Wheel Bearing Maintenance and Packing for Land Rovers
by Randy Black

Recently I was rolling my Defender out of the garage without the engine running and noticed a noise that didn’t sound so good. It was coming from the front driver side wheel area, sort of a growling, grinding, dry bearing kind of noise. Since we do a lot of mud and water driving in the Disney (NE OK) area I had been planning to look at my wheel bearings before going to Moab again this year. Well, this meant it couldn’t wait any longer.

This is the procedure I used and what I learned while doing the job. One of the best items to have before starting the work is a good workshop manual. The one I use is from Rovers North and seems to be pretty thorough. I also found useful information on the internet and got a great deal of help from Bill Burke of Bill Burke’s 4-Wheeling America. He offered the kind of help that you don’t find in the workshop manual.

TOOLS
●bottle jack or floor jack ●jackstands ●wheel chocks ●lug wrench ●1/2″ ratchet ●17mm socket ●13mm 12point socket ●torque wrench ●brass or soft steel drift punch ●hub nut tool or 52 mm or 2 1/16″ socket ●snap ring pliers ●open-end wrenches for brake line fittings 12 thru 17mm maybe ●small hammer ●3″ threaded sewer plug PVC

PARTS FOR ONE WHEEL
●drive flange gasket #571752 ●lock washer #FTC3179 ●hub seal #FTC4785 ●2 wheel bearings w/race #RTC3429 or Timken # set 37 (1 cone, 1 cup)

SHOP MATERIALS
●cleaning solvent – I used low odor mineral spirits. Brake cleaner (1 can per axle) can be used. ●oil drip pan ●grease rags ●paper towels ●rubber gloves – to protect hands from solvent ●parts cleaning brush; the round stiff bristle kind ●wheel bearing grease (high temp disc-type red is best) ●blue Loctite or similar ●hand cleaner ●flange sealant

DISASSEMBLY – FRONT WHEELS
Park in the most suitable level spot you can find. I did mine in January so heat and light were really nice to have and a workbench with a wood surface }that doesn’t bounce when you use it helps, too. Chock the rear wheels and set the brake.

Break loose the lug nuts on both front wheels. Jack up the vehicle and set jackstands under each end of the axle housing. This makes it easier to turn the wheels to get at the brake calipers. Remove wheels. Disconnect brake line at bracket and steel line, cap or plug the line, or use brake line clamps, and tie it off out of the way. Be careful not to get brake fluid on your paint or
it can damage it. Remove brake calipers by removing the two bolts with the 13mm 12pt. heads.

*At the suggestion of Bill Burke, I notched the brake line bracket from the top down, just wide enough to slip the fitting in and out from above. The next time I need to remove the caliper all that is needed is to loosen the nut and lock washer that secures the line to the bracket, and tie the caliper and line out of the way. The repair can then be made without loosing any fluid,
making it easier and safer to do the repair alone (no air in the line). I cut the bracket in place with a high speed grinder and a very thin cutoff disc.

●Remove rubber dust cap

●Remove five drive flange bolts – 17mm heads (11/16′ also works)

●Remove snap ring and two shims at axle end – set aside to clean and reuse

●Pull off drive flange, may need to tap on it with hammer

●Bend lock washer off hub nut and remove nut and washer

●Remove second hub nut and the thick washer under it – set aside to clean and reuse

●Pull straight out on the hub/rotor assembly supporting the weight of the unit so as not to damage the hub seal on the backside of the hub

●Remove outside bearing, place it aside to be cleaned and checked for reuse. Keep track of which bearing is inside and outside on each hub. Mark on rage or towel O or I.

●Check the hub seal, it should be recessed 4mm and have a thin lip sticking up when looking from the inboard side of the rotor. Any distortion compromises the seal ‘ repacking the bearing anyway, so just replace the seal.

●Clean up the inside of hub well enough to see the bearing races and nspect. If the bearings and races are ok just clean well and repack them in grease, making sure to get grease into every void in the bearings. I used a bearing packer that I found at Sears and it seemed to work very well at getting grease into the interior of the bearings.

●If bearings need to be replaced drive out the old races by tapping first one side then the other with the hammer and soft punch, preventing one side rom getting ahead of the other.

●Clean and inspect the hub, look for gauling, cracks, and discoloration from excessive heat.

●Clean and inspect stub axle looking for the same problems as in the hub, corrosion and minor roughness can be cleaned up with very fine emery cloth or aluminum oxide sand paper; 400 grit worked well.

●Thoroughly clean after sanding to get rid of the abrasive residue. Brake Clean works well (easy spray can).

REINSTALL
Apply a thin layer of grease to stub axle where the seal will ride. Install new bearing races if needed; drive in evenly. Use the old race to hammer on to start the race but be careful to keep them lined up atop each other, use the old race with the thick edge down. Then use a brass drift to continue driving the race down to its seat. Install the inside bearing in its race.

