Winter Months Ahead--something that might be overlooked

WARPFOUR

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As the cooler winter months move in here in Western NY, I take the time to go through my vehicles thoroughly. This week, as I start going through my '95, I planned on putting fresh brake pads all the way around and flushing the fluid through the system. My vehicle just clicked over 27,000 miles this summer. I had my new pad sets, fresh fluid and tools ready. I started at the left rear, and proceeded to pull off the wheel, remove the pads, and clean up the caliper. I retracted the piston (finding out both my brake service kits, and my "cube" tool, don't have the proper adapter pins or spacing to go into the piston, but then finding out a pair of needle nose pliers, carefully inserted in the holes, and gently twisted, will work). I wire wheeled my retention pins, and reassembled the rotor and brakes. As I was servicing the caliper, I did note a bit of black grease around the back of the hub with the odd bit of metallic specks in it, and thought it seemed excessive. I passed it off as 28 years of road grime, ball joint grease and brake dust. I cleaned it up with brake cleaner and a rag. I then hung the tire back on with lug nuts hand tight.

At this point, I had not yet stepped on the brake pedal to push the new pads back out in contact with the rotor surface, so there was no pressure against the rotor. As I was handling the wheel to install the lug nuts, I noticed a distinct "clunk" and in/out movement at the top of the tire. Thinking maybe I had not fully seated the lug nuts, I checked them again and pulled in/out at the top of the tire. Sure enough, the tire still moved in and out, and it appeared I had a loose bearing/assembly. To get a comparison, I moved over to the right rear side and disassembled the brakes, retracted the pads, and hung the tire back on. I performed the same in/out push/pull at the top of the tire. No wobble like the left side. Ok, I have a bad bearing assembly for sure.

I lowered the car back down to begin the removal of the bearing assemblies, with the tires in place. I have had the tires/wheels off my car a few times at all four corners to perform cleaning, ball joint greasing, sway bar link replacement, etc. The cotter pin and nut retainer still have the original green factory green QC paint dabs and have never been touched since the car was assembled. I removed the cotter pin and nut retainer, and then proceeded to loosen the nut. With the tire on the ground, and breaker bar in position, I went to break the nut free, expecting to get 190 ft-lbs of resistance, as that is what the Service Manual says the torque should be. When I went to turn the nut, it just spun-almost no resistance...very close to finger tight!! Again, the cotter pin and nut did not appear to have been touched since factory assembly. I went over and cracked the nut on the passenger side. It had the expected resistance, requiring a breaker bar to move it. It appears left rear stub axle was not properly torqued at the factory, but marked as such!

What the heck, I ordered four new hub assemblies and waited for them to arrive. I'm not going to risk this again. In the mean time, I went to remove the deficient left rear hub assembly, and removed the four bolts. As I tugged on the flange with the wheel studs in it...the whole assembly just fell apart. Yikes. The stud flange came out in my hand, and the rear retaining ring just fell out the back of the knuckle. I never heard any rumbling, or had any other signs of a failing bearing. I have attached pictures of how the hub assembly was as I pulled it out of the rear knuckle.

As I said earlier, I have had the wheels off many times and did not notice this, nor would I have, since the pressure of the brake pads would not allow the wobble. Only with the pads not in place against the rotor surface would the wobble be noticed. Just a heads up for all owners to maybe take the time this winter to check those hub assemblies. It's just not something I expected to find!

Anyway, I now have four fresh hubs, fresh brake fluid, and fresh brake pads at all four corners. Original brake rotors are still smooth and straight.

Note: for those of you who might be replacing your Gen 1 front hubs, I did reuse the "clamp bolt" that keeps the bearing together, although the Service Manual advises against it. I torqued it to the same torque as specified for the rear stub axles, 190 ft-lbs. I used some Loctite to keep them in place. These are "staked" from the factory, but they came apart ok with little to no thread damage.
 

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