FJ Cruiser Wheel Bearing Replacement

It started out as oil appearing on the inside of rear wheel. Hum, that can’t be good.  Ok, a blown oil seal, that is easy enough and just a couple of bucks for a new seal. After changing the seal out it was much better, but not perfect and in a few days it was clear something wasn’t exactly right. Did I screw up the seal when I put it in?  Is the breather clogged and building up pressure that blows the seal? God I hope it’s not the bearing.

After checking the breather to ensure good air flow and changing the seal one more time for good measure, it was clear we’d need a little professional help and turned to our friends at Auburn Car Repair & Offroad to replace the wheel bearing.

In order to change the rear wheel bearing, you need to pull the axle, apply 20+ tons of pressure to separate the bearing from the axle and than push the new bearing on.  But aside from machinist magic of replacing the bearing, most folks can perform a majority of the work involved.

After getting the axle in the air and removing the wheel, start by unplugging the the ABS sensor wire.  Remove the bolts that hold the disk brakes housing and carefully set it aside.  Tip: if you cut the top of the clip holding the brake hose in place you can slide the hose out without disconnecting it from the hardline and avoid having to bleed the brakes later.

Pulling the brake disk (rotor) may take a few soft raps with a plastic mallet to loosen rust’s grip in order to slide if off.    With the disk removed the parking brake is exposed.  There are springs top and bottom that hold everything together.  The top springs are under a good deal to tension and will require work to lift them off of the stud.  Once the springs are released, the shoe hold down springs can be removed along with the brake shoes and other parts.  The best advice here, slow down, take your time and ensure you keep track of all the parts.

The parking brake cable needs to be removed before the #1 shoe can be completely removed.

Remove are four nuts holding the axle (the wheel bearing housing actually) to the axle housing.  Grab a shop rag and slide the axle straight out from the housing.

Remove the axle seal and drape a shop towel over the opening to keep the dust out.  If you’re simply replacing a blown seal, you can jump to the re-install.

The ABS sensor is attached to the wheel bearing housing.  A small bolt holds it in place and needs to be removed before you proceed.

This is where the magic happens.  If you don’t have a 40 ton hydraulic press in your garage you’re going to need to head down to a machine shop / auto shop for a little love.  The machinist will remove the retaining clip, set up the axle in their hydraulic  press, and pull the wheel bearing housing off of the axle.  She will then set up the new wheel bearing housing so it can be pushed into place on the axle and replace the retaining clip.  Done.

When you get the axle back, be sure to reinstall your ABS senor.  Add a little grease to the outside of your new axle seal and tap it into place.  This is also the time to replace the O-ring.

Carefully slide the axle into the housing.  Avoid banging against the seal.  You may need to turn the axle a little in order for the splines to line up and fully slide into the housing.  Tighten up the nuts that hold the axle to the housing.

The tricky part for me was reassembling the parking brakes.  Although the guys at Auburn Care Repair & Offroad completed it in a few minutes, it took me about 30 minutes to get the parking brake shoes back in place when I replaced the seal the first  and second time.  Install the #1 shoe first, reattach the parking brake cable, then install the #2 shoe.  It is not all that complicated but there is limited room to work the parts into place and the springs take a little muscle so take your time and use the diagrams here to help.

After the parking brake shoes and brake cable are complete it is time to adjust the shoes so they will hold tight when the parking brake is engaged.  Make small adjustments, put the brake disk in place and feel the rotation against the shoes.  Once you feel the shoe begin to rub, back it off a bit so the disk rotates freely but quickly grabs the drum when the parking brake is engaged.

Put your disk brake housing back on (if you disconnected the break hardline you’ll need to bleed the brakes).  Connect the ABS cable to the ABS sensor.  Mount your wheel and your set.

No so hard right.  If you want to do this work yourself you’ll need a few parts:

  • Rear Axle Hub and Bearing Assembly
  • Rear Axle Bearing Inner Retainer
  • Rear Axle Shaft Snap Ring
  • Rear Axle Shaft Oil Seal
  • O-Ring

Although you may not be able to perform all the work, you can certainly perform a good portion of the work and let a machine shop do the heavy lifting on your rear wheel bearing replacement.

