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Hubs Inspection, Maintenance & Overhaul

A Step By Step Guide

Introduction

OK, why would you want to do this? Strange speed dependant whining noises, or anomalous wandering can point to a worn or out of adjustment bearing. Brakes pulling to one side, and fluid all over the brakes could point to a hub seal.

If you have to renew a brake disk, then you will also have to strip the hub to remove it, so this is a preliminary to that task, and you may want to combine the two. See new article 'Take a Brake!'.

So, there are a number of bits in there we might want to have a look at, so lets go see, shall we?

And, the procedure is pretty much the same, whether you are tackling a front or rear hub, but there are a couple of detail differences, because in the front there is a short 1/4 shaft going into the swivel instead of a full half shaft.

So, to try and keep the article reasonably compact, I'm going to detail the process of stripping and rebuilding the rear hub, because it's the more straight forward, then look at the differences when you come to do the fronts.

Part 1 - Rear Hubs

The procedure is essentially the same for either a front or rear hub, only the fronts, being mounted on the steering swivel have a 'split' half shaft (debate rages as to whether they should be called 'quarter-shafts!), with a flex-joint in them. This means that you cant 'pull' a front half shaft 'whole' you have to strip the hub off, then remove the stub-axle to remove it.

As it's a little more straight forward, I'm going to explain the process for the rear hubs first, then look at where you need to do anything a bit different for the front, so if you want to skip straight to the front hubs you can, but you will be bounced back to the rlevent bits of the rear hub procedure!

Step 1 - Jack the Wheel

First of all, loosen the wheel nuts, jack the axle, and remove the road wheel.

Note here that the wheel nuts and the drive flange are all nicely covered in coppa-grease. Whoever worked on this before, must have been a kind mechanic. Oh yes, he was. That's right, it was me!

Seriously, I say this a lot but removing the wheels on a spare Sunday afternoon, before you give it its monthly wash, and coppa-greasing the nuts and flange, and then putting it back together with the wheel nuts tightened by hand with the standard wheel brace is well worth the effort.

It means that when you come to do a job like this, you don't have to waste half your time, and skin your knuckles before you even get into the job proper, and should you end up stranded with a flat down some lonely lane in the middle of no-where, you'll know that you can fix a flat with the minimum of hassle.

You REALLY don't want to find out that the nuts have been done up to 160ft-lb and you cant undo them with the wheel brace, or that they have corroded solid, or that the wheel has corroded onto the drive flange, on a cold wet hard shoulder in the dark of a winter rush hour.

Any way, the wheel is off. In this case nice and easily. So get it on an axle stand, and chock the front wheels before you do anything else, and the whole lot falls on you.

Step 2 - Withdraw the half-shaft

Next task is to remove the half shaft. (This step IS NOT DONE for a front hub. If doing a Front, See, below, Alternative Step 2 'Removing Drive Flange' )

See the six bolt holes on the end of the hub, highlighted in yellow circles? In this picture they are marked with coppa-grease. (That mechanic must have been in here before, again!) Right, those contain six bolts that you need to remove.

The end of the half shaft is now free, but the chances are that it will be a bit stuck to the flange. Give it a tap with the rubber mallet to free it off. Don't try wack it with a lump hammer, be gentle.

If it is a bit stubborn, you should be able to break the suction by putting the hand brake on and engaging diff-lock to lock the transmission.  End of the half shaft will still be in the diff, so it wont turn. The hub on the other hand, once all the half shaft bolts have been removed will be free to turn on the stub axle, so if you turn it, it should give relative motion between the two bits you want to separate. You might need to put the wheel on or use a bit of wood on the wheel studs to get leverage to twist the hub, and it might not get the two to come apart, but if you waggle and tap for long enough, you should get them apart.

Which should allow you to draw the shaft carefully out of the diff and the axle tube.

Helpful hint here, it SHOULD have a nice swaged end with splines on. In this case ten splines. If it hasn't................... then that end of the shaft is still stuck in the diff.

Picture shows a good half shaft, top, and a broken one, bottom. Note the distortion on the end of the broken shaft, arrowed.

