All You Ever Wanted to Know About Axle Bearings

You may find yourself shopping for axle bearings and realize you don’t really know what you’re looking at. These parts seem inconsequential, until they need to be replaced. Here’s what you need to know about axle bearings.

About axle bearings

What is An Axle Bearing?

The axle transfers the torque from the differential to the tires. The differential delivers gear reduction and traction bias that allows one axle to slow down while the other speeds up. This allows the outer wheel on your 4x4 to travel further than the inner wheel.

Axle bearings are used to allow the axle to spin without resistance, seizure, or wear. They’re made of roller-bearings and provide a wider contact surface than a typical ball bearing. Axle bearings are lubricated by the differential oil and differ from the front wheel bearings that are packed with high temperature bearing grease. This bearing is located under the axle tube in what’s known as a bearing cup. Grinding and rumbling noises coming from the wheel are the best indicator that one has gone bad.

Axle Bearing Versus Wheel Bearing

Some people get axle bearings and wheel bearings confused — the differences between the front wheel bearings and axle bearings are notable. Wheel bearings come in a pair of inner and outer bearings, while axle bearings are installed as a single bearing that only supports the out end of the axle shaft.

The axle bearings are pressed onto the shaft with a hydraulic press. It has a machined area near the flange that provides a flat, smooth area for the bearing to rest while allowing the axle and the spring inside the housing to move without vibration or wobble. A wheel bearing is installed inside the wheel hub and is knocked in place with a hammer.

How Axle Bearings Stay In Place

Axle bearings are held in place by the axle and the retainer itself. The retainer is placed on the axle before installation and is bolted into position after bearing installation. This is pretty much the extent that the bearing is secured inside most style axles, while some do use a c-clip. The c-clip installs in a groove inside the axle shaft and the axles are pushed slightly inward so the c-clips can be placed. In some extreme applications, these c-clips are replaced with c-clip eliminators that fasten the axle to the housing close to the axle bearings.

There are front and back sides of axle bearings; placing the bearings in on the wrong side can result in premature failure. It’s also important to maintain proper lubrication depth to keep the bearings lubricated and promote a long life of the bearing.

Now that you know the purpose of axle bearings, how they differ from wheel bearings, and how to keep them from wearing, you can get to replacing those worn parts now. Check out our axle bearing kits here that include the bearings, seals, adjusters, and plates, and you’ll have a quality bearing setup for off-roading.

  • Posted on   08/25/15 at 12:55:57 AM   by Jason  | 
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Tagged with axle bearings, replacement, axle

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