How to: change rear wheel bearings

How to: change rear wheel bearings

Postby Dirk [OP] » May 24th 2011, 2:36pm

I've changed my rear wheel bearings last year and shot some pictures while I was at it might help someone in the future.
In this how-to I'll attempt to show you all the steps that go into changing out the rear wheel bearings.

I heard a slight rumble coming from the rear end and when you would rotate the wheels when raised on jack stands it was clearly coming from the wheel bearings. As I had no clue about the history of the axle I decided to go with a wheel bearing repair instead of the original ones.
What a repair kit does is relocate the bearing to a "fresh" piece of axle, if the axles show signs of bearing wear a bearing repair kit is needed.

This is what you need:
- jack and jack stands
- general hand tools, be sure to have a 8mm 12 point combination wrench!
- wheel bearing puller or a 7' long 1/2" diameter steel tube like I used
- wheel bearings, original bearings or a bearing repair kit
- differential cover gasket
- gear oil (4 pints)
- pinion shaft lock screw

Start by getting the rear end up in the air and secured on jack stands, remove the wheels and brake drums.
Remove the diff cover and drain the oil, this is what you'll be looking at.
Image

This is a nice chance to inspect the gears, mine has a 15:41 gear ratio making it a GU2 2.73 axle.
Image

You'll need to locate the pinion shaft lock screw and remove it together with the shaft and both gears.
The lock screw has a 12 point 8mm head.
Image

Pinion shaft and gears removed.
Image

Now push both axles inward and remove the "C" locks from the button ends of both shafts.
Pictures shows the "C" lock in place, I have already removed the right gear.
Image

"C" lock removed, you can just about see the "C" lock laying inside the diff carrier.
Image

The pinion gear slides off.
Image

Pinion gear removed.
Image

Now carefully pull out both axle shafts and inspect them for wear, mine looked fine you can just about make out where the bearings were.
Image

The old bearing still in place together with the oil seal.
Image

I should have a picture of how I knocked the bearings out but I seem to have lost it, sorry about that.

The old bearing removed and everything all nice and clean.
Image

This is what a bearing repair kit looks like, it comes complete with the seal already installed.
Note that the machined end goes in first!
Image

Image

Gently tap the new bearing in place, you can use a hammer and a large socket like I did or special tool if you happen to have one.
Put a good smear of gear oil on the shafts and inside the bearings!
New bearing installed and ready to go.
Image

From this point on it's the reverse of disassembly.
Take care in reassembling the axle shafts and do not damage the oil seal!
Be sure to use a new lock screw for the pinion shaft and a drop of thread lock on the lock screw, it only takes 25ft/lbs of torque.
I think I've covered all of the steps involved in changing the wheel bearings. If there should be any questions remaining please ask and I'll answer them.
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Re: How to: change rear wheel bearings

Postby icebrrg3rd » May 24th 2011, 3:52pm

Thanks for the great write-up, Dirk! Wish I had known that the gear ratio was stamped on the gear, I had my cover off a few weeks ago when I changed the rear gear oil (had no clue how old/if ever had been changed). I still haven't figured out my rear end ratio (my glove box is missing the build data). Will be using this as a reference as I want to put some sort of locker in my rear end for next winter.

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Re: How to: change rear wheel bearings

Postby tedanderson » May 24th 2011, 5:53pm

:goodpost:

I agree! This was excellent. Up until this point, I'd been reluctant to this job. I know my time will be coming sooner than later and now I am not so worried about it.

The last time I blew the diff, my mechanic said that I needed a full replacement of the axle and I didn't know one way or the other as to whether he was telling me the correct information. Now I'm going to pull my cover just for grins and giggles.
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Re: How to: change rear wheel bearings

Postby rev_les » May 24th 2011, 9:28pm

Definitely a nice write up Dirk!. Ted, if you're gonna pull that cover, if everything looks good and you don't need to reopen it any time soon, it would be a good time to go synthetic if you haven't already done it. :)
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Re: How to: change rear wheel bearings

Postby icebrrg3rd » May 25th 2011, 5:57pm

One thing that should be mentioned:

***Make sure that your fill plug can be removed before dis-assembly!***

Just a word of warning I've seen posted before. Hate for you to not be able to refill it after it's empty. Yes, you could put a fill plug higher up on the diff cover, but that's one more thing to do.

