Bearing Tips & Advice

Checking and Removing Motorcycle Wheel Bearings


Always keeping your motorcycle well-maintained is essential for safety while also maximizing its performance. Understanding how to check and remove your wheel bearings is a great way to remain proactive to ensure your motorcycle stays in excellent condition. 


It's rare for a wheel bearing to fail, but it's still a good idea to inspect your wheel bearing with each tire replacement or oil change. More frequent inspections are recommended if you often ride in rainy or dusty conditions. Fortunately, it only takes a few minutes to inspect your wheel bearings.


How to Easily Check Your Wheel Bearings on a Motorcycle

You will need paddock stands to elevate your motorcycle's wheels off the ground if it doesn't have a center stand. The main focus is to minimize the weight on the wheels to make it easier for you to feel any looseness present at the hub.


Once the wheel is off the ground, you can grab the opposite side tire and push with your hand while pulling with your other hand, as you will need to alternate these movements to turn the wheel around the axle. You are primarily looking for any play or looseness of the wheel in relation to the axle. However, it's important to know that your tire may flex. You will also need to turn the wheel 45 degrees and repeat the same process.


If you notice any clicking or play, it might be due to one or more of your wheel bearings being damaged. You will need to remove the wheel for further inspection if you believe that a bearing is nearing the end of its lifespan. A rough or gritty sensation while sticking your finger in the bearing and rotating it is a common sign that it's time to replace a bearing.


How to Replace Motorcycle Wheel Bearings

Wheel bearings are located deep within the hub of the wheels, as they are the reason why your motorcycle rolls smoothly down the highway. While modern sealed bearings are highly reliable, they do fail on occasion.


Bearings usually fail due to dirt or water penetrating the bearing seals, as this contaminates the grease and results in the bearings losing lubrication. Once this happens, the bearings will corrode and eventually fail. You will need to inspect your motorcycle if you suspect that you have a bad wheel bearing.


Replacing a wheel bearing is a reasonably straightforward process, as you will only need a few tools to complete the job in an hour. The tools you will need to remove the wheels will include a hammer, bearing driver kit, a socket, a flat blade screwdriver, a drift punch, snap rings pliers, grease and contact cleaner, wood for supporting the wheel, and new wheel bearings and seals.


Once you acquire all of these tools and remove the wheels from your motorcycle, you will need to use wood blocks to support your wheel and protect the rotor and the rim. The next step is to take off the wheel seals using a flat-blade screwdriver while remaining careful not to damage the hub. You can also heat the hub if you are having difficulty removing the wheel seal or bearing.


You will next need to drive the bearings out once the seals are removed from each side of the wheel. The first step is to move the inner space with your finger or use a drift punch. Then you can drive the bearing out with the drift punch or use the bearing driver set. Applying heat to the hub will make this process easier. It's also important to work around the exterior race to avoid damaging the bearing if you use the drift punch method. Finally, you will flip the wheel over and repeat the same procedure.


A bearing driver tool can simplify the entire process, as it provides equal pressure to the bearing, as you will only need to heat the hub, set the bearing driver in place, and begin tapping with your hammer to remove the bearing.


Final Process

It's also important to remember to clean the inside of the hub with a contact cleaner on a new rag before you begin installing your new bearings. You will need to apply grease to the outer race of a new bearing. Afterward, you can apply heat to the hub and begin putting the new bearing in place by hand before gently tapping it around the perimeter. You can then hammer the bearing into place by using a socket or bearing tool. Then you will flip the wheel to install the space and also place the other bearing. You will need to keep inspecting the wheel spacer to make sure everything is correctly aligned. Finally, you can install your new wheel seals and place your wheel back on your motorcycle.