Bonus: Here are the instructions Toyota has for removing and installing a rear axle on a Toyota FJ Cruiser:

The Road More Traveled

Seattle, Quincy, Portland, Eugene and back.  892 mile loop.  This has been my routine for several weeks in a row .  133 gallons of gas, over 50 of hours behind the wheel, countless suicidal bugs washed off the windshield and an oil change.

Monday finds me leaving Seattle’s busy metropolis along and racing to work in a little patch of farm land in eastern Washington known as Quincy.  Posted 70 MPH,  I90 is one of those interstates where you can set the cruise control somewhere above the speed limit and go. I pass through dense Ceders and Douglas Fur climbing up to the Snoqualmie Pass that divides the state into east and west.  Descending from the 3,022 feet crack in the Cascade mountains, the thick rain forest gives way to stately Ponderosa Pines, eventually thinning out into groves of windmills towering a hundred feet over the scrub and sage brush.   Olfactory senses that once enjoyed a hint of cool pine are now accosted by hot dusty dung.  The smell of money to ranch owners everywhere in eastern Washington.  The land becomes flatter and flatter until you can see for miles in any directions.

Temperatures race to the high 90s quickly with the summer sun filling a cloudless blue sky.  The warm air lingers as the sun leaves and a lavender moon dominates the dark night.  The little town of Quincy shuts down by 10:00pm with only one yellow blinking traffic light to remind you, you’re still in town.

By Friday the week’s work is done and it’s time to aim the car south for Portland (that’s Oregon, not Maine).  The old state highway cuts through Washington’s cattle country, orchards and endless fruit stands. This is a much more relaxed journey.  Seldom used gravel roads shoot off the highway every mile or two leading into the country side.  The hills offer endless opportunities to explore if you choose to take any of the gravel spurs.  The highway twists, turns and climbs the Cascades but the parade of RVs and trailers in front is going to keep it under 50 mph.  There is little reason to rush.

Rest stops are the modern equivalent of desert watering holes.  Scattered along a ribbon of pavement, rest stops offer views of geological wonders, picnic areas, a place to stretch your legs and the opportunity to relieve yourself of the 64oz gas station coffee concoction you grabbed an hour earlier.

While concrete and steel has replaced camels and sand, the modern day desert oasis remains a gathering place for travelers.   Some folks are hurriedly driving from one place to the next.  Others are slowly traveling across country taking in all the sights and sounds the country has to offer.   And on any  giving Saturday in fall you will find cars decked out in college colors and banners as travelers race to college campuses around the country to support their favorite NCAA gridiron team.

Dropping into Oregon I follow the Columbia River west down the gorge.  The Dalles, Bonneville Locks, Multnomah Falls, Rooster Rock, the list of amazing sights goes on as the sun drops low on the horizon.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. 24×7, the Original Hotcake House serves some of the best breakfasts and burgers anywhere.  My mom would have referred to this as a greasy spoon…  I call it chicken-fried-sausage-gravy-chedder-hash-brown love. This will kill you; but what a way to go…  The eggs are healthy, right??!!

Anyone who know me, knows Oregon Duck football is a big deal. This brings us to the Eugene portion of the loop. There is something special about being at a college football game.  Tailgating, rowdy student sections, ESPN trucks sending live broadcasts into the heavens, general fan mayhem and a chance to reconnect with with friends every fall makes the stand still traffic on I5 bearable.

If the calendar says  Sunday it must be laundry night.  This is after heading back up the I5 corridor to Seattle.  Tonight  my head will rest for the first time in seven days on my own pillow with all the familiar sounds of home.  Monday starts it all over.

For anyone who loves the open road, this is the golden triangle.  Dense forests, mountain passes, high plains desert, wide open gorge, beautiful sunsets  and college football.  Every time there is something different with new people to meet on the road that is more traveled.