I recently changed both front wheel bearings on my 2004 Subaru Forester. Aside from needing some specialty tools, the process is pretty straight forward. The three tools you’ll absolutely need are a hydraulic press, a bearing separator, and a set of bearing drivers (links to all the tool I mention are provided at the bottom).
YouTuber mikeatyouttube does a good job documenting the basic procedure. In fact, I relied heavily on on his video as a reference while doing the job myself.
Though it’s not so easy as it looks on YouTube. The bearing change out was the easy part to tackle, removing the steering knuckle and dealing with a defective bearing that made the job more difficult.
Removing the Knuckle:
I began by starting the driver’s side, long before I had the idea to record and document the process. On this side the halfshaft was frozen in the spindle, and no amount of pounding changed that. I ultimately used a three jaw gear puller to force the spindle out (don’t bother with two jaw pullers, they tend to just twist out and are nearly useless). In short, if you think you need a sledge hammer, reach for a gear puller instead.
Along the same lines ball joints can also be just as difficult to deal with. I had long been told to be weary of pickleforks as they can damage the the boot on a ball joint. So I opted for a Harbor Freight ball joint separator instead. Now, this worked… sort of. The fork on this tool is just a bit too narrow to fit around the ball joint, so I had to file it out with a metal rasp. Not much though, less than an eighth of an inch on each side was enough.
One more thing to watch out for is the top bolt that joins the knuckle to the strut. It looks just like a regular bolt when all put together. But it is cammed and adjusts camber. If you don’t mark it with something like a paint marker, you won’t know the proper orientation when it comes time for reassembly. I missed this detail and needed to take my car in for a front end alignment.
Defective Wheel Bearing:
Ok, so I’m cheap. I bought Duralast bearings. Given my experience, I wouldn’t go that rout again. One side went together fine. The other, however, persistently had play in it. The play in the bearing was only slight, maybe a millimeter at most. But when extended out by the diameter of the wheel, it became noticeable enough to be alarming. And this was after torquing down the axle-nut. The video below illustrates this play.
Against better judgment I tried the “press harder” approach. I ended up just pressing out all five wheel studs at the same time. It was at that moment when I decided the bearing must surely be defective. Sure enough, I bought a National brand bearing and it went back together tight with absolutely no play to speak of.
All in all, I’m probably out the same amount of cash as if I had just taken it into the shop. But I believe the experience is worth it, plus next time I need to press a bearing, I’m already set up to do it.
As an extra bonus here’s a video about how to get wheel suds back in without using a press:
* Central Machinery 20 ton H-Frame Shop Press – http://www.harborfreight.com/automotive-motorcycle/hydraulics/20-ton-shop-press-32879.html
* Pittsburgh 3/4 in. Ball Joint Separator – http://www.harborfreight.com/automotive-motorcycle/steering/3-4-quarter-inch-forged-ball-joint-separator-99849.html
* Pittsburgh Large Bearing Separator – http://www.harborfreight.com/automotive-motorcycle/pullers/large-bearing-separator-3979.html
* Pittsburgh 8 in. Three-Jaw Gear Puller – http://www.harborfreight.com/automotive-motorcycle/pullers/8-in-three-jaw-gear-puller-69224.html
* Pittsburgh 10 Piece Bearing Race and Seal Driver Set – http://www.harborfreight.com/10-piece-bearing-race-and-seal-driver-set-95853.html