Front Wheel Bearings

I have to confess that I am not sure what year Henry began using the "Temkin" style tapered (beveled) roller bearings in the front wheels in place of ball bearings. I believe that most of us with 1920 or newer Ts will have these types of front wheel bearings.

Of course step one is to loosen the hub cover while the wheel is still on the ground. This way you don't have to fight a "free spinning" wheel while trying to get the hub cover loose and remove it. Jack up the front end and put some jack stands in place under the front axle.

The threaded spindle end will have a castle nut with a clevis (cotter) pin that inserts into the spindle end to keep the nut from becoming loose. Remove this clevis pin with pliers or side cutters. Throw it away. I never reuse these. Remove the castle nut and the washer behind it. Now here is what is a bit unusual from later model cars. The outer/smaller bearing is threaded onto the spindle end. I used a crescent style (adjustable) wrench to remove the outer bearing. The wheel should now be free to remove from the spindle.

Place the outer side of the hub down and place two wooden blocks under the hub to support it. I used a 1/4 size flat head screwdriver to loosen the inner grease seal by placing the screwdriver end in between the hub and the area where the seal meets the hub surface. The seal is pressed in place. However, this usually does not take much force. Then I tapped the screwdriver with a hammer moving the screwdriver around the outer edge of the seal, just enough to loosen the grease seal and pop it out with the screwdriver. This grease seal keeps the inner/larger bearing in place and keeps the grease from coming out of the back inner side of the hub. Now remove the inner/larger bearing. If this seal has felt inside the metal cover, then you are one who prefers originality (which is fine), or your grandfather or someone's grandfather was the last person to do this job.

Next, clean all the greasy parts with mineral spirits very well and thoroughly. Check both bearings, inner/larger and outer/smaller, by spinning the bearings, which are housed in a cage like retainer. Check each roller for cracks, scoring or pits. If the bearings are scored, cracked or pitted, have them replaced along with the beveled shiny surface in the hub. This shiny surface is the bearing hub race. This is what those shiny roller bearings spin and roll on while you are going down the road. If the bearing is scored, cracked or pitted, the hub race is probably in the same condition. Take the hub/wheel to the shop and have the hub races removed. The bearing and hub races are generally sold as "matched sets." I have never seen them sold separately. I replaced the races myself but, I would rather you took the wheel to Lilleker's Antique Auto Restorations to have the hub races removed and installed. These hub races need to go in evenly and straight or they could be damaged.

Once all of the bearings and races are good to go, "pack" the bearings with grease. Remember the article with "sticky red?" Good, because I don't have that part number with me for the grease, HEHE! I know I use the Pennzoil brand. To pack the bearings, place a good size "glob" of grease in the palm of one hand. Grasp the bearing with the other hand with the larger side of the bearing, the back side that has the larger gap in the cage, so that you can now "nip" at the pile of grease that is in the palm of the other hand with the back side of the bearing being slightly pressed into the "glob" of grease. This will send the grease into the bearing rollers. Keep doing this process until you see the grease coming out of the narrow end of the bearing assembly. The bearing is packed once the entire bearing has grease oozing out of the narrow, beveled side. I know. This makes no sense. I wish I had a picture of this process.

With the bearings packed, generously place some grease into the hub cavity and a layer on the hub races. Place the inner/larger bearing into the greased hub inner race. Install a new grease seal, with a small hammer, into the inner side of the hub by gently tapping around the outer edge of the seal until it is even with the inner hub surface. Reverse the removal process above, spinning the outer bearing onto the threaded spindle end. Turn the outer bearing onto the spindle until it "seats", using the wrench, but GENTLY. Now install the castle nut and run it up snug, by hand, to the bearing. Now back off the bearing and the nut together until a notch in the castle nut aligns with the hole in the spindle end. There should be some very slight top to bottom movement of the wheel. Very slight. A bearing that is over tightened will get hot and burn up. Too much end play will result in steering and driving problems and premature bearing failure.

Install the new clevis/cotter pin, (very important) and bend the clevis/cotter pin, basically wrapping it around the castle nut. Install the hub covers and tighten them while covering the hub cover with a paper towel or rag so you don't scratch or damage the hub cover. Put the car back on the ground and you are done.

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