If yours comes out whole, inspect it carefully in this area for any signs of stress or distortion on the actual splines, and the area of shaft just before the splines.

'Crazing' or hairline stress patterns in the skin of the steel indicate where the shaft has been stressed, and is likely to fail if stressed further. If in doubt, have thee shaft professionally inspected, and / or renew it.

If yours doesn't come out whole, well, some people are smart and dextrous enough to get the stub-ends of half shaft out of the diff without resorting to stripping the entire axle. Unfortunately, I'm not one of those people, so you'll have to find another web-site to find out how to solve that one, or get the axle off and start unbolting stuff, I'm afraid!

Stage 3 - Remove Brake Calliper

You may want to see the new article  'Take a Brake!', concerning overhauling the brakes, because this operations is covered in better detail

Basically, though the calliper can be unbolted from the axle, with two bolts, and if you are careful, you need NOT disconnect the brake lines.

NOTE: Calliper bolts are BEHIND the hub They are the ones highlighted in the yellow circles, that have sockets on them, so you can see where they are more clearly under all of the dirt!

I say this because there are some bolt heads on the front of the calliper, but if you undo these you could be in real trouble - they hold the two halves of the calliper together, and they are NOT supposed to be 'user serviceable'. (Again, fuller explanation in 'Take a Brake!')

OK, now, the calliper is pretty heavy, and its attached to the braking system by solid metal pipe.

If you are NOT removing the calliper for overhaul, if you are careful, you should be able to lift the calliper clear without stressing or fracturing the brake pipe or undoing the union..

This would be good, as it saves having to bleed the system through afterwards, so do it carefully, and check that there is plenty of 'free' pipe that isn't held by hose clips or cable ties or anything.

Then, to keep the calliper out of harms way, and so as to stop it stressing the pipe, hang it up close to where it should sit, but behind the hub, so you can work from the front without disturbing it. In the picture I have used a length of copper wire, but welding wire or string, provided its strong enough should suffice.

I think I've wrapped it to one of the upper coils of the spring to be honest, but whatever you attach it to, just make sure that it is strong enough and secure enough first.

If you are in ANY doubt, or worried about damaging the line, see  'Take a Brake!', and remove the calliper entiurely. It will just mean that you have to bleed th brakes through after you re-fit it, which is also covered in the article

Step 5 - Free Lock-Nut

Back round the front. The wheel hub is held on the stub axle with two big hub nuts and a lock washer. They shouldn't be overly tight, as they pre-load the bearing.

Tip for folding back the tab washer, without doing too much damage. I DO NOT recommend, using screwdrivers as a chisel, but in this case, its a big screwdriver and you don't put much force on it, but you need something sharp enough to get under the washer to lift it away from the nut, so its OK if you are CAREFUL.

Once you have the edge lifted though, you want to fold it back as flat as possible without tearing or twisting it. Most people use a hammer and end up twisting it, or a pair of pliers and end up tearing it, but if you put the flat edge of a tyre lever against it and tap with a hammer, you can apply force across the whole width of the washer and flatten it off without putting any undue strain on it.

Step 6 - Undoing Lock Nuts

 

With the tab washer released, you can undo the lock nut. Its pretty big. I can't remember off the top of my head, I think its about 1 3/4" or something like that. It's not the sort of size socket you find in a typical socket set!

However, most of the Landy specialists stock hub spanners like this one, and they are only about a fiver or something. This one is the plain 'box' spanner, made from drawn steel tube, driven by a 'tommy bar', in the picture I'm using an old jacking handle. More expensive cast versions are available driven of a standard 1/2" socket drive, but really they are just a convenience and unless you expect to do a lot of hubs, the box spanner is fine.

Once the outer lock nut is removed, you can remove both that and the tab washer, which will allow you to get at the main hub nut behind, that actually puts the load on the bearings. Its the same size, and the box spanner will fit that too, though it may be a bit tighter.

But take note, neither should be much over hand tight. Bearings are taper rollers and take side thrust as well as axial. The hub nuts are what put the side thrust on the bearings, and if they are done up too tight, then the bearings will be over loaded. If they are done up too loose, then they will leave too much play in the bearing, and it can let the hub 'wobble'.

