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How to Replace the Wheel Bearings on a Saturn SL2

by Jody L. Campbell; Updated November 07, 2017

Items you will need

  • Floor jack

  • Jack stand

  • Wheel chock

  • 1/2-inch drive breaker bar

  • 1/2-inch drive socket set

  • 1/2-inch drive hub nut socket

  • 1/2-inch drive ratchet

  • 1/2-inch drive adjustable torque wrench

  • Bungee cord

  • Rubber mallet

  • Hammer

  • Spray lubricant

  • Flathead screwdriver

  • Slide hammer (with hub removal adapter)

  • Box end/open end combination hand wrench set

  • Emery cloth/light grade sandpaper

  • Replacement bearing

The wheel bearings on a Saturn SL2 are hub bearing assemblies. This means the bearings are integrated with the hub and lug studs as a single assembled unit. Although this simplifies the process somewhat, it's still a detailed project to replace one. Considering the hourly labor charges of the local repair shops, you can save a lot of money by performing the repair yourself.

Park the Saturn SL2 on a paved flat surface. Apply the parking brake.

Release the hood latch if the Saturn SL2 has Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) and open the hood. Disconnect the negative battery terminal from the battery.

Remove the hub cap from the tire you’re replacing the bearing on. Have someone depress the brake pedal inside the SL2 while you loosen the hub nut with a breaker bar and a hub nut socket. Have the assistant exit the SL2 once the nut is loosened.

Loosen the lug nuts on the wheel using the breaker bar and a socket.

Lift the front quarter of the Saturn with the floor jack and place the jack stand under the front frame rail. Remove the lug nuts and wheel. Remove the hub nut.

Pry the outboard brake pad against the rotor using the flathead screwdriver. This will compress the caliper piston enough to remove it easily and replace it easily once removed.

Remove the caliper anchor bolts (2) and remove the caliper, caliper anchor and pads as an assembled unit. This will save time for replacement. Support the caliper assembly to the coil spring of the SL2 with a bungee cord so it does not hang from the brake hose.

Remove the brake rotor. If necessary, spray lubricant on the center of the rotor by the hub bearing connection and use a rubber mallet to knock the rotor off if it is stuck to the hub

Remove the ABS connector if so equipped. Remove the ABS sensor jumper connection from the strut bracket if so equipped.

Locate and remove the three wheel bearing assembly mounting bolts located on the backside of the knuckle using the breaker bar and a socket. If necessary, tap the driveshaft spindle inward away from the hub bearing to allow room to get a socket onto the mounting bolt heads. Once the mounting bolts are broken loose, switch to a ratchet it order to speed things up.

Place the slide hammer onto the lug studs of the bearing assembly and tighten three lug nuts onto the studs to secure the slide hammer. Slide hammer the bearing off of the knuckle spraying lubricant as necessary in between the joint connection. When the bearing and spacer are removed, make sure to be aware of the spacer position so you replace it on the new bearing in the same position. Also note the position of the backing plate to replace that in the same position.

Clean the surface of the knuckle face and the hub cavity with a piece of emery cloth or light grade sand paper to remove and rust or uneven surface. Clean the inside of the rotor where the hub of the rotor sits against the flange of the hub bearing as well.

Replace the spacer onto the new bearing and insert it into the knuckle with the backing plate in between. Replace the bearing mounting bolts and alternately tighten them to draw the bearing into the knuckle evenly. Torque the bolts to 90 foot pounds with the adjustable torque wrench and socket.

Replace the ABS jumper connection to the strut bracket. Replace the ABS sensor connector. Replace the rotor, caliper assembly, and caliper mounting bolts. Torque the bolts to 80 foot pounds with the torque wrench and a socket.

Reattach the negative battery cable to the battery.

Get your assistant to step onto the brake pedal again while you torque the hub nut to 90 foot pounds with the torque wrench and the hub nut socket.

Replace the wheel and lug nuts. Tighten the lug nuts snug to the hub and lower the Saturn. Torque the lug nuts to 100 foot pounds with the torque wrench and a socket.

Remove the wheel chock, release the parking brake and test drive.

Tips

The rear wheel bearings in the Saturn SL2 are also wheel hub bearing assemblies. The procedure to replace them would be similar. However, you would not engage the parking brake and the placement of the wheel chock would go in front of one of the front tires. On rear drum brake applications for the SL2, the drum would need to be removed in order to remove the wheel bearing assembly.

About the Author

Jody L. Campbell spent over 15 years as both a manager and an under-car specialist in the automotive repair industry. Prior to that, he managed two different restaurants for over 15 years. Campbell began his professional writing career in 2004 with the publication of his first book.

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