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Discussion Starter #1
1989 EB, 302 5.0L, 149,000. 2" lift.

Folks, when is it time to consider changing the wheel bearings? I am not experiencing any wheel issues now, and generally subscribe to "if it ain't broke don't fix it.", but want to avoid future problems. The job looks fairly straight forward but time consuming. If I decide to go in and replace them I plan to switch over to locking hubs at the same time.

Thanks,
Sig
 

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1996 EB 5.8L, E4OD, 2.5" RC Lift, 33" tires, 3.55 gears
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Just from personal experience, when I bought my Bronco, one of the first things I did was a complete brake job (pads/shoes, hardware, lines) b/c the rotors were pretty rusted and I just felt better knowing everything was brand new and functional. In hindsight, I wish I would have done ball joints and front axle ujoints at the same time. I’m regretting having to basically disassemble everything again to attend to those items. So my input is whenever you do the wheel bearings and hubs, maybe do the ball joints and u joints while you are at it. Just my .02.
 

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Eric
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You will usually hear a bearing going bad first. If you're suspicious, you can always just do a teardown, inspection, and re-pack. It'll give you a chance to put fresh seals in, at the very least. Personal opinion: If it's in the budget, just install new bearings and races. Then you know exactly the condition and mileage on your wheel bearings and there won't be any guessing. Then it's just a matter of regular maintenance.

Just my $0.02.
 
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Just from personal experience, when I bought my Bronco, one of the first things I did was a complete brake job (pads/shoes, hardware, lines) b/c the rotors were pretty rusted and I just felt better knowing everything was brand new and functional. In hindsight, I wish I would have done ball joints and front axle ujoints at the same time. I’m regretting having to basically disassemble everything again to attend to those items. So my input is whenever you do the wheel bearings and hubs, maybe do the ball joints and u joints while you are at it. Just my .02.
I did brakes early on and now just completed a front end redo, all the way to pulling the third member to fix a leak at the axle housing. I also recommend redoing it all while you are there. The only things I didn’t do were radius arm and axle pivot bushings. Neither were really bad and I plan on a suspension lift in the near future and will have them done at that time.
I didn’t replace bearings. The outside ones had been replaced before, and both sets looked great.
I did front track bar bushings as well since the front end was accessible. The bar in under a bit of tension but nothing a large pry bar couldn’t get into place to get the last nut started.
 

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I'll just throw a semi-random number out there for the heck of it.
Replace the bearings every 150K miles, assuming the original are factory or high-quality replacements.

Or re-grease/pack them every 75k miles.

I'm pulling these numbers out of nowhere but it seems logical to me.
 

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I just did mine because I started hearing a "whirring" noise from the right front wheel area while driving. They were repacked probably 12 years ago, but this is the first time they've been replaced. 186k miles.
 

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there's a bit of time, effort, and money involved with changing all the wheel bearings. i wouldn't do it until needed. but as silver mentioned above, it wouldn't hurt to break it apart and inspect them.

if you're not seeing any issues, that would probably be my recommendation. just take it apart, inspect, and then determine what you need to replace. put them back togehter and acquire the parts to do everything needed.
 

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Man of endless projects
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i usually repalce them any time i do any work related with touching them. so like doing balljoints, rotors, or such. however i dont ever reuse them either, they can be 6 months old i still replace them. but im harsh on my stuff and paranoid about wheel bearings because i had enough blown out over the years and its not fun. also i seen enough people screw up doing wheel bearings to know that jsut because it isnt giving an issue doesnt mean its correct. my current 96 the previous owner converted to manual hubs and did not get the conversion spindle nuts, im surprized the wheel didnt fall off while i drove home. same thing with my friends truck but they did back off on his truck and i had to replace the nuts. even with the proper spindle nuts, if not installed correctly they can sill back off and fall apart
 

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The dumb stupid answer is..... Replace when it crosses your mind. So many times it has happened to me: "I should look at or fix that" An wham, that is the next thing to break. Not saying that a Bronco is any sort of spiritual being, but if you have a hunch that something is going bad, it probably is...........
 

