Wheel bearings support the vehicle weight and allow the wheels to spin with limited friction. Here’s everything you need to know about diagnosing Tacoma wheel bearing issues and how to fix the problem.
When your bearings start to give you trouble, the first thing you may notice is noise. Any type of rumbling or chirping sound coming from the area around the wheels may indicate a bearing problem. Inspect them immediately because a failed bearing can result in a lost wheel.
Bearing noise will not change when the vehicle speeds up or down, and it is proportional to the speed of the vehicle. You may find it getting louder or changing during a turn. It should not be confused with the sound of a CV joint that makes noise only during a turn.
If you have noisy bearings, you need to remove them, inspect them and clean them. Check them for cracks and look for worn bearing rollers. Replace them if you see any damage an check to be sure that the bearing hub bore is not damaged. It should hold the race snugly — replace it if it does not fit. Additionally, inspect the front spindles for damage and replace if necessary.
Should you have too much play in the bearings, your steering will wander, which can be confused with steering component wear or alignment issues. In order to check the bearing, grab the tire at the 12 and 6 clock positions and rock it. There should be no play at all in most front wheel drive cars. Rear wheel drive cars may have 0.010-inch play. Rotate the tire and listen for noise or rough sounds coming from the bearing.
If you do find that you need to replace one set of bearings, be sure and check all the other bearings. With a vehicle with a sealed bearing, if you find play in it, you need to replace it. If you can adjust the bearings, then you may only need to adjust it. Do not adjust it if you have not removed, inspected and cleaned it. Bearings are not normally loose, so it could be wear or broken parts.
If you have ABS brakes, then the warning light may come on if there is a loss of signal or bad reading to the speed sensor. Sealed hubs must be completely replaced.
Preventative Maintenance and Service for Wheel Bearings
Any bearing that is not factory sealed will need maintenance to keep it operating. Your Tacoma owner’s manual may give you a maintenance schedule for the bearings. If it does not, you should take them apart, clean and inspect them every 30,000 miles. If they have been in the water or you tow a boat, then do it annually.
You can take the bearings out and clean all the old grease off them. Inspect them for problems before you repack them. Do not dry them with an air gun or spin drying; just use a lint free towel. Cotton can leave fibers that will contaminate the bearings.
Be sure to use a high temperature and quality grease like #2 NLGI lithium-based grease. Use three large tablespoons of grease. Do not use too much because you want there to be room for expansion.
Installing the Bearings
Once you have your bearings packed, be sure to use new grease seals. The old ones can be damaged upon removal, so do not reuse them. Adjust the bearings, but be careful not to over tighten the tapered roller bearings. Rear wheel cars never have preloaded front tapered roller bearings.
They have no more that 15 to 20 ft. lbs. torque when rotating. Loosen the adjustment nut 1/6 to ¼ a turn. Then use a new cotter pin to lock it in place. If you have a hub nut with no cotter pin, then you should get one. The end play is going to be between .001 to .005 inches. Refer to your owner’s manual for the proper adjustment.
A front wheel drive car that has an adjustable tapered roller rear wheel bearing will normally come with zero preload.
Passenger Car Setting for Non-Driven Wheel
A popular method for mounting and adjusting tapered single roller bearings uses a setting with hex nut, cotter pin, bottle cap stamping and threaded shaft. Tighten the nut as you turn the hub and feel for a slight bind. That means they are seated. Back off the nut 1/6 to ¼ turn or enough for end play between .001 and .007 of an inch. Put the stamping over the nut and insert the cotter pin.
Independent Suspension Rear Axles
On wheels with a full floating rear axle, it is common to use tongue washers, out jam or lock nuts and hardened surface nuts. Tighten the nut as you turn the hub, and it is seated when you feel the bind. Back off 1/6 to ¼ of a turn to allow for end play of .001 to .007 of an inch. Tighten the jam nut so the thread clearance is removed. This prevents it from backing off.
How to Replace Sealed Bearings
- With the wheel on the ground, loosen the axle hub nut using a breaker bar and an extension handle.
- Lift the vehicle and take the wheel off.
- Take the caliper off the knuckle and take off the rotor.
- Take off the axle hub nut.
- Unbolt the hub/bearing assembly. Pop it free with a slide hammer between the knuckle and flange if it is rusted in place.
- Inspect and clean all the surfaces before putting your new bearing back on. Look for nicks or damage.
Do not reuse the hub nut if your vehicle uses a prevailing torque hub nut. Put a new one on and torque to the specifications.
How to Replace Press Fit Bearings
These bearings are more of a challenge, and you may need a hydraulic ram or wheel bearing tool. The wheel bearing tool allows you to get the bearings off without removing the knuckle.
- With the wheel on the ground, get the hub nut loose.
- Lift the vehicle and remove the wheel.
- Take the hub nut off and throw it away. You need a new one for installation.
- Take the brake caliper off the knuckle.
- Use the hub puller to take the rotor off if you have a captured variety.
- Should you need to remove the knuckle, make a mark to indicate where the cam bolts go on the struts to keep the wheels aligned. Take the lower ball joint and tie rod ends off the knuckle. Take the knuckle off and press the old bearings out. You may need to use the hydraulic ram to do this. Make notes of any shims or spacers and measure the specified clearances. Clean and inspect the knuckle cavity. Put in new grease seals, bearings and shims or spacers.
If you use the bearing hub tool, then make sure that you put all the shims, spacers or flingers in the right position with the right clearance when you put the new bearings in.
Rear Axle Bearings RWD
The bearings on the rear wheels are normally press-fit bearing. The axle needs to be pulled in order to replace these bearings. Use new oil seals to keep oil from leaking onto the brake linings. Check the differential oil level and top it off if needed.
Do not use oil, anti-seize, lubricants or grease when tightening lug nuts. This can cause a reduction in friction and the application of too much torque. Always use a torque wrench to finish tightening the lugs and use the proper specifications. This will prevent the wheel from coming loose, the distortion of brake rotors and broken studs. All torque specifications are for dry and clean lug nuts and studs. Use a wire brush to clean wheel studs before you put your wheels back on. Replace rusted lug nuts or damaged studs.
Always use genuine Toyota parts when replacing your wheel bearings or related components. If you cannot identify the issue through this guide, please consult an certified Toyota mechanic who can offer further diagnostic and repair advice.