If the wheel hub and bearing will not loosen after removing the tire, axle nut, and all the lug nuts, there are a few methods you can follow to remove it. In this article and video our mechanics reveal some different techniques you can use to loosen and remove a stuck wheel bearing and wheel hub assembly.
Why Is the Wheel Bearing and Hub Assembly Stuck in the Knuckle?
Normally wheel hubs aren’t difficult to remove. If the wheel hub and wheel knuckle are made of different metals, the wheel hub can corrode and jam inside. In this example the wheel hub is made of steel and the wheel knuckle is made of aluminum. This combination created corrosion and sealed the parts together, making it difficult to remove.
This article reviews an extreme case where the wheel hub would not remove after applying some tried and true methods.
10 Ways to Loosen a Stuck Wheel Bearing and Hub Assembly
Below are 10 ways you can loosen a stuck wheel bearing. We recommend following these steps in order, as some methods are only useful depending on how stuck the wheel bearing is.
1. Tap the Back of the Wheel Hub with a Hammer
You can hit the back of the wheel hub with a hammer to loosen it and pull it off. If that does not loosen it, there are some other techniques you can use to remove a stuck wheel hub.
2. Remove the Wheel Hub with a Slide Hammer
A slide hammer may also remove the wheel hub. Tighten a few lug nuts to secure the hammer and pull it to loosen the wheel hub.
We use a slide hammer to remove the hub in the video below.
3. Thread a Bolt to the Backside of the Hub and Hammer It with an Air Hammer or Hammer and Punch
If that doesn’t work, soak the wheel hub with rust penetrant and let it sit for an extended period of time. Thread one of the old bolts to the backside of the hub and hammer it with an air hammer or a sledge hammer and a punch.
4. Cut Off a Lug Nut Stud and Tighten a Bolt to the Hub; Tighten Exhaust Expanders to the Hub If the Knuckle Is Made of Steel, and Tap the Wheel Hub with a Hammer
One Method for Removing a Stuck Wheel Hub and Bearing
- Remove a Lug Nut Stud
Slice off a lug nut stud with a cut-off wheel. Hammer the remainder of the stud out through the wheel hub.
- Loosen the Dust Shield
Remove the bolts and loosen the dust shield to access the backside of the wheel knuckle.
- Tighten Exhaust Expanders to Loosen the Wheel Hub If the Knuckle is Made of Steel
If the knuckle is made of steel, tightening exhaust spreaders may allow you to get between the knuckle and hub to force the hub out.
- Tighten a Nut and Bolt to the Empty Wheel Hub Stud Slot If the Knuckle Is Made of Different Material
If the knuckle is made of different material from steel like aluminum, you can tighten a bolt and nut through the empty wheel stud hole, which will act as a puller and should push the hub out as you tighten the bolt. Before tightening the puller bolt, place a spacer like a nut between the nut and the wheel knuckle to prevent any damage to the knuckle. Place a wrench on the nut and tighten the puller bolt to loosen the hub.
- If Step 4 Does Not Work, Repeat the Same Method After Soaking the Hub with Rust Penetrant for 20 Minutes and Hammer the Hub Off If Needed
If step 4 does not work, apply pressure to the bolt and soak the hub with rust penetrant for about 20 minutes. After the bolt is soaked in rust penetrant, try loosening it again with the same method. With the bolt still tight, tap the edge of the wheel hub with a sledge hammer to loosen it.
Tip: If replacing the rotors at the same time, bolt an old rotor on the wheel hub backwards. The rotor will provide more space to hit to loosen the wheel hub.
5. Remove Another Lug Nut Stud and Repeat Method 4
If the steps above don’t loosen the stuck wheel hub assembly, find a section of good surface area on the wheel knuckle for tapping a hammer and cut off a stud on the wheel hub on the opposite side.
Tighten a second bolt and try to loosen the hub with the steps from method 4. Soak the wheel hub with rust penetrant and tap the side of the wheel hub with a sledge hammer.
6. Tighten the Bolt on the Backside of the Hub with Pressure from the Two Puller Bolts
With pressure applied by the two puller bolts being tightened on the front side of the wheel hub, tighten another bolt to the back side to push the stuck wheel hub out. If this does not loosen it, try tightening the puller bolts from the front side again.
7. Chisel the Ears on the Hub Body
With pressure applied from the puller bolts, chisel the ears on the hub body with an air chisel. This may help spin the wheel hub body and loosen some corrosion. Tap the side of the wheel hub with a hammer to loosen any corrosion.
8. Heat the Mating Area with a Torch and Tighten the Puller Bolts
If the above methods don’t work, heat the mating area on the wheel hub up with a torch without heating up the other parts too much like the knuckle or axle. Then tighten the puller bolts to the wheel hub to apply pressure and loosen it, and try tapping the side of the hub again with a hammer.
9. Remove the Wheel Hub with a Wheel Bearing Puller Tool or Pipe Wrench and Hammer
A wheel bearing puller tool attaches to the lug nut studs and can loosen the knuckle. If you do not have access to this tool, you can improvise by attaching a long pipe wrench to the top of the wheel hub and hitting it with a hammer to break it free.
Before trying this, you may need to lower the vehicle down to a floor jack to keep the energy from transferring through the coil spring on the front strut and through the body of the vehicle.
10. Remove the Wheel Knuckle and Push the Wheel Hub Assembly Out with a Press or Hammer
If the above methods don’t work, an absolute last resort is to support the suspension and remove the entire wheel knuckle. Then bring the entire assembly over to a press and push the wheel hub assembly out, or remove the wheel hub with a hammer or air hammer.
Removing the Hub Assembly with a Hammer
Spray the hub on the knuckle with rust penetrant and tap it out from the backside by hitting the wheel bearing.
Removing the Hub Assembly with a Press
Remove the backing plate by bending it off or cutting it off. Place the knuckle in a press and apply pressure to the backside and let the press break the stuck wheel bearing free.
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