How to Replace a Bearing on a Ford Explorer (1995 and 2004)
Emmett Ientilucci (send comments / suggestions to: e m m e t t @ c i s . r i t . e d u )
Some signs you need a new bearing
Loud screeching noise (people taking notice as you drive by) coming from the front tire area in addition to a grinding noise. You can also check the bearing by first, lifting the front tire off the ground. Facing the tire, grab it at 3 and 9 o'clock, then move the entire tire in and out by pressing in at the 3 o'clock position and pulling out at the 9 o'clock position, simultaneously. If there is a lot of play when doing this, chances are the bearing is hosed.
- Can of PB blaster to loosen the bolts
- 1/2 in drive breaker bar (or called a flex head handle)
- 32 mm hub socket (for 1995 Explorer with ABS, 30 mm for my 2004) (you can rent this from Autozone)
- Bungee cord or piece of rope
- 3/8 and 1/2 drive socket sets (english/metric)
- 1/2 in-to-3/8-in drive converter (or called an adapter). A universal will also do
- Slide hammer (you can rent this from Autozone)
- 1/2 drive torque wrench (you can rent this from Autozone)
Estimated Time: 3hrs (Most of the time is spent getting the rusted 14 mm (15 mm on 2004 Explorer) bolts loose)
Before starting the job, spray all bolts with PB blaster to help loosen them.
Before elevating the truck, you need to loosen the hub nut so you can remove it with your fingers (32 mm on 1995 and 30 mm on 2004) and the lug nuts (19 mm). At the end, when putting it all back together, be sure the Nut is tight before applying the truck 'load' to the bearing (i.e., when lowering the truck down from the jack stand). It is best to do this with a 1/2 inch breaker bar. Then lift the truck and pull off the tire.
You now need to remove the brake assembly. There are two short bolts behind the caliper. Remove these and pull the caliper off.
The caliper comes off best when the rotor is flush with the bearing hub assembly. You can force the rotor to be flush by using one of the 19 mm lug nuts (as seen in pic). Tighten the lug nut on the stud opposite the caliper. This will keep the rotor in one place. Once the caliper is off, you should suspend it to the frame someplace with a bungee cord. Do not suspend it by the pressurized brake line.
The shoes simply pull out from the caliper support frame. Then you need to remove the caliper support frame. This is attached via 2-14 mm bolts (that are usually rusted pretty good). Once the caliper support has been removed, the rotor simply slides out. Also, it might be a good idea to remove the "rotor shield" (if you have one) on the right side of the hub assembly. Once the rotor is off, the bolts for the shield are exposed. The shield is held in place by three small bolts. A 1/4 inch drive and metric socket can easily remove these.
Now it's time to remove the 3-14 mm bolts (3-15 mm on 2004 Explorer) that hold the bearing hub. A 14 mm 1/2 inch drive socket will do the trick. However, a 1/2 inch breaker bar (or ratchet head) is too large to fit in the space, as is. This is because the CV boot is in the way (for all 3 bolts). Before you start everything, you should turn the wheel completely in one direction (or the other) so as to have better access to the bolts.
I found that if I use a 1/2-drive to 3/8-drive adapter with a 3/8 inch breaker bar, I can fit the socket in the space. If I had a universal adapter, I could probably use the 1/2 breaker bar. NOTE: I also found that on the 2004 Explorer, there really isn't any room for this adapter. In this case, you should remove the Hub Nut and try to push the spline back through the bearing. That is, tap the spline so that the entire assembly moves in the direction of the CV boot. You should be able to move the spline back about 1/2 inch or so. This will free up enough room for you to get the socket in the tight space.
The only problem is, there is not enough leverage (using the 3/8 breaker bar) to loosen the bolts. I can make the 3/8-drive breaker bar longer with a short piece of pipe.
Once the 3-14 mm (3-15 mm for 2004 ExploreR) Bolts are off, you need to pull the bearing off the spline. This can be done using a "slide hammer". Mount the slide hammer plate to the bearing hub studs. Then simply pull the bearing straight out and off the spline.
In this photo you can see the spline for the CV joint as well as the old bearing on the floor with the ABS cable still attached. Also you can see the 2 holes for the caliper support bracket and 2 (of the 3) small holes for the rotor shield, which is on the floor to the right.
Now you just need to install the new bearing over the spline. You can draw the spline through the bearing by using the hub nut. Do not over tighten the hub nut just yet. First, you should install the 3-14 mm bolts that hold the new hub in place. These should be torqued to about 125 lb-ft. Then the entire re-assembly is done in reverse order. The hub nut should be fully tighten last (to about 175 lb-ft) with the truck tire on and truck off the jack.