Changing the Front Wheel Bearings

Changing the front wheel bearings requires inner and outer bearings and an oil seal that goes on the inside of the wheel. The job is very easy except for one complication which may require you to take the hub to a professional shop. The bearing races may be difficult to replace. I was able to replace the smaller race quite easily and elected to leave the old larger diameter race in the wheel.

The wheel hub is aluminum and has the brake disk mounted to it. There are inner and outer bearings mounted in this hub. The outer races of these bearing have been pressed into the hub.

Approximate Cost:

 Inner Front Wheel Bearings (2) $20
 Outer Front Wheel Bearings (2) $18
 Front Axle Seal (2) $8

This is a good time to inspect your brake pads and disk. Mine are fine.
042101-284 Jack up the car and remove a front wheel. Remove the grease cap using a couple of screw drivers as shown.
042101-285 Remove the brake caliper. It is recommended to disconnect the brake line (I didn't). Remove the two retaining clips - small u-shaped pieces on the right side of the opening for the brake pads. Push the 2 pins out which hold the spring clip. The clip is now loose. Remove the two brake pads. There are two bolts holding the caliper on the axle assembly. You should now be able to remove the caliper from around the brake disk.

Loosen the Allen bolt in the wheel bearing clamp nut, unscrew the nut and remove the thrust washer.

Remove the wheel hub with brake disk and bearings.
042101-286 Here is the axle after the hub was removed and before any cleanup. You can see the mounting holes for the brake caliper on the right side of the picture with the caliper itself moved off to the right.
042101-287 This is the inner side of the disk brake and hub assembly before the inner seal was removed. You can grab the seal with a pair of pliers and man-handle it out of the hub. Remove both sets of bearings.
042101-288 Clean up the races well enough to inspect the surfaces. I determined that the smaller race should be replaced. To remove the races, factory recommends a press and special tools, VW 407, VW 418, VW 447f, a spacer and VW 401. The spacer is a tube 100 mm O.D., 90 mm I.D. and 35 mm long.

I don't have any of these tools.
042101-289 Mark the disk brake and hub so you can reassemble them correctly and remove the disk from the hub.

I found that the back side of a large socket (1 1/16 in) would fit through the hub and rest on the edge of the race. The plan was to tap it out using the socket. A 1/2 in extension put into the socket provided a way to extend the socket out the hub enough to provide a surface to tap.

The hub must be heated before trying to remove the race. The recommend temperature is 120-150 deg. C. (250-300 deg F). I put the hub in a pressure cooker pan covered with water and brought the water to a boil. This only brings the hub to 100 deg. C, but that proved to be hot enough.

The hub must be hot before putting in the new race. I was able to replace it without re-heating by immediately taping the new race into its cavity flush with a mallet and then used a small punch to fully seat the race by tapping it a little on all sides, a bit at a time.

If you need to remove the larger race, I really don't have any suggestions other than professional help. My technique would not work here which is unfortunate, because it is not a good idea to use an old race with a new bearing.

Re-mount the brake disk on the hub using your marks to place them in their original orientations. The bolts should be torqued to 16.6 ft-lbs. Replace the bolts using their original orientation with the nuts on the same side of the hub as the lug nuts.
042101-290 I used Swepco Moly grease to pack new the bearings before placing them in the hub. This is some grease left over from the C-V joints. Is this grease appropriate for wheel bearings? According to the manufacturer the answer is yes and it has the NLG1 GC-LB rating, however high temperature Lithium grease is commonly recommended for this application.

Put extra grease in the hub between the bearings. Force grease into the bearings with your fingers.

It is gooey.

Put a new oil seal. You can lightly tap the seal into place by slowly tapping with a small hammer. The factory recommends one of the VW tools and the press for this operation.

Fill the space between the oil seal and the bearing with grease.

Slide the hub onto the spindle, replace the thrust washer and the nut. Tighten the nut enough to seat the bearings, then loosen it to the point that the thrust washer can be moved sideways under light pressure with a screwdriver.

Tighten the Allen bold to 18 ft-lb. Recheck the tightness of the thrust washer.

Replace the dust cap.

Reassemble the break caliper. The mounting bolts should be torqued to 50 ft-lbs.
Last modified: Sat, 21 Apr 2001


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