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Front Hub Bearings

Gil’s Garage

Gil Baumgartner
CTCI Authenticity Chairman

I recently repaired a 57 Thunderbird that had bearing failure on one of the front hub outer bearings. The failure was more than likely caused by over tightening the front hub to spindle nut. I have attached a picture of the outer bearing that welded itself to the front spindle. The hub could not be removed from the spindle even after heating the bearing glowing hot and using a pneumatic chisel. It was necessary to remove the hub and spindle as one unit from the car and with the help of a torch and a hydraulic press the spindle could be pressed through the hub. The brake drum could then be removed. It was necessary to replace the spindle, hub, bearing races and bearings.

The original service requirement for front wheel bearings was that at every 10,000 miles repack with wheel bearing grease. These intervals should also be adhered to today. When servicing these bearings they should be removed cleaned and inspected for wear before repacking with the proper wheel bearing grease. They should be packed by hand or use a bearing packing tool (pictured) and grease gun with wheel bearing grease, forcing grease through the bearing rollers until it exits the other side. Grease should also be applied to the exterior portion of the rollers and the bearing race before installing in the hub. The larger inner bearings requires a seal installed on each front drum to prevent the possibility of lubricant leaking into the brake drums. The shop manuals have detailed instructions on how to properly adjust the wheel bearings. In the 1955 shop manual instructions can be found in Section 9 page 289. “Tighten the wheel bearing adjustment nut while rotating the wheel back and forth, until a slight drag is felt. This will assure the proper seating of the bearings in the bearing cups. Back off the adjusting nut until the nearest slot in the nut is aligned with the cotter pin hole in the spindle (about 1/6 to 1/4 turns). Lock the adjusting nut in this position with a new cotter pin. When the wheel bearings are properly adjusted the wheel will rotate freely with no perceptible end play”. The instructions are the same for all three years.

Gil Baumgartner

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