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BMW Front Wheel Bearing and Hub Replacement – E36, E30, E28 and Others

April 29, 2010

This answer is applicable for many BMWs in addition to the one listed below.

car year: 1996
car model: 328i
I’m pretty sure I need to replace my front wheel bearing hub assy. I’ve got 115K miles and just noticed that the left tire is getting some uneven wear on the outside tread blocks. Alignment is OK. And, although there is only a very little play in the wheel, it sounds “drier” when I spin the wheel vs the other side (after backing off the break pads). I’m very mechanical and do almost all of my own work. Is it possible to do this job myself without buying any special tools? If not, so I don’t get taken advantage of, what would be a rough guess on a fair number of labor hours at a shop?

This information applies to the following chassis:

E24 83-on (633csi, 635csi, L6, M6)
E28 (528e, 533i, 535i, 535is, M5)
E30 (318i, 318is, 325, 325e, 325es, 325i, 325is, 325ix, 325ic, M3)
E31 (840i, 840ci, 850i, 850ci, 850csi)
E32 (735i, 735iL, 740i, 740iL, 750iL)
E34 (525i, 525it, 530i, 530it, 535i, 540i, 540it, M5)
E36 (318i, 318is, 318ic, 318ti, 323is, 323ic, 325i, 325is, 325ic, 328i, 328is, 328ic, M3)
E38 (740i, 740iL, 750i, 750iL)
E46 (323i, 323ci, 323cic, 325i, 325ci, 325cic, 328i, 328ci, 328cic, 330i, 330ci, 330cic, M3)
E36/7, E36/8 Z3 Roadster & Coupe (1.9, 2.3, 2.5, 2.8, 3.0, M Roadster, M Coupe)

The front wheel bearings on these models are a sealed bearing and wheel hub/flange assembly.  The bearings are not serviceable (no adjustments or greasing).  When a bearing develops noise or play the assembly must be replaced.  In addition to the notes below, the applicable Bentley repair manual will cover the bearing removal and replacement for each given model.

The front wheel bearing / hub assemblies are relatively easy to replace. Start by removing the brake caliper and the rotor. Next remove the bearing hub securing nut.  A standard large two or three jaw gear puller or a flange type puller (that bolts to the wheel flange) is all that’s needed to pull the hub. In fact, often times they can be removed by simply tapping on the back of the hub flange with a hammer.

One issue that often happens is that the inner race of the inboard bearing may stay behind on the spindle. If this occurs, it can be removed by grasping and twisting it with a pair of slip-joint (Channel Lock) pliers. If it is stubborn, try heating it with a torch. If it still will not come off, you can split it with a cut-off wheel and then slide it off. Be careful in cutting the race, but if you do nick the spindle, this is not a problem and will have no negative affects.

The new bearing/hub assembly just slides on and you can use the new nut (be sure to use a new nut and a new dust cap) to push the bearing over the spindle and fully seat it.  Torque the nut to the specified torque value (Bentley manual).

You can certainly save a bundle of cash by doing this repair on your own. If you would like additional guidance, the Bentley repair manual will cover this task with both text and photos.  Labor time charged at a shop would likely be about 2-hours.

Click below for wheel bearing assemblies:

Click below for Bentley repair manuals:

  1. Bob R. permalink

    Thanks very much Otto! I was the person who submitted this question, and your answer provided me with the confidence that this isn’t a nightmare job, and I’ll be able to do it myself. Another big labor expense avoided. On behalf of all your customers, I’m sure I can say that BMW enthusiasts are fortunate to have Bavauto on our side.

    • Thank you for the kind words! We’re certainly glad we could help and encourage you to do the job yourself.

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