January 2004: Front Wheel Bearing Installation

January is a really cold month here, so without heat in the big garage, you're at the mercy of mother nature... Installed wheel bearings before? I've not seen this covered before so it seems like a good topic to review this month.  Hopefully this will show you that it's really pretty easy.
BACK VIEW: Specifically, these aren't your normal 2002 front hubs. These are the E21 3 series variety, used for a big brake upgrade. In this setup, I have used Jack Fahuna at ProBmw's setup, which gives you the E21 hub drilled out and configured for 19mm studs, like the original 2002 setup. E21 units went down to 17mm, so they must be tapped and reconfigured with new studs... or you keep 2 lug wrenches in your trunk.  This is the before shot, without any bearings installed.
On the left is the seal, which goes in last. On the right is the 2 parts of the bearing, the outer bearing surface and the inner bearing race which is placed against the back of the front axle on the lower part of the strut. 
This is a better view of each part. The bearing surfaces are tapered inward when installed properly.
Very carefully, after lubricating the back side of the bearing mount and the inside of the hood, tap the bearing down into the hub until it stops, which is approximately 10 mm.
Next, pack the bearing with grease. In my car we're using Mobil One Synthetic gear lube, which is a pink color. Moly grease is also acceptable. Pack the bearing with grease by placing a blob on your hand, cupping your hand pull the bearing toward you as though you were scraping the grease up with the bearing. This procedure should be repeated 2-3 times until you have sufficiently packed the bearing race with lube. Then pack the inside like shown in the photo prior to putting the seal in.
In a similar fashion, tap the bearing seal down into the hub. It will keep the lube from going everywhere after it's torqued up to the axle. Repeat this process with the other hub, then move onto the front bearing.
A view of the front, without a bearing installed yet.
The setup is similar on the front, only no seal is used. There is a dust cup which goes over it all when your done. Here I have placed the inner bearing in a test fit prior to installation. Again lube the back of the bearing and the inner wall of the hub so that it slides right in. Begin tapping it in with a soft hammer and something which will not mar the surface. Bearing installation tools are available for the tool happy folks, but it's not really necessary here in my opinion.
Here the new bearing is installed, down flush with the lip edge on the inside of the hub. Pack and install the bearings as described above for the back side bearings.
When you're done with the top, it should look like this. At this point, put the hubs in plastic bags and set them aside if you're not ready to install them...
Meanwhile, the front axles are ready to accept the brake calipers and hubs. This is the passenger side...
This is the drivers side. I have held off installing the sway bar links until the wheels are on, and the weight of the car has been applied. The suspension is artificially sprung low now when the car is on the wood brace shown behind. In the next few weeks we will add the wheels and put the car on the ground.
The center track rod and tie rod ends are installed. The car can now be turned, after 14 months!



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