The most frequent causes for a frozen wheel hub are a lack of grease or lubrication and the introduction of moisture. This typically causes bearing failure, thus causing the hub to lock up. The difficulty of removing a frozen hub depends on how long the hub was without lubricant before it was discovered. Follow the steps below to free and remove the frozen wheel hub.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Jack stands
- Lug wrench
- Slide hammer
- Cutting wheel
Raise the offending tire, and place the vehicle securely on a jack stand. Remove the lug nuts and the tire, and set aside. Remove the bearing dust cap, the cottar pin, and the axle nut and washer. Try to pull the hub straight off the axle. If the hub does not come free, proceed to the next step.
Spray the entire bearing surface, both inner and outer with penetrating oil. Allow to soak and attempt to pull the hub free again. As you pull, try to turn the hub to the left and the right. Often if you can get the hub moving, it will come free. If not, proceed to step 3.
Attach the slide hammer to the hub. Screw the slide hammer into the hub adaptor and secure it with the lug nuts. Using a quick and firm motion, attempt to remove the hub by sliding the hammer towards you rapidly. Typically the hub will come free at this point. If not, proceed to the next step.
Heat up the hub. Without removing the slide hammer, heat up the area around the bearing surface of the hub. Once the area is thoroughly heated, use the slide hammer again, attempting to remove the hub. If the hub still does not come free, spindle replacement may be necessary.
Remove the inner bearing. Even if the hub comes free with the above steps, often the inner bearing will be "welded" to the spindle. It may be necessary to cut off this bearing if it does not come free. Using the cutting wheel, carefully cut through the bearing first on one side, and then the other. You should then be able to pry the bearing free. If in the cutting process you nick the spindle surface, it will need to be replaced, as the grease seal will not seat properly, and bearing failure will occur again. If you cannot remove the inner bearing, replace the spindle, all bearings and the wheel seals.
Tips and warnings
- On trailers, consider using a bearing buddy style grease cap. The bearings can be frequently greased without removing the hub. This will often extend bearing life, and prevent bearing failure and frozen hubs.
- Ensure that the vehicle is secure on a jack stand, and perhaps have an assistant to help steady it, as you will be pounding and pulling quite hard with a slide hammer. If the vehicle falls, serious damage may occur. Also, serious personal injury or death can result.
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