I had to replace my rear wheel bearings in Gonzo, so I thought I would try to do a write up for others. Shown is a model 20 rear end, dana 44 axle is the same parts, just different sizes.
Keep in mind that the axle is held in by the bearing retainer plate and if the bearing fails catastrophically then the axle (along with the wheel) can leave the vehicle; this has happened to a few forum members. If you are unsure if you have a bearing going bad you should inspect them, and you should repack the bearings with grease – how often depends on use.
A growling noise when you drive is a good indicator of a bad bearing, also when the truck is jacked up check for play at the rear wheel, just a little in/out is ok, about enough just to feel, any more or side to side and you need to replace the bearing.
You can get the bearing kit and seal from a parts store, but the retaining plates are hard to find….BJ’s sells a complete kit, and at a great price, that is where I got mine.
It is a pretty basic process to remove the bearing for inspection/replacement.
Jack up the truck, support on jack stands, remove the wheel, then the brake drum.
My pass side drum was rust froze to the center hub, I hit it with some PB blaster and a few whacks with the hammer and it popped off. If your shoes hang up you may need to back them off manually.
There is an oval hole on the back of the drum – you may have to knock out a steel plug, it is the rearmost plug (the backing plate is for either side) inside the hole you see a star wheel – from the back up is tighter down is losser.
Once you get the drum off you see this
Then pencil is pointing out the access holes that you use to get to the nuts.
On the Model 20 you can leave the brake parts in place, I took them out thinking they would help with the pictures, and my retaining pin was broken anyway.
The shaft will probably not want to come right out, try hitting the back of the hub with a dead blow or prying on it with a block across the shoes.
One the shaft is out you see this:
A = Lock Ring
B = Inner Race/cone
C = Outer Seal
D = Retaining Plate.
Left in the Axle Tube is:
A = Outer Race
B = Inner Seal
At this point check the rollers and the outer race for pits, groves and other sings of wear.
If everything looks ok, you can repack the bearing with grease and put it back together.
If not you will need a couple special tools to go farther, or call some shops and get prices on the labor to remove the old bearing and press on the new one.
Here is how I take the old stuff off – I call it the old farmer method and it does involve some risk – others may have suggestions on a different method. I take no responsibility for anyone’s actions attempting to follow this procedure and resulting in damage to themselves or there vehicle.
First push the seal and retaining plate back to the hub then use an air cutting wheel to cut thru the outer race retainer and roller cage.
Then you can pry them open and remove them.
Now if this is the first time you try this, wrap duct tape on the shaft surfaces to protect it from nicks. Cut the lock ring until it there is about 1/16” thickness left – both mine snapped at this point – if not use the same method as the inner race.
Then cut the inner race until there is about 1/16” left – BE CAREFULL it buts up to the seal area and any nicks will result in a less ideal seal surface. Then support the inner race on a solid surface, and put a chisel in the cut, a couple whacks with a hammer and it will split the rest of the way through, then it can be easily slid off.
Save the inner race – the seal and retaining plate can now be removed, and clean the shaft up. You might be able to use a right angle grinder with cut off wheel instead of an air cut off tool, but I don’t recommend it, they are to large (less precise) and harder to control increasing the chance of damage.
Slide the retaining plate on then the new outer seal – with the metal face toward the hub.
Then slide the bearing up to the bearing area – be sure to have it the correct way with the outer race lock ring toward the hub face, then slide on the old inner race and put in a press – the other special tool you need – I would not try this with out a press.
Using the old inner race guarantees that you are putting pressure on the new inner race, put pressure on the outer race and you will destroy the new bearing...
Then slice on the bearing retaining collar and again use the old inner race as a driver in the press. Do not try to press them both on at the same time – it will not work.
The outer race is slip fit in the housing – on the outer race lock ring that stays on the inner race/cone assembly is press fit; otherwise you would never get it apart.
There may be some rust right on the outer edge that fights you on sliding the race out, hit it with some emery paper, a slide hammer may help, I use a small pry bar.
Use a small ended drift to drive into the edge of the inner seal, it will deform, tip and can be pulled out easily.
There is a lot of debate on if you need/want the inner seal, even among the engineers and some years didn’t have them, I think you should use them, so after you wipe all the old grease out you can tap the new seal in, - be sure to coat the inside of the seal with grease - a wood dowel works well, I use a wide face drift, keep it to the outside edge, moving in a circular motion as you tap it, to much force and you will ruin it.
When I say tap I mean tap, this is how I hold the hammer and the distance I stroke it from the drift end.
Pack the bearing with grease, but sure to coat seal with grease too.
Slide the assembly back in, torque the bolts to ____ft/lb in a criss cross pattern.
Put the break drum and wheel back on – adjust you brakes up if you need to and you are done!