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BMW Rear Wheel Bearing Removal and Replacement – DIY – E30, E36, E46, E82, E88, E90, Z3, Z4, X3 and Others

October 27, 2010

What does it take to replace a rear wheel bearing?

This DIY applies to BMW 1-series (E82, E88), 3-series 84 through 11 (E30, E36, E46, E90/91/92/93), Z3, Z4 and X3.  Other BMW models (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, X & Z series models) will be somewhat similar, but details for the axle and drive flange removal will differ.  The Bentley repair manual for the specific chassis will detail the procedures.

You’ll need the new bearing, bearing retainer snap ring, axle nut, axle nut locking plate (not used on all models) and the wheel bearing removal/install tool, that we offer, in order to replace your rear wheel bearings. Other than this, just your common mechanic’s tools are required.

You will also potentially need new brake baking plates, as the tool often distorts the original ones. Additionally, if your parking brake assembly needs any service (shoes, shoe locator pins, cable actuator, etc.), now would be the time to take care of it.  And, finally, note that some models have a bracket on the brake backing plate that is used to support the connection between the brake fluid flex hose (from the caliper) to the hard line (that runs along the trailing arm).  On these models, the line and hose must be disconnected in order to remove and/or replace the brake backing plate.  If the brake line and connection nut are very rusty, you may end up damaging the brake line.  In this case, the brake line will have to be replaced.  Local auto parts stores will typically have universal lengths of pre-flared brake line.  Just note that the BMWs use “bubble” flares and the nuts are 10mm thread.

BMW wheel bearing tool:

Rear wheel bearings, backing plates, nuts & sockets:

Bentley repair manuals:

Rear Wheel Bearing Replacement

You may want to consider replacing more than just the wheel bearings.  Read through the steps and notes below for more information on these items.

*  Axle nut

*  Axle nut locking collar (if used)

*  Bearing retainer snap ring

*  Brake backing plate (if required or needed)

*  Parking brake parts

*  Brake line


1. Raise and support the rear of the vehicle and remove the wheel.

(Steps 2 through 4 apply to driver’s side only)

2. Place a floor under the muffler so that you can lower the muffler and pipes just enough to remove the axle half shaft (steps 8 & 9).

3. Remove the rear muffler hanger brackets.

4. Remove the rubber center exhaust hanger.

5. Remove the caliper, caliper mounting bracket and rotor.

6. Remove the axle nut retainer ring or pry out the peened-in shoulder flange of the nut (depending on application).

7. Remove the axle nut.

8. Remove the 6 bolts holding the inboard axle half-shaft C/V joint to the differential output flange (commonly 8mm Allen or #12 Torx).  Pull the inboard axle shaft C/V joint down from the differential output flange.

9. Remove shaft from outer drive flange.  The splined end of the shaft is often “stuck” into the splines in the flange.  We recommend using a gear puller to push the shaft through the drive flange (hook the jaws to the edge of the drive flange).  Alternately, you can use a punch and hammer to “beat” the shaft out of the drive flange.  DO NOT apply the hammer directly to the end of the shaft.  This will damage the threads.

Note:  If there are clearance problems in removing the axle shaft from the chassis, you may need to remove the lower shock mounting bolt/nut and disconnect the swaybar links in order to push the suspension arms down.

10. Remove the parking brake assembly (Hint: The shoe locator pins use a 5mm Allen bit. Access the pin going through a lug bolt hole).

11. Remove the drive flange/hub using the wheel bearing tool and the appropriate arbors.

NOTE:  If the inner race of the bearing has pulled out of the bearing and is stuck on the shaft of the drive flange, you must remove it.  You can cut it with a cut-off wheel in a die-grinder and then split the cut with a cold-chisel.  This will allow it to be pulled off.  If you nick the drive flange with the cut-off wheel, this will not cause any problems.  Alternately, a bearing splitter/puller tool can be used to pull the race off.

12. Remove the bearing retaining c-clip.

13. Remove the bearing using the bearing tool and the appropriate arbors.

14. Clean the hub bore and the c-clip groove.

15. Press in the new bearing, using the tool and the appropriate arbors.  Make sure that the arbor that is used to push the bearing in is seating on the OUTER bearing race.

NOTE:  The bearing will be much easier to install if you put it in the freezer for at least 30-minutes prior to installing.  Additionally, you can LIGHTLY heat the inside of the hub with a heat gun or hair dryer. Do not get it HOT, just warm it up a bit … and be careful of burning or overheating anything in the area.

16.  If the brake backing plate needs to be replaced (due to damage from the tool, rust, pulled out shoe locator pin holes, etc.), do so now.

NOTE:  Some models have the flexible brake fluid hose (from the caliper) and the hard line from the trailing arm connected to a bracket on the backing plate.  To replace the backing plate, the hose and line must be disconnected.  If the vehicle is older and a bit rusty, be prepared to replace the brake line in case the connection and line are too rusty to separate and reuse.

17.  Install the parking brake assembly.

18.  Press the drive flange into the bearing.  Be sure to use the proper size arbor (with the bearing tool) on the inboard side of the wheel bearing.  The arbor should seat on the INNER race of the bearing.  We want the tool’s force to be applied to the inner race … not the outer race or the inside of the trailing arm casting.  This is where the bearing can be damaged if improper tools, technique or arbors are used.

NOTE:  As with the bearing, placing the drive flange in the freezer for at least 30-minutes will ease the installation.  Additionally, if the bearing is still cold, you can heat it GENTLY with a heat gun or hair dryer.

19. Install the bearing retainer snap ring.

20. Coat the splines of the axle shaft end and the drive flange/hub with anti-seize compound.  Install the splined end of the axle shaft into the drive flange/hub.  This may require gentle persuasion with a hammer, on the edge of the outer C/V joint.  Once the shaft is in far enough to get the axle nut on, pull the shaft in with the nut.

21.  Assemble the inner C/V joint to the differential output flange.

Finish the rest of the assembly.  Once the brake rotor and caliper are assembled, tighten the axle nut to the specified torque while a helper applies the brakes.  After torqueing the nut, either install the locking flanged washer (use the socket to tap it over the hex of the nut, with a hammer) or tap the flanged shoulder of the nut into the groove in the end of the axle shaft.  Earlier models typically use the washers and later models typically use the flanged shoulder nuts.

Bavarian Autosport

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