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Re: How to: change rear wheel bearings

Postby tedanderson » May 25th 2011, 10:33pm

Or you can just use a forklift and tilt the van on it's nose and fill the diff before replacing the cover.

But in all seriousness, removing the fill plug is an EXCELLENT tip to pass along. It's like one of those things that they tell you to do in the Haynes manual without telling you why and then you think to yourself, "What does removing the fill plug have to do with anything? The heck with that!"
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Re: How to: change rear wheel bearings

Postby Dirk [OP] » May 25th 2011, 11:36pm

You're absolutely right Andrew!
I should have mentioned that but I overlooked it, thanks for pointing it out :thumbup:

Maybe it's worth turning this topic into a sticky so that it won't go down into oblivion?
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If you can't fix it with a hammer you've got an electrical problem!

Parts are cheap breakdowns expensive.

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Re: How to: change rear wheel bearings

Postby Phantom » May 26th 2011, 12:35am

icebrrg3rd wrote:Thanks for the great write-up, Dirk! Wish I had known that the gear ratio was stamped on the gear, I had my cover off a few weeks ago when I changed the rear gear oil (had no clue how old/if ever had been changed). I still haven't figured out my rear end ratio (my glove box is missing the build data). Will be using this as a reference as I want to put some sort of locker in my rear end for next winter.

-Andrew

Great write up with good pics, :thumbup:

Andrew to get a close idea of what your rear gear ratio is , make a chalk mark on the driveshaft and a mark on the tire and line them up as close as possible . Now as you turn the wheel slowly by hand 1 full revolution count how many revolutions the driveshaft makes as the chalk mark turns , if the driveshaft looks to to turning 3 and 1/4 turns for one turn of the tire the gear ratio is most likely to be 3:23 since that is the closest ratio from the option list from GM , If the driveshaft turns barely more than 4 turns for one full turn of the tire the ratio is likely to be 4:10 or 4:11 and compare that to what was offered by the car maker for the vehicle , this is only approx , but usually very close as the car maker only has a few ratios to choose from making it fairly accurate . This comes in very useful when trying to figure out what ratio a vehicle has if the gear have been changed to something different than what the factory built it with.

The best way when having access to the internet is to use this link that shows which RPO code your van has and the actual gear ratio your van came with when built , Just enter your VIN and and it gives a lot of good info :D

http://www.compnine.com/vid.php?vin=1gndm19w5xb126525
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Re: How to: change rear wheel bearings

Postby daytonboi » June 29th 2011, 10:15pm

can you tell me what the part number for that wheel bearing is. I can't seem to find it at Advance Auto
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Re: How to: change rear wheel bearings

Postby drmmhmd » July 7th 2011, 4:41am

Phantom wrote:
icebrrg3rd wrote:Thanks for the great write-up, Dirk! Wish I had known that the gear ratio was stamped on the gear, I had my cover off a few weeks ago when I changed the rear gear oil (had no clue how old/if ever had been changed). I still haven't figured out my rear end ratio (my glove box is missing the build data). Will be using this as a reference as I want to put some sort of locker in my rear end for next winter.

-Andrew

Great write up with good pics, :thumbup:

Andrew to get a close idea of what your rear gear ratio is , make a chalk mark on the driveshaft and a mark on the tire and line them up as close as possible . Now as you turn the wheel slowly by hand 1 full revolution count how many revolutions the driveshaft makes as the chalk mark turns , if the driveshaft looks to to turning 3 and 1/4 turns for one turn of the tire the gear ratio is most likely to be 3:23 since that is the closest ratio from the option list from GM , If the driveshaft turns barely more than 4 turns for one full turn of the tire the ratio is likely to be 4:10 or 4:11 and compare that to what was offered by the car maker for the vehicle , this is only approx , but usually very close as the car maker only has a few ratios to choose from making it fairly accurate . This comes in very useful when trying to figure out what ratio a vehicle has if the gear have been changed to something different than what the factory built it with.

