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Old 09-26-2013, 09:42 PM   #1
scaron
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Default Wheel bearing / alignment question

Hey, sorry if this is a little OT but I see others asking similar sorts of questions occasionally so I assume it's not a major infraction... Anyway, I know there are a lot of pro mechanics on this board and I wanted to run a quick question by y'all...

I have a 98 Ford Escort and it likes more than anything to eat wheel bearings. The front passenger side wheel bearing, to be exact. I probably go through one of them every year or so. I take it to a nearby shop to have the bearing replaced; just the bearing if possible, or the entire hub and bearing assembly if I've let it go too long and the hub's been eaten away. They charge me maybe $300 and change and off I go till next year...

Anyway, to the question: every time they do my wheel bearing, they always leave my front end alignment all messed up. I know the process of replacing the bearing and/or hub is going to result in the alignment being thrown off (right?) My personal feeling (so far not voiced to the people at the shop) is that, since the process of replacing the bearing and hub throws off the alignment, "doing the job right" and properly finishing it off would include setting the alignment back.

What do all you guys think? Am I right in thinking that making sure the alignment is correct after fixing the wheel bearing should be considered part of the job? Or is it standard and accepted practice for me to pay extra for a front end alignment after having my wheel bearing replaced?

Thanks for any feedback.
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Old 09-26-2013, 09:54 PM   #2
scouting
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Default Re: Wheel bearing / alignment question

It depends on the shop. For instance, an alignment is required after installing a lift kit. However, we don't do alignments at work. The customer gets a choice: we either take it to the alignment shop ourselves and add the cost to their bill, or they get it aligned themselves. We do set the approximate toe-in with a tape measure to make it drivable across town, but the actual alignment happens elsewhere. Either ask them to have it aligned, or take it in yourself. My bigger concern is how often you are replacing wheel bearings, if this is happening yearly the shop should be raising some concerns about trying to find the root cause. That escort can't be worth much more than 3k, so if this is the third bearing you're already up to 1/3 the value in bearings and labor alone. Time to figure out what the problem is, since this already sounds like a money pit. An alignment should be performed, but there may be something else causing these failures, since enough misalignment to trash.wheel bearings will wreak havok on your tires.
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Old 09-26-2013, 09:57 PM   #3
mypov
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Default Re: Wheel bearing / alignment question

Not usually part of the job, atleast where I worked at before...Some smaller shops don't even have alignment stuff. To get good alignment equipment it is quite expensive, and the shop must be able to make the equipment work enough to pay for itself. As far as I know this would be on top of the wheel bearing...But, I don't think in a hub removal, or wheel bearing removal (if done correctly) the alignment should be messed with? I do believe the castor/camber should be the same, if anything the toe in might need to be adjusted, but you would notice if this was not done as your steering would be messed up. We always measured the toe adjustment and ensured the vehicle drove straight/steering wheel was straight after the wheel bearing jobs were completed (part of the price). Hope that helps. But, you could always bring this up with the place you have the repair completed.
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Old 09-26-2013, 09:59 PM   #4
Homewrecker
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Default Re: Wheel bearing / alignment question

Changing a Hub or Bearing should really have no effect on the alignment. I've changed many over the years and have never ever had to have an alignment done. Unless they're
disconnecting the Tie Rods there should be no reason for this. Even then, if the Tie Rods are disconnected and reinstalled the geometry shouldn't change because there is no reason to mess with the Tie Rod adjustment.

If your caster and/or camber is off the only thing I could see causing that is if the took off your control arms. I'm not familiar with this car but a standard hub or bearing replacement shouldn't involve disassembling the entire front end.
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Old 09-26-2013, 10:06 PM   #5
GTA Matt
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Default Re: Wheel bearing / alignment question

Since the spindle has to be removed to press out/in the bearing, an alignment should be done when the job is complete. Technically it should be close, but disturbing the ball joint, tie rod end and removing and reinstalling the strut into the top of the spindle will be enough to throw it off a bit. I would also suggest that it might be the shops fault for all of your repeat failures. Either improper torque or assembly will quickly destroy a bearing.
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Old 09-26-2013, 10:31 PM   #6
Shadowdog500
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Default Re: Wheel bearing / alignment question

What kind of junk wheel bearings are they putting in that car if you are going through them so fast?

If you just drop the lower balljoint and use a hub grappler to replace the bearing you should not need an alignment. I just did my neighbors 4-matic mercedies a few months ago and with the hub grappler it was easy.

For the cost if getting it done once at your shop you can get the tools needed to do it yourself. I used the HF hub tamer clone with the hub grappler upgrade kit from OTC. It was about $200 in tools total.

Here is a video on the hub grappler. http://youtu.be/EQLge25pUQI

Chris

Last edited by Shadowdog500; 09-26-2013 at 10:42 PM.
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Old 09-26-2013, 11:53 PM   #7
Kevin C
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Default Re: Wheel bearing / alignment question

My guess would be that they are pressing the bearings in by the inner bore. That brinnels the races.... Once you get a small defect in the race its just a matter of time until it fails.

