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As routine maintenance and basic automotive servicing tasks go, packing wheel bearings isn't one of the glamorous ones. It's a messy job—and one that could cause serious damage or problems if not performed correctly. Not surprisingly, many enthusiasts put off this project as long as possible or avoid it altogether.
But properly greased wheel bearings are essential for safe driving, especially if a vehicle has modifications or is intended for even occasional trips to the dragstrip or road course. The wheel bearing, of course, is that cage of rollers that allows the wheel hub to rotate freely on the axle's spindle. Grease lubricates the bearings to keep them cooler and reduce rotational friction. It also acts as a cushion between the bearing rollers and hub race.
Over time, the grease deteriorates, especially in wet and dirty driving conditions. If left unattended with inadequate grease, the bearings will eventually overheat and possibly cause expensive damage to the hub and/or spindle. In extreme cases, the hub/wheel could lock or even separate from the axle. That's no fun when you're cruising down the highway.
So, if you haven't repacked or replaced your wheel bearings since Atari was the hottest thing in home video games, you'll want to plan to get dirty and get the job done. It's also a great idea to do it if you're upgrading your brakes with, say, a disc brake conversion or a swap to larger rotors and calipers. And don't worry if you've never done the job before. We've outlined the basics in the accompanying photos and no special tools are required.
The messy part of the job comes from mashing grease into the bearing assembly via a dollop of grease in the palm of your hand. Make sure you've got disposal gloves before getting started, otherwise your spouse likely won't let you back in the house after the job is completed.
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