Rear Wheel Bearing Replacement

2400 miles driven and one of the two rear axle wheel bearings has failed on a sub 2500lb car.  Sad shape of affairs this is indeed.

Fist off, the wheel bearing in question has the SKF name all over it; made in of all places, China.  I have a problem with offshoring and a bigger problem when the offshored goods are defective.  QA was definitely not in the picture when this bearing was made.  And no, this is not the first one to fail.  My cousin Jim Thompson’s TR4 had the exact same thing happen on an identical rear axle as used on bowtie6.

So what is all this fuss about?  Let me show you.  After lifting the rear of my TR6 up in the air, we were able to determine the driver’s side axle bearing was at fault.  I took the caliper off, then the rotor and the retainer plate off the rear housing.  A couple of strikes with a deadblow hammer and the axle was out.  This is what it looks like:

The picture above shows the bearing and on top of it the retaining ring.  In order to minimize damage to the axle, the bearing is cut as follows:

And once the outside race “pops” (it is under tension and cutting the outside race eventually makes a muffled “pop”), we get a chance to see inside.  This is where things get very interesting:

In the picture above we have the outside race cut showing the ball bearing retainer.  It is what lies below the ball bearings what is of interest!

Here we start to see the root cause of the problem.  The inside race should be slick, polished and accurately ground.  Look at the photo above: the lower half is indeed properly hardened and finished.  However, see the top half?  It looks very rough indeed.  That is where the racket was coming from.  Another couple of pictures:


Further inspection revealed the outside race was in good shape.  No case-hardening issues there.  However, the inner race was very poorly made – somehow the case-hardening process was not properly applied and the surface of the inside race pitted severely after only 2400 miles.  This cannot be blamed on poor lubrication because these are sealed bearings.

A new bearing has been sourced – unfortunately it is SKF.  I just hope I’m not here in another 2500 miles talking about another bad apple.  Here is a photo of the new bearing being pressed in:

Once I got the axle back in the housing and bolted it all back together we were set to go.  I put about 50 miles this afternoon and all is good.  I just keep my fingers crossed the new bearing lasts a little longer.


10 thoughts on “Rear Wheel Bearing Replacement

  1. Neil Allan

    Curious, this failure. In the past I’d heard SKF was “the good stuff,” but it’s pretty clear by the pictures that the inner race was indeed at fault as opposed to perhaps some other unseen root cause. I am fairly certain however that this is the first instance where I’m hearing of China as the country of origin. This is very disconcerting. As far as I can remember I’ve only ever seen SKF bearings engraved with ‘Japan.’ Japanese bearings I can live with, as their government abides by little things like “product material safety standards” and “labor laws.” Things are a bit different in China where it would seem even high tolerance machine work is at risk of being contracted out to forced labor camps in sad places where the function of the local police is to oppress and take their cut of the profit. I doubt you still have the failed part, but I would have been interested in seeing it subjected to x-ray fluorescent spectrometry analysis to verify its composition and check for impurities.

    Has the failure repeated itself over the past year?

    1. bowtie6 Post author

      Thank you for your comment.

      I agree with you regarding Chinese goods. I must agree with your feelings about Chinese-made goods. Regarding the failed bearing, that was quite some time ago and I no longer have the remains of the part. I will say this though: the replacement bearing has held up just fine. No issues. I hope it stays that way!

  2. John Roberto

    Often times, it is a good idea to gently pry off the plastic / fiber side covers of the bearing and shove in more grease. Often I have taken bearings “apart” to find very little grease from the factory.
    These covers easily snap back into place.


  3. James

    Damn, that sucks! Good thing it didn’t go out in grand scale!

    On the plus side, at least it was a part failure and not a job failure. On our Barracuda we’d paid a well-known and trusted local shop to rebuild the rear end and put in the new Posi gearing. A few years later (about a year or two ago), when the car was fully back together and on the road, we took it down to the body shop for some touch-up work, and it was making the most horrific sound. I’d thought the transmission was about to go or something. My father drove it back, and he called me saying he’d dropped it off at our local mechanic. The mechanic found out the bearings in the rear end were the originals, or at least the ones that had been in it for 30+ years (parked, plus how ever many years it was driven before), instead of new ones being put in like we’d asked.

  4. Michael Yount

    I guess ya’ll checked for other sources like Timken Joe…..seems like someone ought to make it. Or if you can match the OD, perhaps you can find one where the ID is a bit smaller and turn the axle down a hair to accept it…

    Thanks for the tip on the tie-wraps (fuel system). I updated the thread today. Pulled the pump back out and removed them. Brad (Midgetec) told me the same thing. Figured your head + his head > my head. 🙂

    1. bowtie6 Post author

      Timken is an option. I agree with you, we would need to find a replacement made by them. I figured I’d give the SKF replacement a chance. Not driving bowtie6 while we have awesome weather is just not right! 🙂

      About the tie-wraps… I guess i might need to make a “test”: put a few tie wraps in a jar with gasoline and see how they turn out…

      1. Michael Yount

        They’d been in the tank for about 2 weeks – with no apparent changes at all. The problem is that the ‘test’ needs to be years to tell you anything at all. Decided I didn’t want to run the ‘test’ in the tank.


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