How To: 2wd Front Wheel Bearing Replacment | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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How To: 2wd Front Wheel Bearing Replacment


Well-Known Member
July 24, 2010
Reaction score
City, State
Deltona, FL
Year, Model & Trim Level
97 Ex XLT & 84 Ranger
I have searched the forums and have not found this procedure. I know that some diy,ers that are new to mechanics can be intimidated by this so I decided to do this write-up to give back a little bit to this awesome forum.

There are some particular tools that can be used to make this job a little easier, but if you have basic hand tools and a couple free hours you should be able to do this no problem. I am starting this at the point after the caliper has been removed since that has been gone over in other areas in the forum.

Tools Needed:
Needle nose pliers
Flat head scredriver
Torque wrench
1 1/16" socket
A scrap piece of 2x4
High temp bearing grease
Paper towels or shop rags

Assuming the vehicle is safely settled on jack stands with the front wheel and caliper removed;


Take a flat head screw driver and work the grease cap off of the hub. You may have to tap it with a hammer to get behind the lip on the cap. Go around the cap being carefull not to bend it.


If the cap is chewed up on the inner edge - which somehow has happened to mine in the past - you are going to want to replace the cap.

Next, use needle nose pliers to straighten out the cotter pin and pull it out of the spindle.


Pull the retainer off of the nut, and unscrew the wheel bearing nut.


Once the nut is removed, pull the brake rotor towards you enough to dislodge the outer wheel bearing and push the rotor back to its original position. This will make it easy to remove the washer and the bearing. Be carefull not to get grease on the braking surface of the rotor.


After you remove the washer and bearing, you can remove the rotor and place it on a work surface facing down.

NOTE: If you are using new rotors you do not need to worry about the old rotor from this point on. The new rotor will have new bearing races installed and you should be using a new seal, so toss your old ones in the scrap pile unless you are having them cut.

With a flat head screw driver - or seal puller - carefully pry the seal out of the back of the rotor and remove the bearing.



Now is the time to clean everything - the fun part! With paper towels or a shop rag, wipe out all the grease you can get to. This will make the job much more pleasant to do and also remove any metal shavings from the old bearings. Use a parts cleaning solvent and be thorough. Also, clean all the grease off of the spindle, grease cap, washer and nut.



Now, with a punch and a hammer (you can also get bearing race press tools, but this has worked for me with no issues) carefully hammer around the edge of the bearing race from inside the hub to work the race out. Be carefull not to gouge the inside edges of the hub.



Do the inner and outer races like this. Once they are both out, clean the inside of the hub again and check for gouges. If you did gouge the inside surface, use a half-round file to smooth it out.

Now (unless you are using new rotors) you need to instal the new bearing races in the rotor. When you purchase wheel bearings they include new races.

Position the race in the hub. With a block of wood, tap the bearing race down evenly.



Once the race is pressed in as far as possible with the block, use a punch and carefully tap the race down untill it bottoms out evenly in the hub. Be EXTREMELY carefull not to gouge the surface of the race!!

Do this for the inner and outer bearing race.


With the outer race you can use the old race to start it into the hub, then use the punch to bottom it out.

Now is the really fun part - Grease! I used Lucas Heavy Duty wheel bearing grease. Lay out the bearings on the boxes they came in so you can set them down after they are covered in grease. Smear some grease over the spindle, bearing races and inside the grease cap.


To pack the bearings, you can get a tool that is specificly designed to force - or pack - grease into the bearings. Or, you can grab a wad of grease and do it the fun way.

Get a good wad of grease in the palm of your hand.


Use the bearing to drag some grease and press it into the edge of the bearing cage. You want to do this the whole way around each bearing untill you see it squeezing out of the top of the cage.



When you get grease though the entire bearing, flip it over and do the other side the same way. Once you go around again, just smear grease over the entire thing. Try to "roll" the bearings so the grease is completly through the entire bearing.


Do this to every bearing and set them down on their boxes so that dirt, dust or anything else will not stick to them.

With the rotor facing down, place the inner bearing in the race and pack grease in on top of it around the edges.


Place the new seal in position and tap it into the hub with a block of wood and a hammer. Smear grease on the inside of the seal.



Now is time to put the rotor back on the vehicle. Simply slide the rotor back onto the spindle and have a friend hold it, or hold it with your knee so it does not slide off. Place the outer bearing into the hub and pack some grease around the edge. Put the washer back on and thread the nut on by hand.


With the nut hand tight, rotate the rotor. Apply inward pressure while doing this so the grease and bearings can seat and coat the races.

The Haynes Manual For 1991 - 2001 Ford Explorers suggests to snug the nut down to 17 -25 ft lbs, back off 1/2 turn and torque down to 18 - 20 in lbs - which comes out to about 1.67 ft lbs. I like to spin the rotor, back the nut off and do the whole thing over 2 or 3 times. I have done this before by feel, but I suggest going by torque specs if you are not familiar with this kind of procedure.


Place the retainer back over the bearing nut and place a new cotter pin in the spindle. Bend the ends of the cotter pin up as they were when you pulled the old one off. Use a flat head srew driver and hammer to tap the grease cap back onto the hub. Place the head of the screw driver against the lip on the cap and go around it to bottom it out evenly.


That's it - per side at least. I suggest spraying some break cleaner on the rotor and brake pads incase you got any grease on the surfaces. Put your caliper and wheel back on and enjoy a smooth ride!

If I left anything out I will come back and edit this. Also, if any input is brought to my attention I will include it in the thread at the appropriate point.

I hope this proves helpful!

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Great write up! done mine twice over the years I'm glad some finally did this.
Should be a sticky

This is really gonna help me when I do mine! Great write up!

It is reccomended that you replace the nuts on the spindles when you do this. I have not replaced mine but It is suggested. The guys at Ford told me NAPA should have them, if not they can order them for you for a few $$.

I just did both sides on my 1996 2 wheel drive and I didn't see the need to replace the nuts. There's nothing to wear on the nuts.

I do recommend a good axle grease with moly and a new cotter pin.

New Advance Auto rotors come with the bearing races installed, but you have to buy a set or bearings ( inside and outside ) and the back side grease seal.

I put in new bearings after 250,000, but only because my Pappy told me to never mix old bearings with new races. If I were keeping the old hub, I would clean and repack the old bearings if they passed a visual inspection.

Like Jstcruz , I hand tighten with a short ratchet, spin the tire, back off , retighten, spin the tire, back off, retighten then fit the retainer on so the cotter pin will go through the spindle. Re-check after a couple of hundred miles...... go back and snug it up again.

With the rotor off, replacing the upper and lower ball joints was a snap....


NICE... Old school way of doing it. Just as I have been doing it for 40 years.

I replaced the bearings on my 2002 Explorer Sport, and have some weirdness in braking now. It stops normally until almost to dead stop, then it feels like the left brake releases. The pedal jumps down an inch or so, and pulls slightly to the right. Any idea why this is happening and how i can fix it?

It is reccomended that you replace the nuts on the spindles when you do this. I have not replaced mine but It is suggested. The guys at Ford told me NAPA should have them, if not they can order them for you for a few $$.

I've actually never heard of doing this on a 2WD. A 4WD/AWD yes, but on a 2WD the nut is barely tightened when torqued to proper spec so I don't know what could happen to it (under normal circumstances) that would cause any damage to it. Still, it couldn't hurt I guess.