Wheel Bearing Service - Page 2 of 10

Figure 9

To remove the hardware on one side of the axle, you must first break the lock between the top of the cone nut and the underside of the lock washer. Normally, you will only want to remove the hardware on one side of the axle, leaving one side secured. This way, you won't need to worry about centering the axle, which is a little more complex of a job when dealing with a rear wheel. Start by gripping the cone nut with the cone wrench, and then grip the lock nut with the other wrench so that both wrenches are about 45 degrees apart. Now, force the wrenches away from each other until the locking nut frees itself in the counter clockwise rotation.

Figure 10

Once the grip between the locking nut and cone nut has been broken, the locking nut should be easy to unthread by turning it in the counter clockwise rotation by hand. If your axle is not in perfect condition, hold the locking nut on the opposing side of the axle with a wrench and use another wrench to remove the locking nut all the way from the axle. Each time you unthread or thread a nut, this helps to clean up the threads somewhat, so if the nut was difficult to turn on the first round, it may be easier next time. This process is called "chasing the threads".

Figure 11

Some locking nuts may have serrations (teeth) on one side. Take note as to which way these were facing in relation to the hub. If in doubt, put the teeth towards the hub, as they will help maintain a better lock with the top of the cone nut.

Figure 12

You may also need to hold the nut on the other side of the axle and use the cone wrench to get the cone to unthread the first few turns. From there, it will be as easy to remove as the locking nut was. If you have difficulty turning it off by hand, hold the lock nut on the other side with a wrench and use the cone nut to spin it off the rest of the way. Often, the threads are a bit flat where the edge of the dropouts where sitting.

Figure 13

Typically, wheel bearings are just loose packed balls, so as your cone nut is coming loose, be prepared to catch any loose balls that may fall out. I like to work over an old butter container or over a rag on a workbench so that the balls to end up on the floor. As you well know, "Murphy's Law" includes a special clause just for bearings that ensures that you shall never find a bearing that hits the floor, no matter how well lit or clean your garage may be. The only exception to this rule is if you no longer need the bearing, at which point you will either trip over it or find it rattling around inside some delicate machinery such as a gearbox. I kid you not, be careful with those little bearings!

Figure 14

If your wheel lubrication is still somewhat fresh, all of the balls will be nicely packed inside the cup as shown here. Normally, the grease will dry up after a few years, but this wheel has been through this maintenance exercise once per year, so it's still looking good.

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