How To Repair the Front Wheel Bearings on Your Imperial


Imperial Home Page -> Repair -> Suspension -> Bearings

How To Tighten Front Wheel Bearings, from Dick:

As a "PS" to previous answers to the original question, "how tight to make the wheel bearing nut": It is very important that there be some free play on a tapered roller bearing, which all our cars have. In the old days, with ball bearings, one could safely adjust for zero play, but if you do that with tapered roller bearing they will overheat and fail quickly. My method, copied directly from the Packard shop manual (any year) and probably many other shop manuals, is to take up the bearing nut with the wheel rotating in a direction which would tend to tighten the nut, and when all free play is gone, momentarily take the torque up to 20 ft-lbs (to make sure both races are seated against their stops), then immediately back all the way off to loose, then retighten to 4 ft-lbs, then back off one "hex" (60 degrees) toward loose, then further IN THE LOOSEN DIRECTION until you get to the point where you can insert the cotter pin (loop up, please). This means you will always be between 60 degrees and 120 degrees looser than the point of zero play. Yes, this makes the wheel feel a little sloppy on the spindle, but it is the right way to do it.

Question from Bob:

My right front axle bearings are trashed.  I heard a metallic noise, shimmy and pulling to the right. So, I parked it at the store over night and went back in the daylight. The hub was almost all the way off the axle. I don't think I damaged the spindle though..... Here is the question. I called a mechanic, who told me that he couldn't work on it  because he didn't have the right tools..... What, there isn't a hub puller for the front, and other than the bearings have to be punched on (and you should be able to use a large deep well socket.). Do I need special tools, or should I contact another mechanic. Or do it myself? 


From Dwight:

You can usually find or fashion a "drift" to punch out the races, which I always did, regardless of how the things looked. They are cheap and the effort is worth the piece of mind. The work is easy, if messy, and won't take all that long; just be sure to work plenty of grease into those bearings...

From Kerry:

Changing front wheel bearings is one of the easiest  repairs you will find. If you can change a tire, you are halfway there. You  need to put the car on SOLID jack stands, pull the tire. The little dust cap  comes off when you pry on it with a screwdriver. Pull the cotter key out of  the split nut. Remove the split nut. The wheel should come off easy. If it  doesn't, back off the brake adjustment.  Once the wheel is off, you will find a BIG mess of grease between the bearing.  The actual bearings will fall out in your hand but the races are driven in and  must be driven out. First get most of the grease out of the way. Then, take  a long punch (I've also use a screwdriver) to drive out the races. You have  to hit firmly but usually not too hard. Move the punch around the race as you  tap it so you don't put it in a bind.  The new parts go in just the opposite. MAKE SURE you replace the races. If  your bearings have gone bad the races will be bad also, even if they don't  look it. Besides, they are cheap. You will need to get a can of wheel  bearing grease and VERY THOROUGHLY work grease into the bearings. Most people  also put a bunch more in the cavity between them. Also install new inner and  outer seals. They just punch out also.  There is a torque setting for the split nut but I normally run it up until the  I can feel the wheel starting to turn tight and back off until it seems free  but not loose. Don't forget a NEW cotter key. Obviously you will need to re adjust the brakes if you messed with them. If  you kept track of what you did while taking it off it may help you.  Any tire or brake shop should be able to do this in a heartbeat. They  probably won't have the parts in stock however. To expedite repair, you might  offer to track the parts down and provide them.  I'm pretty sure your 62 is just like my 57. 

Question from Steve:

How much play is tooooo much? On both of my front wheels with the car off the ground I can move the wheel/drum assembly from side to side just a little. I am getting ready to take the car on a 1200 mile round trip. Discovered this while I was rotating the tires today. Money is getting tight so I don't want to spend on new wheel bearings / having races pressed in if it is acceptable to have a little play there.

Reply from John:

You should barely just be able to feel some movement. More then that is probably too much. The normal procedure to adjust is to snug them up good while turning the wheel in a forward motion, then backing the adjustment off to the nearest hole.

This page last was updated November 11, 2003.  Send us your feedback, and come join the Imperial Mailing List - Online Car Club