With both nuts removed, the last thing to do is remove the spacer from between the hub nut and outer bearing, which should leave the hub free to be slid off the stub axle.

Step 7 - Pulling the Hub

Now, with the hub nuts undone and out the way, there shouldn't be much holding the hub on. The outer race of the hub bearings is about the only thing that is against you, but that should be a sliding fit on the stub axle and slide out with the hub.

I say SHOULD. If you are lucky, it will, and you can literally just grip the hub and pull and the hub and bearing will slide off. If not, then you may need to resort to using a puller, as shown in the picture left.

This may give you a problem as the stub axle is hollow to accommodate the half shaft, which means that there is nothing for the screw of the puller to bear against. As shown, I used a tyre lever over the end of the stub axle to give the puller something to bear on, though you could use any manner of things to bridge the hole

Just don't be too enthusiastic, and remember that the outer bearing race is still in the hub.  You should feel it 'give' as the bearings ease off their seating, and the outer one will 'drop' onto the slightly narrower threaded section of the stub axle, and the hub will probably tilt a little. As it does, stop drawing the hub and fish the outer bearing race out of the way.

If you are doing a front hub, see Additional for Step 7 - 'Using puller to remove front hub', the half shaft will still be protruding from the centre of the stub axle. DO NOT use a hub-puller against it! or you risk damaging the CV joint inside the swivel.

Step 8 - Pulling the Inner Bearing

Sometimes, if the hub seal is tighter in the hub than the inner baring is on the stub axle, the inner race will come off with the hub, but usually, the bearing race stays on the stub axle, and pulls the hub seal out of the hub as the hub's removed.

 

Like the outer race, the inner bearing SHOULD just slide off the stub axle, but chances are it will need a bit of persuasion. If the bearing is to be replaced, then you can afford to be a bit brutal here. Other wise, care needs to be taken not to damage the cage around the rollers on the inner race, other wise the bearing will all fall apart. If it hasn't already!

 

With the race removed, then the hub seal can be taken off, and the whole assembly, which if the seal has failed, will probably be covered in horrible gloop, can be cleaned up.

If you look carefully, you'll notice that the stub axle has some pretty heavy grinder marks on it. Reason for that is that this bearing has previously collapsed, and all that was found in here last time it was opened was some shards of mangled metal - nothing that looked much like a bearing, and a lot of them were actually welded to the stub axle through frictional heat and pressure!

Now, it was one of those 'judgement calls', but the bearings run on their own races, they don't bear on the stub axle or hub, so I took the chance that I could grind and dress the stub axle back to get the old bearing off, without it having any significant impact on the integrity of the hub, once new bearings were fitted and tightened up.

Unfortunately, it seems that the stub axle was beyond such a repair and the hub seal failed about 2000 miles later.

It seems that while the bearings have been fine, the surface that the hub seal runs on had been peened when the old bearing collapsed, and while I dressed it as well as I could, the surface was still abrasive enough to wear down the new seal at an alarming rate.  So, in this case, the stub axle is to be removed and replaced after all.

In most cases, provided the bearing hasn't collapsed, there should be little reason to remove the rear stub-axles, unless the whole axle is being stripped, or there is the risk of debris in the axle tube, because the half-shaft has snapped or the differential has collapsed or stripped teeth!

Step 9 - Removing the Stub Axle

 

The six bolts around the flange, need undoing, and the compound washer removed. Stub axle will now only be held by the adhesion of the old gasket, and a good tug should see it come off. Don't be tempted to hammer it side ways, there is a stepped seat behind the flange into the axle case (Yellow arrow in third pic), and if you bend it you can stress the axle case and possibly damage the seat.

If the stub is a bit stubborn, tap the flange NOT the stub-tube, with a hammer to loosen it off, and tap lightly all the way around the flange, not just at the top.

If you are doing a front hub, see Additional for Step 9 & 12 - Removing / Re-Fitting Front Stub Axle & Half Shaft, the half shaft will still be inside the the stub axle, which needs to be removed carefully over the top of it, and which will allow removal of the half-shaft and CV Joint.

