Tool Q&A: New and updated tools for wheel bearing and hub service

Packing, pressing, pulling or torquing; wheel bearings can be messy and time-consuming. So what tools are out there to make this job easier? We have the answers to all your wheel bearing tool questions.

Q: Packing wheel bearings with grease, by hand, can be messy and time-consuming. Is there an easier way to do it that doesn't get grease all over?

A: The old way of pushing grease through bearings by hand is long gone. A great tool to minimize time spent, as well as stay clean, are bearing packers. These tools are easily set up and get the job done:

Lisle has the 34550 Handy Packer which works on bearings all the way up to a 3.5" outside diameter. You simply place the bearing in the piston of the tool and press down until the old grease comes through and new grease is seen on top of the bearing.

Other manufacturers with similar designs are the GearWrench 2775 Hand Bearing Packer, the E Z Squeeze Bearing Packer by A To Z Tool and Bearing Grease Packer by Pittsburgh.

Q: We are tired of subletting our bearing press work and looking for the right tools to do this. Do you have any recommendations?

A: First of all, you are going to need a hydraulic press. You should have one in your shop anyway; not just for bearings, but for all sorts of press work, including ball joints and bushings.

Picking a press is important. When putting something under extreme pressure, if its not centered correctly, whatever is being pressed can shoot out and severely injure someone. If not injure someone, you can at the very least damage the pressed item. Therefore, you want to choose a good press.

Next, it's good to have a bearing removal kit, so you are not trying to find things around the shop to set up and press out the bearing. One example of this tool: the 24-pc wheel bearing replacement kit by Schwaben Tools. This tool is great for common domestic, Asian and European manufacturer wheel bearings. Like anything else, you will find there are more common wheel bearing failures than others. There are also many other manufacturers of these sets that are great, too.

Q: How do you remove the wheel hub?

A: Wheel hubs can either be pressed or pulled. If you are replacing the wheel bearing, you have to remove the steering knuckle and press out the bearing, so many times its easier to press the hub as well. The other way to remove the wheel hub is pulling it. For pulling, you are going to want to get a strong slide hammer set, like the OTC Stinger 4579 9-Way Slide Hammer Puller Set. This set is perfect for flange type rear axles and most front wheel drive hubs. The set also comes with enough adapters and add-ons to tackle almost any job.

Q: What's the best torque wrench for wheel service?

A: Torque is very important when it comes to wheels. Whether you are pre-loading a loose wheel bearing or just torquing the axle nut of a pressed type bearing, you have to have the right torque. If you don't torque to specifications, and just bring the bearing down tight with your impact, you may cause premature failure of the components that results in a comeback.

There are many great torque wrenches out there, one being the CDI Torque 1/2” Torque and Angle Electronic Torque Wrench.  It has three units of torque, ft/lbs., Nm, and in/lbs. It also features angle mode for when the manual says “turn 90 degrees, then tighten to such and such ft/lbs.” It also features three LEDs and a buzzer, so when you reach your mark, you know it.

Many other companies are also creating electronic torque wrenches as well with similar functions, including OTC, GearWrench and Precision Instruments.