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Old 02-09-2018, 05:15 AM   #1
EOC Rank: Hydrogen
2009 SC 2WD 5AT
Root Beer Metallic (RBM)
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Gulf Coast
Posts: 18
Rear Wheel Bearing Change... Tips and Hints

My wifeís 2007 2WD Honda Element SC with 110,000 miles on the odo started making ďthat noiseĒ from the rear. At first I wondered if it was tire noise from warn tires, but the noise remained after replacing the tires. However, it wasnít worse in corners and while it seemed to get a little worse over time, it wasnít real serious sounding. But every time I drove the car I was thinking about the bearings failing and I was hesitant to go on any long road trips.

Driving around with worry on your mind is silly. Time for new wheel bearings. There are several ways to change the rear wheel bearings on your Honda Element and none of them are really easy. The rear axle consists of several main components which are pressed together, so that presents a challange. The Wheel Bearing Unit is a non-rotating bearing carrier and bolts to the suspension upright with three bolts easily accessible from the suspension side of the wheel. Inside that is the Wheel Bearing itself, a ball type bearing which is pressed in. The Rear Hub is the rotating part with the wheel studs where your lug nuts screw on. The Hub has a stub axle which is a press fit into the Wheel Bearing. Finally, there is a splined Drive Shaft if you have 4WD. For 2WD versions, there is a similar part without a CV joint. It goes through the center of the hub and a Spindle Nut screwed onto the end holds everything in place.

It would be wonderful if you could buy the entire assembly ready to bolt on. Then the job would indeed be easy. Unfortunately, the Element has a backer plate for the drum type parking brake which fits in-between the two major components, so there is no easy path to happiness. The backer plate is mounted by three studs attached to the backer plate. The nuts are easily accessible from the suspension side, just like the bearing carrier mounting bolts.

There are several YouTube videos showing how to do a bearing replacement job and most instruct you to remove the rear suspension upright and use a press to disassemble the components. Iím 73 years old and Iíve experienced plenty of frustration doing this sort of stuff. I like to keep things as simple as possible. Removing bolts associated with old rubber mounted suspension parts often means using a hack saw to cut bolts and it often goes downhill from there. Plus, most of us donít own a hydraulic press and a press isnít something you can easily borrow or even transport. The deciding factor is that if you disassemble the suspension you should have an alignment done, something I paid for only a few months ago when I replaced the tires.
Therefore, I elected to take a different approach. If you buy a bearing already pressed into the Bearing Unit, you can do the job without a hydraulic press but you must have both a large slide hammer and a bearing replacement kit. I bought mine but you can borrow them from your local auto parts store either free or for a small fee.

I ordered a kit with a new aftermarket Hub, Bearing Unit, and Nut, so the only major component I reused was the rear axle shaft. It was part number 295-96052 and 295-96053; $85 each. The two sides are different because of the location of the speed sensor. Donít mix them up, install them incorrectly, and discover your mistake too late.

You could buy just the Bearing Unit and reuse the hub, but hereís why I elected to use a new hub. When you remove the old hub, the outer race of the bearing is stuck on it. To remove it, you need either a hydraulic press with the proper tool to get underneath that bearing race or you need to cut it off. Iím imagining how I would feel if I put a nick on the hub with my cut-off wheel. Would I feel safe sending my wife on her way with a notch in the hub? Would it crack and break off some day in the future? Plus, do I really want to spend half an hour or more carefully cutting the race off just to save 10 bucks? I decided to buy a kit complete with a new hub and nut, but suit yourself.

The following is not a step-by-step procedure. Itís just a few lessons I learned. I suggest you watch a couple of YouTube videos and dig up an exploded diagram for the parts under discussion to familiarize yourself with this procedure.

You can do this job without an impact wrench, but having one makes it a lot easier. Remove the brake caliper and hang it on something; donít let it dangle. Remove the brake disk and hope that the two Philips head screws cooperate The Spindle Nut is staked on, so hammer that back to a round shape before you remove the nut. Be careful removing the speed sensor. Itís plastic and you donít want to break it. Wiggle it out carefully. There is a bracket holding the brake line. Remove it to improve access.

Now, with the big Spindle Nut removed, mount your slide hammer to the wheel studs and start removing the Rear Hub. Expect this to be hard. Once you get it moving a little bit, you can squirt some penetrating oil on the obvious places and wait a while. That will help, but it may still be a struggle.
Next remove the three bolts holding the bearing carrier in place as well as the three nuts holding the parking brake backer plate in place. Trace the parking brake cable forward to find the bracket holding it to the body. Remove that to gain some slack. Now you can slide the backer plate out. Hang it up and be careful not to twist the cable because you want to avoid damaging your parking brake.

The drive axle for the 2WD version should slip out now. I donít have experience with the 4WD models, so I canít say how easy it is to remove it without unbolting suspension components. Perhaps it canít be done, so now youíre on your own.

Remove the lug fitting on the end of your slide hammer and find a disc of the right diameter to fit behind the bearing carrier. It is most likely rusted in place in the suspension upright and may take quite a bit of slide hammer work to break it loose. Again, use penetrating spray as appropriate.
Once itís out, clean up the suspension upright with some brake clean, a Scotch Bright pad, or even some light sanding so that new bearing carrier will bolt in nicely. Use some grease or some Never Seize on the mating parts and install the new Wheel Bearing Unit; i.e. the barring carrier with wheel bearing. CAUTION: The wheel bearing inner and outer race can fall out if youíre not careful. You do NOT want to contaminate your brand-new wheel bearings.

By the way, my old bearings looked great. No rust, no galling, no pitting and they actually turned without growling. I started to wonder if I was wasting my time, but it was too late to stop at that point.

You should be able to draw the Wheel Bearing Unit into position with the three mounting bolts. Work in a circle so you donít cause binding.
Install the parking brake unit being careful not to twist the parking brake cable the wrong way. Install the three nuts, two small and one large.
Now put a light coating of grease on the components and pull the Rear Hub into position using the large threaded rod from your bearing tool kit. Use appropriate sized discs of course. I would not recommend using an impact wrench for this job. You can do it easily with a ĹĒ ratchet wrench. That way you can feel if there is any binding. Pay attention when you align the parts before you start pressing them into place.

Now grease and install the stubby splined drive shaft. Put a very light coat of oil or grease on the mating face of your new Spindle Nut and tighten it. The torque value is 181NM, which is quite high. Position the handle of your slide hammer with one end on the ground and the other in-between the wheel lugs to prevent the hub from turning as you torque the nut down. Be careful.

Stake down the new nut into the slot milled in the axle shaft. The remaining reassembly is just a matter of reversing the disassembly procedure.
A wheel bearing job done this way is not actually easy but it is well within the capabilities of any back-yard mechanic because none of it requires a particular skill like welding or anything like that. It took me most of the day to do both sides, but I was able to do a test drive, shower, and pour a glass of Scotch Whiskey by the time ****tail hour arrived.

This method is straight forward with not much chance for disaster, bad surprises, or excessive frustration. All new parts are only a little more expensive than just the bearing. No alignment is required. It doesnít require a hydraulic press or a trip to a machine shop. You can borrow the special tools at your local auto parts store. You donít have to disassemble the parking brake assembly, which has lots of parts and springs.
The good news for me was realized during the test drive. ďThat NoiseĒ was completely gone. The car was much quieter, so my fear of wasting my time was unfounded. My wife is happy too,ÖÖÖÖÖ thatís a good thing.
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