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VW Vanagon front bearings

June 14, 2011

The tell tale sign of worn front bearings is a grinding sound as you drive along particularly at a slightly high speed like 60kph. There will also be noticeable drifting of the vehicle to one side if you let the steering go (and assuming your camber, caster and toe alignment is correct). Bearings are not some of the things you could afford to avoid for too long because bearing failure as you drive along can be a proper disaster. This post therefore shows how to replace bearings on a 1985 2WD VW Vanagon. My front disc brakes are the 278mm diameter types. Some vanagons have 258mm diameter types.

  • Find the correct replacement parts (bearings, races and seals). In my country I cannot lay my hands on an authentic bearing kit so I make do with a Japan made bearing kit. Works just fine but they usually do not come with the inner bearing seal so I have been re-using it. Not the most ideal, but again I have survived thus far 🙂
  • Jack the van up and support it as safely as possible, remove the tyre and the brake caliper
  • The disc has a securing nut and washer for the outer bearing and these need to be removed carefully.
  • Remove the outer bearing that easily pops out after the removal of the nut and washer and then pop out the rest of the disc
  • Turn it around to access the inner bearing and before anything remove as much grease as possible. This is quite a dirty and greasy job and you will want to have as much rags or paper towels around as are necessary
  • Try to pry out the seal VERY VERY gently with a flat screw driver if you intend to re-use it. The outer bearing will just pop out
  • In the absence of a bearing race removal tool, a good hammer and strong chisel like tool will do the trick
  • To remove the inner bearing races, insert the chisel into the disc via the front (outer side), align it to the grooves on the disc that give you access to the inner bearing races and hammer it. Turn it 180 degrees to the groove opposite and hammer it again. Keep this rotation going so that the bearing race pops out with ease and without damaging the disc. A few hammer blows should pop it out.
  • To remove the outer bearing race, access its grooves from the back (inner side) and repeat the above process. It should be much easier
  • Clean the disc thoroughly with your favourite grease solvent and ensure there is no grit. Grit is a bearing’s biggest enemy
  • Position the new inner bearing races on the clean disc, carefully ensuring that you do it facing the right way. Use the old inner bearing race to help you drive the new race into position. Hammer opposite ends so that the race slides in correctly and keep hammering until there is a change in sound that will tell you the race is properly seated. Please be careful not to hammer the new race directly. Use the old race for that
  • Repeat the above process for the outer bearing race
  • Grease the bearings properly using a bearing greasing tool if available or with your hands that I emphasize must be totally free of grit
  • Grease the inside of the break disc well as well as on the insides of the races
  • Position the inner bearing well and carefully slide back the grease seal if you are reusing it
  • Grease the spindle on the wheel again ensuring no grit ends up on it and then pop back the disc ensuring that it sits correctly and rotates freely
  • Insert the outer bearing followed by the thoroughly cleaned washer and nut
This is Very Important
  • Tighten the nut until it just stops then loosen it again slightly. Rotate the disc so that it feels like it is moving freely. The idea is to tighten it enough to secure the bearings but not too tightly as to cause them to be ground by the movement of the wheel.
  • After the slight loosening I usually hold the disc on 12 and 6 o’clock positions and shaking it then at 3 and 9 o’clock positions and shaking it as well. Make sure you JUST ABOUT do not feel any play in the bearings at those positions
  • Clean the disc of all grease using a good grease solvent
  • I admit these procedures are dark arts but for the DIY mechanic with no torque wrench and Japanese parts they come in handy

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Naftal Omanga -KIMC DJ3 regular permalink
    June 20, 2011 4:45 pm

    Mmmmmh? Surely am floating about all this jargon

    • June 20, 2011 5:13 pm

      Haha! You could only possible understand some of these simple things if you have the interest

  2. September 20, 2011 4:10 am


    how’s it going? I spent some “quality time” (translation: greasy, knuckle scraping time) under the van today replacing a steering rod boot and having a look at one of the radius arm bushings and sleeve. I’ll post some pics tonight, but i bet if you take a look at your van, the same rusting is going on.


    • September 20, 2011 8:48 am

      Hey! Great to hear from you! I shall create ‘quality time’ as well to check it out. Otherwise thanks for your comment! I shall share your link as a post on my site 🙂

  3. September 20, 2011 7:57 am

    here’s the URL showing what I was writing about in previous comment


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