Once bearing is in race, smear grease around the outside of the bearing and then smear all surfaces of the seal before installing. Wipe lip of seal for stub axle. Install hub seal 4mm below the edge of the hub with the lipped side up. The new seals I bought had this info stamped onto the side of it but the problem is how to seat it without damaging the thin lip.

*Another tip Bill gave me was to use a 3″ threaded plastic sewer plug to set the seal. It fits around the vertical lip, the bottom edge of the plug fits the diameter of the seal, and when you drive it in the plastic fitting it stops at almost exactly 4mm.

Place the outside bearing in its race and reinstall the hub/rotor being areful not damage the hub seal. When installing hub, give slight turn to help the lip seat on the stub axle. Put the thick hub nut washer in place and the first hub nut back on the stub axle and tighten down to get everything back into alignment. Rotate hub while tightening first nut.

ADJUSTING BEARINGS
The shop manual gives tolerances for adjustment using a dial indicator but most people use the following method:

Tighten the hub nut while turning the rotor until the rotor will not turn without assistance, then back off the hub nut slightly. Do this two times, rotate hub several rotations, then to set final torque. Here’s a trick from Bill–with greasy hands on hub socket, turn hand tight using both hands almost as tight as you can get it. The slip of the grease on the socket will insure you will not
over-tighten. It’s important to settle the bearing and grease.

Check for play by trying to wiggle the rotor assembly by hand, there should be no slop but the rotor should turn with just a little assistance. Place the thin lock washer over the hub nut then place the last hub nut and tighten. The last nut will cause the first nut to tighten a little, so it might take a few tries to get everything just right. When you have everything as you want it, turn the rotor for a while; check it for play again using the rotor to hold onto.

In talking to the guys at Rovers North and some of the local Rover mechanics the idea is to get it tight enough to just barely get rid of the play you feel when wiggling the rotor, unlike some of the older American cars I had worked on which need to feel a little loose.

Bend the lock washer over both hub nuts. The old lock washer can be used if hammered flat and cleaned of any debris.

Clean the gasket surface of the drive flange, apply grease to both sides of the flange gasket and install both. Clean and dry the five flange bolts, apply blue thread locker and tighten in a star pattern first one side then the other evenly. When they are all tightened torque them to the proper values, 60 to 70 Nm (50 lb./ft). Use a long, large screwdriver against the wheel stud to keep the rotor and hub from turning when you are tightening the flange bolts. Let the handle rest on the ground and wedge the blade
between the stud and the hub. Install two shims and snap ring on axle end.

To help seal the assembly, Bill Burke recommends using a flange sealant, made by 3M, found at tractor/ trailer parts suppliers. I was unable to find the 3M product so I used Anaerobic Gasket Maker by Dynatex Part #49477. Anaerobic means it doesn’t need oxygen to set. He said just a little where the metal lip and inner end of the rubber cap meet.

Reinstall brake calipers using blue thread locker on the bolts, torque caliper bolts to 70 lb/ft, connect lines, check fluid level and bleed brakes. Replace wheels, snug lug nuts, lower vehicle and tighten and torque lug nuts to 95 lb/ft. Move wheel chocks, jackstand, tools and everything else out of the way.

While doing this work it’s good to check out brake rotors and pads, axle seals, leaking swivel ball seals, CV joints and related things, but those are enough for a couple more articles at least.

I did all four wheels while I was at it. The rear wheels are very similar to the front, even a little bit easier. I found my problems were mainly due to the fact that three out of four of the hub seals #FTC4785 were not installed orrectly. They were left flush with the inside of the hub instead of recessed 4mm which left all three of them damaged. The bearings looked like they had been packed in dirt and mud rather than grease. The seal correctly installed had the best bearings but it was definitely time for an overhaul for them also.

I don’t know how many automakers use Timken wheel bearings, but was pleased Land Rover does when I looked into what bearings are available. The people I talked to whose only business is bearings said that Timken is probably the best bearing made for this application. If you find yourself on the road and in need of wheel bearings, NAPA sells SKF #BR37, about $12 ea. w/race.

The Timken can be found at bearing suppliers, a Land Rover dealership, Rovers North and other Rover parts suppliers on the internet. I paid $16 ea. w/race at Allied Bearing in Tulsa. Find the number stamped on the bearing #LM603049, and #LM603011 on the race if you want buy them from a bearing supplier. They are also known as Timken Bearing set #37.

Some trivia from Bill: Timken Bearing set #37 is the 37th set that Timken ever made. Land Rover used this off the shelf.

This work was done on a ’95 D 90 but is suitable for most Defenders, Disco I’s and Range Rover Classics.

Thank you to Randy Black for contributing this important article.