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Lost in Bearing Straits


Explorer Addict
April 25, 2005
Reaction score
City, State
Friensdwood, Texas
Year, Model & Trim Level
91 Mazda Navajo
Sure, it's easy now to say repack your bearings every time you do your brakes. :rolleyes:

i pull into the company parking lot and hear crunching from the car. Looking underneath I see oil dripping from the front differential. Adding 2 + 2 and getting 5 I consult the elite experts who soon disabuse me of the notion the front differential is engaged in anything other than 4WD. I knew that.

Next likely suspect is the wheel bearings. Raising the driver's side wheel it wobbles, methinks I've discovered the culprit.


Following Haynes served me well, first off is the hub.

After removing the C clip, not a snap ring as Haynes says and the rest of the stuff as shown in pic the rotor comes off, The pieces of detritus shown is what's left of the roller bearings.


The inner race is firmly attached to the spindle and requires a little Dremel action to remove.


Oddly enough it rotated fine it just would not come off! You can see in this pic it had worn a groove in the spindle, easily fixed with 220 grit.

The rotor also had the cups still in them and were impossible to remove so I reused them. I'm changing the rotor tomorrow and I'll put the new cups in.

Everything buttoned up in reverse order. I neglected to put the spindle on with the key way up, I'll also fix that tomorrow. I couldn't get the cam back on but I got enough together to drive the vehicle home.

Here's the question, note in first pic all the grease in the hub, does it have to be replaced? A light coating on the cam and spindle spline, sure. But should the hub be packed? I've noticed this in some of the other pics also so I'm kind of leaning towards packing it with my pretty purple wheel bearing grease.

Any thoughts?

Also is there any trick to getting the cam on? I had the key lined up but I was upside down as explained above. Tomorrow I'll have another go at it.

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I can't say this strongly enough... NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO grease in the auto hub!!!!!

Auto hubs + grease = auto hubs don't engage/disengage properly.

Do some searches on auto hubs here, you will see that you need to fill your hub with ATF, let it soak overnight, and get a toothbrush, etc. to remove all the old grease the next day.

If it can't sit overnight, that's OK, but you may need to work harder with the toothbrush.

Either way, leave a light coating of ATF in the hub and you're done.

When you replace the bearings, etc. obviously, use grease. But when everything is back together and just the hub is left, you don't want to be looking at gobs of extra grease.

As for the cam, they usually just need a little extra pushing. There's a post here somewhere that says to use a piece of PVC pipe, but I've always just used my hands and not had too much trouble.

Hope this helps.


Thank you Mike,

Being the distrustful sort I took your advice did a search on auto hubs and am convinced your advice regarding no grease in the auto hubs is sound; they should not be packed with grease. I'll clean them up, soak in ATF and re-assemble.

Thanks, this is the answer I was looking for!

No worries, I'm not offended. It does sound counter-intuitive (well, it technically makes sense, it just "seems" like there should be bearing grease in there).

And, yes, I figured this out the hard way...


Everything went smoothly, As the unremovable bearing cups in the rotor were chewed, I replaced the rotors. Nobody mentioned that the new rotors came with the cups installed, I guess they must be pressed in. I hated to throw the nice shiny, stainless steel cups that came with the bearings away.

Once the cams were cleaned up I could see how they worked. I used a glass spice jar that Mrs. Shamaal had to drive them on with a rubber mallet. Mike, you must have stronger fingers than mine. Everything was soaked in ATF, I resisted the urge to spray PB Blaster on everything.

Thanks for the assistance.

I could never get my nylon cam back on with just my hands.. I picked up some 1.5" pvc pipe and used a dremel tool to make it fit over the axle shaft (the pvc pipe {ID} was slight to small). I was then able to easily pop the cam back in place. It brought a smile to my face after having struggled for hours trying to figure a way to manhandle it on.

From the explorer maintenance page in the repair info section of my sig
The cam goes back on next. This is a bit of a chore, since you need to line up the tang in the bore of the cam with the key slot in the spindle. Push the cam on so that those friction pads slide up on the machined shoulder of the bearing retainer nut. Resist the urge to remove or adjust or stretch or even look funny at those garter springs in the cam assembly. Have patience, and work carefully to avoid damage to the plastic cams or the pads or the springs. Here's a tip from Tom Scanlan about getting that cam back on. Tom has found that a short piece of 1-1/2" PVC pipe makes it easy. The inner dimension nearly matches the cam diameter, and the PVC pipe makes it possible to push evenly around the cam without deforming it. An easy push with my palm and the spring loaded cam pops onto the shaft.

Actually, I read that advice from a search result and was on my way to home depot to pick up the specified piece of PVC pipe. When I got the keys to Mrs Shamaal's C*r*v*n, she asked what I was going to get and offered a recently emptied glass Basil spice jar with the approximate dimensions; it worked.

Thanks for the tip!

Great job. I don't think I would have had the cajones to smack a glass jar with a hammer, even a rubber one!

PB Blaster probably would have been OK, as long as you followed up with the ATF when you were done with the cleaning. I used carb cleaner one time, because I had just WAY too much grease in there.

BTW, nice try disguising the soccer mom mobile...


A follow-up regarding an unexpected benefit.

My gas milage has improved 1.8 mpg. I guess there's something to having whole wheel bearings!