolet S-10 GMC, S-15 Pick-Ups, 1982-91"; The Nichols/Chilton Editors; 1991
- "Chevrolet S-10 & GMC S-15 Pick-ups 1982 thru 1993 (Haynes Repair Manual)"; Chilton; 1999
- You can purchase a cone type bearing grease, that when used in conjunction with a grease gun, can make the process of greasing bearings much easier.
Things You'll Need
- Automotive jack
- Jack stands
- Lug wrench
- Socket set
- Plastic wire tie
- Flat blade screwdriver
- Needle nose pliers
- Wrench set
- Automotive solvent
- GM wheel bearing removal tool J-29117 or equivalent
- Bearing grease
- GM wheel bearing installation tools J-8092 and J-8850 or equivalent
- Flat plate of wood or steel
- Torque wrench
- Block of wood
- Always follow the instructions listed in the owner’s manual when lifting and lowering a vehicle. Failure to do so can cause injury or death.
Jeffrey Caldwell has been a freelance writer for over five months and has published over 250 articles on websites like eHow and Trails.com. Caldwell writes articles on a wide range of topics including travel, camping and automotive mechanics. He has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Millersville University.