Once off, you are left with a mess of gasket to remove.

 

Work shop basics will have a feature devoted to getting good gasket joints, and these pictures will probably be in it, but until I get round to it, getting a decent gasket seal is all to do with getting good clean joint faces, and that means getting all the old gasket material off thoroughly and completely, without cutting, scoring or otherwise damaging the metal underneath.

Its tempting to put a rotary wire brush on these faces, but don't - it wears away the paper of the old gasket, but at the same time wears away the metal underneath, leaving score marks and hollows - it might look like a good job, but it rarely is.

Old fashioned way has always proved best for me, using a carpenters chisel and scraping. Some people use Stanley knife blades and scrapers that use those blades. Personally I've always found that while they do get under the old paper pretty well, the blades are too broad and too bendy and the corners tend to dig in. Chisel wins every time, blunt or sharp depending on what I'm scraping. In this case flat steel, so I put it on the grinder and got it good and sharp.

Just to give you an idea, took me three minutes to sharpen the chisel, and five to go from the first picture to the second - it isn't worth trying to find a supposedly 'easier' way to do it.

Step 10 - Removing Inner Bearing Races

The inner baring races sit in rebates inside the hub. You can inspect them without taking them out, and unless you are renewing the bearings, leave them in place. If you are renewing the bearings, these need to be drifted out and replaced.

Picture shows me drifting out the outer, outer race with hammer and flat taper drift. There are two or three grooves, inside the hub that you can run the drift in as a guide to tap it out from against the step it seats against. I couldn't get in close enough to photograph them, though.

Trick is to tap lightly, on opposite sides to get the race clear of the step, and come out square. Then when you have a gap, you can work round more of the ring, away from the guide grooves. They usually come out reasonably easily, as long as you don't give them too hard a smack, and get them to tilt and jam in their seating!

When you have the outer, outer race removed, you can turn the hub over, and tap the inner, outer race out from the other side.

Putting it All Back Together Again, is pretty much, as the adage, the reverse of removal, but there are a few points worth mentioning, so lets go through it.

Step 11 - Fitting Bearings & Seal

 

 

 


Fitting the new outer races, either end of the hub, is, as the adage goes, the reverse of removal, only you are tapping lightly from the outside.

A few worthy mentions, though.

First is, that if the hub seal had 'gone' chances are hub grease has wept past it and is likely to have contaminated the disks. The disks are cast iron, which is pours, which means that any oil or grease that gets on them will soak in.

If you try and remove that grease with a solvent, that too will soak in, and chances are, you will never get it back out again!

New disks, though are NOT that expensive, and it may be worth-while, if you are stripping the hub off, to do the disks while you are at it. See forth-coming feature 'Take a Brake!'

If you are renewing the brake disk, then really you want to remove the old disk and fit the new one, before fitting the new bearing races to the hub.

Other mention is that the hub seal goes on the outside of the inside hearing, so before trying to re-fit the hub, you need to drop the inner race into the baring, as shown, liberally packed in grease, and then press the hub seal over the top.

The 'loose' inner bearing race will probably wobble around a bit, but don't worry, it wont go far. But you do need to be a bit careful as you try and hang the hub back on the stub axle. Once on, though, and the baring fitted in the other end, the bearing nut will pull the two together, into the inner races and hold everything together.

Step 12 - Fitting 'New' Stub Axle

 

First job, grease the new gasket. Wipe a smear on both sides. This softens and straightens the paper and gives you some thing to get it to adhere to the flange face.

Now, A lot of you may use hylomar or some other gloop, but at the end of the day, old fasioned grease works well, and conditions the paper ready for making a seal, by absorbing and swelling whatever fluid its intended to hold at bay. If you use something like hylomar, that actually acts as a barrier stopping the fluids soaking into the paper and making it seal properly.

Grease works, look. Paper gasket is all curly and awkward in the first picture, grease it and its gone soft and pliable and stuck to the flange nicely, ready to put the stub axle on to.

(If you are doing a front hub, see Additional for Step 9 & 12 - Removing / Re-Fitting Front Stub Axle & Half Shaft, the the half-shaft and CV Joint need to be re-fitted before the stub axle if re-fitted to the swivel.)