Or your hitting a lot of curbs.
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Old 09-27-2013, 12:03 AM   #8
chris142
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Default Re: Wheel bearing / alignment question

Maybe using those no name white box chinese bearings? Try a name brand like timkin,moog or skf? I put a moog in a car yesterday and was suprized To see made in usa on it.
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Old 09-27-2013, 12:14 AM   #9
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Default Re: Wheel bearing / alignment question

Are they using pre greased, pre packed bearings? If they are and not hand packing the bearings, then the bearing is not being greased properly. The lifespan of the pre greased stuff is short. Tell them to hand pack your bearings. And you shouldn't need a front end alignment after bearings are replaced.
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Old 09-27-2013, 12:34 AM   #10
Shadowdog500
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Default Re: Wheel bearing / alignment question

Quote:
Originally Posted by 70redbee View Post
Are they using pre greased, pre packed bearings? If they are and not hand packing the bearings, then the bearing is not being greased properly. The lifespan of the pre greased stuff is short. Tell them to hand pack your bearings. And you shouldn't need a front end alignment after bearings are replaced.
That car uses a one piece press in bearing that looks like the one below. It is lubed and sealed at the factory. No way to get it apart to lube it without breaking it. Quality brand named ones can last hundreds of thousands of miles if installed properly. I've read that cheap Chinese ones may only make it a year or 20 to 30k miles.

If you don't have a hub grappler type of tool the whole spindle must come off of the car so the bearing can be removed and installed in a shop press. An alignment would be required if the spindle is removed from the car.

Chris



Last edited by Shadowdog500; 09-27-2013 at 12:43 AM.
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Old 09-27-2013, 01:47 PM   #11
scaron
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Default Re: Wheel bearing / alignment question

Thank you guys all so much for sharing your expertise, this has been great learning for me. Hope to be ensconced in my own garage soon so I can do heavier repairs like this. I really appreciate the tip on the hub grappler, I'll start saving my pennies and pick up the kit, then do the job myself with a high-quality replacement part next time. I wasn't aware such a product existed, I always thought you needed a big press to do the job which kept me going back to the shop.

Last edited by scaron; 09-27-2013 at 01:49 PM.
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Old 09-27-2013, 02:19 PM   #12
Milton Shaw
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Default Re: Wheel bearing / alignment question

If you are getting big alignment changes from this work I would look for bent shafts on ball joints or tie rod ends. Any bend in them would change alignment a lot. These would be bent from hitting a curb or even a deep pothole could bend those shafts. I agree that is too much bearing replacement for the job to being done right with the right tools. Try another shop or get the right tools yourself. One job would just about pay for the set of tools.
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Old 09-27-2013, 02:25 PM   #13
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Default Re: Wheel bearing / alignment question

scar,
I am not sure about the 98, but some of the early Escorts had a bearing that was actually two pieces with a spacer in between them. The spacer came in different sizes and was matched to the spindle assembly. The spacer actually sets the bearing preload A lot of guys have never seen this type of bearing and if they don't pay attention and lose the spacer it will eat the new bearings up. If you go to the Ford dealer and have them pull up the parts diagram using your vin, it will show if your car is the spacer type bearing. I just wanted to throw this out there to make sure this isnt your problem. If this is the case and they lost the spacer, the easiest fix is to get a used spindle from the junkyard. It will come with the correct matching spacer. You can buy all new parts, but its a lot of trial and error to find the correct thickness spacer.

I would think that if the alignment was off enough to cause the bearings to wear out, then the tire on that side should be getting killed at the same time. How is the tire wearing ? Most shops I know use some type of "hub tamer" kit that does not require pulling the spindle and therrefor does not affect alignment.
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Old 09-27-2013, 03:22 PM   #14
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Default Re: Wheel bearing / alignment question

So much misinformation.

Removing a Tie Rod or Ball Joint from the knuckle itself will not result in a change alignment. Adjusting the tie rod sleeve, YES, removing the cotter pin, the nut, and pressing the tie rod out of the steering knuckle, NO. They are tapered and go back in the same spot as they are removed from.

On the escort it is removing the spindle nuts to the strut assembly that is altering your alignment when they are pressing them out. We generally try to use an on the car wheel bearing tool to eliminate an alignment, but a simple reference mark or camber level should get you extremely close to avoid the alignment.

I have an alignment machine, I do not align cars usually for press in wheel bearings. We always check them and try to upsell the alignment, but I rarely have to.

If it is eating your wheel bearings up check your tires and axle shaft. Is the shop using a quality bearing such as a Timken or SKF, or are they throwing on the $19.95 PRIMO CHOICE bearing? Cheap bearings are bad bearing, they are for car lots, not daily drivers.
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Old 09-27-2013, 03:53 PM   #15
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Default Re: Wheel bearing / alignment question

I have had the same problem with a 2002 Bonneville. Damn thing has gone through 5 front wheel bearings in the past 2 years. 3 on one side and 2 on the other.

All but one were covered under warranty but the shop still charged me labor each time. Grr.....
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Old 09-27-2013, 04:49 PM   #16
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Default Re: Wheel bearing / alignment question

Cheap bearings, thats why they are charging you labor. If they didn't charge labor they would be doing replacement wheel bearings for free, for a lifetime.

We won't install them. Our wheel bearing jobs may be $75-$100 more then the competition, but we rarely have to do a warranty on a wheel bearing.
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Old 09-27-2013, 06:13 PM   #17
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Default Re: Wheel bearing / alignment question

Maybe something is bent or off in the manufacturing. maybe worth getting another one from a junkyard, bearing and all and seeing how you go. Probably not all that expensive given the age of teh vehicle.
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Old 09-27-2013, 09:45 PM   #18
volaredon
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Default Re: Wheel bearing / alignment question

nothing adjustable on that car besides toe.... no reason that even pulling the spindle off completely that the alignment should be out of whack from that job
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