The best way when having access to the internet is to use this link that shows which RPO code your van has and the actual gear ratio your van came with when built , Just enter your VIN and and it gives a lot of good info :D

http://www.compnine.com/vid.php?vin=1gndm19w5xb126525



There is a much easier way, get the VIN of you vehicle and open http://www.compnine.com/vid.php?vin=3GNGK26G25G122846 and type it in, every component of your vehicle is itemized here.
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Re: How to: change rear wheel bearings

Postby Leeann_93 » July 8th 2011, 1:04am

Did you notice that his last sentence says the same thing your post says?
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Re: How to: change rear wheel bearings

Postby WoodButcher » July 8th 2011, 4:32am

Thanks for the great pics and write-up, this is my job for tommorrow night.
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Re: How to: change rear wheel bearings

Postby T.Neff » July 9th 2011, 12:18am

WoodButcher wrote:Thanks for the great pics and write-up, this is my job for tommorrow night.



WB-going to do the 11" rear brake upgrade while your at it??.
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Re: How to: change rear wheel bearings

Postby WoodButcher » July 9th 2011, 4:37am

T.Neff wrote:
WoodButcher wrote:Thanks for the great pics and write-up, this is my job for tommorrow night.



WB-going to do the 11" rear brake upgrade while your at it??.


Not this time around, got my plate full doing the R&R on a junkyard rear. Goes under in the A.M., in the afternoon I need to finish up a job for my doc, (back cracker) then I take the rest of the weekend off. Replaced the tranny and the front brakes two weekends ago, worked last weekend, I need a day off.

The rear brake upgrade really benefits those that tow more than it would me, in these little vans w/ such a short wheelbase loads up the front I think more than the 70/30% that is usually believed. I've found the rear brakes in mine to be adequate provided they are not wet with gear oil.
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Re: How to: change rear wheel bearings

Postby 02GMCSafari » July 12th 2011, 2:52am

daytonboi wrote:can you tell me what the part number for that wheel bearing is. I can't seem to find it at Advance Auto


I can't find them either---Looked everywhere!
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Re: How to: change rear wheel bearings

Postby WoodButcher » July 14th 2011, 11:36pm

02GMCSafari wrote:
daytonboi wrote:can you tell me what the part number for that wheel bearing is. I can't seem to find it at Advance Auto


I can't find them either---Looked everywhere!


Go to a real auto parts store and they will find them for you, I bought seals and I ordered a set of the repair bearings just in case when I replaced my rear end with one from the boneyard. The old bearings were good and I only changed seals so I returned them.
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Re: How to: change rear wheel bearings

Postby oldtymehockey » July 15th 2011, 5:16am

I just did this job today. I went to O'Reilley. They had the bearings in stock. However, when I got home the contents of one box was different from the other. The first box went in to my left side. The markings on the bearings was the same as the ones I pulled. It went together very nicely. Then I opened the second box. The bearings were different. They were not beveled quite as much and when I put them in the axle would not slide in all the way. I went back and found a box with the same bearings inside as the ones which fit in the left.

It worked out in the end but was a bit of a hassle.

Just a head's up from what I experienced.
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Re: How to: change rear wheel bearings

Postby 6141465 » January 29th 2012, 3:54am

Nice write up. I think I missed something. Just how did you pull the bearings? I know you said the pic was missing but there was also no explanation for that step.
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Re: How to: change rear wheel bearings

Postby mobiletec » March 24th 2012, 2:49am

who makes those saver Bearings i cant find them anywere?
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Re: How to: change rear wheel bearings

Postby WoodButcher » March 24th 2012, 3:21pm

mobiletec wrote:who makes those saver Bearings i cant find them anywere?



Go to or call your local NAPA and ask, they can order it for you. Not autozone or another discount place staffed by kids, you need a counterperson that hasn't a clue what he is selling. When you get them open them up and compare them side by side before you pay, twice I got mismatched / wrong bearings.
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