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Discussion Starter #10
So if I’m inclined to tackle this project what needs to be purchased? Inner and outer bearing for all wheels and grease. Plus the Manuel hubs. Any special tools?
 

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You'll need a socket for the spindle nuts. You need grease and a bunch of paper towels. Hex socket for the hub lock bolts. Something to hammer out the races. A bearing race press set to install the races. Wheel seals. And if you're up for it, do the spindle bearings, too. You'll need something to get out the spindle bearings, though, like a slide hammer and a puller. Picks for the hub lock retaining ring and snap ring pliers for the ring on the axle.
 

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Spindle nut adapter for slide hammer unless you like torturing yourself.
If you pull the spindles, I would seriously consider ball joints and u-joints unless you are sure they’re good. I’d also invest in some new spindle nuts since on my 80 they’re a self locking type that aren’t designed for an infinite amount of on/off cycles.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
After all the advice here I'm thinking about taking it all apart.
Manual locking hubs
Front wheel bearings
spindle bearings
Ball joints
Front axle U joints

Does that seems like everything while I'm in there? I'm just interested in the front for now. The rear wheel bearing seems a bit more involved with having to drain the rear diff. Save that for another time.
 

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Should be. No problems out of your diff axle seals, pinion seal, or diff-to-housing seal? They’re worth doing if you have any doubt about their condition since they can’t be done without removing all the items you’re about to remove.

I just did what you’re doing plus the diff work. It’s a job but not terribly technical. Just work.
 

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Almost more important than the bearings are the 3? seals on each wheel assy, esp if you go off road at all
Once dirt gets in, thats pretty much the end for a bearing. In fact, I'd suspect the major failure mode.
 

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I have a '96 and one of the seals was a bastard to find. Took 2 or 3 tries, luckily they were just $1.98 or something
I think there is a really good post on this site detailing all the work involved
You will need a special 'spanner' socket to remove the hubs
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Update to this post:
I'm trying to price this all out before tackling the project.
After all the advice here I'm thinking about taking it all apart.

Manual locking hubs - Mile Marker $65
Front wheel bearings - inner and outer ~$25 per side. $50 total
spindle bearings and seal kit - ~$20 x2 =$40
Ball joints - upper and lower ~$35 each x 4= $140
Front axle U joints ~ $50 for two
Bushing replacement kit ~$27
Parts Total: ~$375.00

Lock nut removal tool ~$15
Snap ring pliers ~$15
Ball joint press and removal tool ~$50
Slide hammer ~$50
Wheel bearing grease $7
Tools total: ~$140.00

Does this seem like everything I need? Trying to avoid multiple trips to the store. If I have a guy that will do the work for $200-300 is it worth the $150 tool investment for this?
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Thinking I’ll add springs and shocks to that list. Based on photos what do y’all think? What size springs? I think the truck has a two inch lift but how do I tell?
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'91 5.0 E4OD, 6" long-arm lift, shackle-flip, 35" Procomp M/Ts, 4.56 gears & lockers
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You should be able to rent the ball joint press tool and slide hammer from a local auto parts store for free. They just refund your money when you return them.

On my fronts, I didn't use a slide hammer. Just tap around the spindle while giving it some pulling tension to break it loose and remove. And I just hammered the bearing races out from the other side using a flat punch, working around the edges. (If you're doing rear axle bearings, you'll want a slide hammer and bearing puller tool.) And the seals can be pulled with a flat head screwdriver or small crowbar.

I also don't think I used my snap ring pliers. The only snap ring is the retaining ring that holds the hubs in. Once the caps are removed, just get two flat screwdrivers or picks in there, one to keep the snap ring from sliding, and the other to pry up and under it. Once you get under it, manipulate it out.

On the ball joint tool, you'll want to put it in a vice and have a long breaker bar to turn it. My ball joints were frozen up and I almost ripped my vice of my work bench with the torque I was putting on the tool. Both the ball joints and the u-joints released with a loud "BANG" when they finally started to move.

Also, you can certainly grease them by hand, but I got a pretty handy bearing greaser tool, you just fill the bottom with grease and press down on the top of the tool, and it'll fill the bearings. Check amazon for it.
 
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