I've put 'new' in inverted commas, because in this case the new stub axle is actually second hand. A 'New' stub axle is about 150 from the usual sources, which is a bit exorbitant, so blatant plug I'm afraid, I got a second hand one from Andy at Land Rover Heaven .

 

Locate Stub axle against flange. If it's a bit tight, DON'T hammer it in! You'll likely damage the threads on the end of the stub-tube, if you hit it around there, and a block of wood over the end is likely to end with wood chips in the axle.

If its a bit tight, line it up as square as you can, and put the retention bolts in 'dry', then working round on 'opposites' use them to try and ease the stub into its sating, but DON'T put too much force on the bolts. If it's too tight, and you MUST drive it in, use a rubber mallet and tap it lightly ALL the way around the flange, evenly, so as not to damage the rebate step the stub sits in.

Once seated, remove and clean the bolts, then add a few drops of thread lock to the before fitment. Tighten up in sequence with ratchet, and 'Set' to specified torque with torque wrench. Remember it's a measuring instrument, not a big ratchet!

Step 13 - Re-fitting Hub

 

As prepared in step 1, with the inner baring, and the hub seal in place, the hub can be slid onto the stub-axle. Have the outer baring to hand to slip into the front, once the hubs in place though, and don't let the hub 'hang' loose, or the tilt can dislodge or damage the hub seal or inner bearing. With the inner baring pushed into place though, with some grease 'packing', the hub should turn freely on the axle.

Remember to replace the thick washer, after fitting the outer baring, and then fit the baring nut, and loosely tighten the bearing into place. The Haynes manual, provides the following instruction for setting the play in the hub bearings, or as thy call it, hub end-float:

16 - Refit the keyed washer and inner hub-nut. Tighten the hub nut securely until there is no end float of the hub assembly. Rotate the hub several times to settle the bearings. Back off the hub nut until it is just possible to detect a trace of end float in the hub assembly. If a dial gauge is available, set the end float to between the limits given in the specifications. Rotate the hub and ensure that it turns freely with no harshness.

OK, well, I have never used a dial gauge to set hub baring play, and never seen any-one else use one either! Even in hyper critical race shops, so we'll forget that, shall we?

The way I do it is this; I tighten the nut up finger tight, then spin the hub. That should get the bearings settled a bit. I then wind the nut up a bit at a time, rocking the hub back and forth.

You don't want to put a lot of pressure on the bearings as you are tightening them, or you can put a 'flat' on the rollers, or a dent in the races, and rocking them helps to reduce the chance of that.

When I feel the hub start to go 'tight', as in it takes a bit of effort to rock it, I back the nut off a bit, then spin it, and start again, a sort of gentle way of settling the bearings and getting them to seat. Usually I do that about two or three times.

THEN, I tighten the hub but up, rocking the hub, until I cant move the hub by hand. That is zero float and a quite a bit of pre-load, but, you know that the bearings are seated, and aren't going to relax. So, I then back the nut off, until I can JUST rock it by hand, usually 1/3 to 1/2 a turn. As a rough guide, the hub should turn easily, but with a little resistance.

But, when you are happy with the 'end-float' or bearing play, you can fit the lock washer, and outer lock nut. They are a few pence, and I don't se much point in trying to re-use an old one, though is you really must, you can. But, before re-using one, flatten it off properly in a vice, and or with a hammer on a flat surface, and inspect it carefully before re-use. If the washer is in any way torn, don't use it, if  th 'tang' that seats in the groove in the stub axle tube is bent, twisted or deformed, don't us it, or if the metal is obviously weak, from having been re-used a couple of times before.

Having fitted the lock-washer, I 'nip' it with the outer lock nut, before bending it over the inner nut, to lock it in place. Picture shows my proffered method of making the first bend, using a the chisel end of the back of a small glazing hammer, tapped lightly with a large ball-peen.

Having bent the tang over about 1/3 of the way, I rock the hub, to make sure I haven't upset the pre-load, then hammer it home. BUT, this is where a bit of over enthusiasm can quickly see hammer blows ding the hub, the hub nut, or tear the lock washer.

Having got the top bending in the right direction, I put the flat of my tyre lever over it, and push it as far over as I can by hand, THEN, I use the tyre lever edge on, when I tap it flat against the nut, to spread the impact evenly. Makes a neat and secure job.

But THEN the outer lock nut needs to be nipped up, to lock the inner nut in place, and again, I rock the hub while I tighten it to make sure I don't disturb the pre-load.

With the lock-nut nipped up, the lock washer needs to bee bent out over that to hold it in place. This time you cant hammer from inside, so I use the curled end of my tyre lever against the washer, with the back of the curl against the hub like a pry bar, to get the first bend in it, then the same trick as for the hub nut, using the edge and the hammer to tap it over the nut flat nice and evenly. If you don't have a tyre lever, any wide flat metal implement, like a masonry chisel could be used.

Step 14 - Re-fit Half Shaft

(This step IS NOT DONE for a front hub. See, Below, Alternative Step 14 'Refitting Drive Flange')

Pretty much as it was slid out, you just have to be gently, and ease it into the splines in the differential inside the axle.

But, there is a gasket on the drive flange, and you should have cleaned off all the old gasket material when you prepared the hub, if not do it now!

Likewise on the drive flange. And fit a new gasket.

As previous advice, paper gaskets work well, and are cheap. Just grase it before you fit it to make it a bit more pliable and stick it in place before you do up the bolts.

I have lost count of the number of these I have come across glued back together with RTV Silicon, and had the consequent hassle of fishing all the excess jelly out of the hub!

RTV is NOT helpful, so don't use it. IF you don't have thee correct gasket to hand, make one. You can get gasket paper from most motor factors for a few pence a sheet, and make loads of gaskets out of it.

If you are RALLY desperate, then use thin card-board, thick writing paper or thee ubiquitous 'Corn-Flake' packet! It's FAR better than RTV AND a lot cheaper!

With half shaft in place though, the drive flange bolts can be re-fitted, and torqued up to the correct tightness. You don't NEED to use a thread-locking compound on them, but you can if you preffer.

Step 15 - Refit Brake Calliper

If you have removed the calliper, either for overhaul, or for access, refer to article  'Take a Brake!', which you may want to see for replacing the brake pads, any way.

But it basically bolts back where it came from, with the two bolts on the inside, that need to be done up to the correct torque, which tends to be pretty darn tight!

Pay close attention when you put the calliper back, look carefully at the brake pipes, and make sure that you haven't kinked, stressed or cracked them.

If you are dubious, or have to replace it, see A bit of Flair!, for how to make up new pipes.

And, securely tightened, plumbed and with the pads fitted, that is just about the job all done.

Step 16 - Refit Road Wheel

So, put the wheel back on.

As previously advised, a little copper slip on the wheel nuts and studs, and a little on the hub flange around them, can save them corroding together, and make a wheel change on a dark and windy night a heck of a lot less hassle.

As can doing the nuts up with the standard wheel-brace carried in the car, so that they aren't over tightened.

Before dropping the jack down though, take the hand-brake off (make sure wheels are still chocked), put the transfer box in 'Neutral', and turn the wheel, on the hub by hand, and make sure it turns freely, and also give it a good waggle, and make sure it doesn't move.

Check for the brake binding, or the pads 'snagging', and have a quick check back over everything you have touched.

Do a gentle brake test, and then a short, SLOW test drive listening for clonks bonks or grinding noises, before a more considerate test at road speed for any undue whining noises.

And as ANY operation where you have touched any of the braking components MAKE SURE that the brakes are good and functioning properly!

And that is about it, time to look at what differences there are when it comes to the front hubs!

Part 2 - Front Hubs

As I said in the introduction, the procedure for tackling a front hub is pretty much the same as for the rear, which I've already detailed, but there are a couple of differences. as follows:-

Alternative Step 2 'Removing Drive Flange'

 

Additional for Step 7 - 'Using puller to remove front hub'

 

Additional for Step 9 & 12 - Removing / Re-Fitting Front Stub Axle & Half Shaft

 

Alternative Step 14 'Refitting Drive Flange'

 

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