Live-Axle Wheel Bearings

Live-Axle Wheel Bearings

In 1963, almost every car manufactured in the U.S. had a solid rear axle. There were exceptions like the Corvette and Corvair. Today, many light- to medium-duty trucks still use live rear axles. 
While the design differentials have changed, the ends of the axles have not. The improvements in have been made in the materials in the bearing, seals and grease. It is not uncommon for a vehicle to go its entire life on one set of bearings. But, failures due to impacts with curbs and loss of lubrication are not uncommon. 
This article from the July, 1963 issue of BRAKE & FRONT END is one of the most complete articles on the subject, but it does need a few updates.

spherical or ball bearings have not been used for rear axle bearings in a long time. ball bearings are quieter, but can not carry the same loads. at the time this article was written, many manufacturers were marketing replacement roller bearings that could replace ball bearings.  another item that has changed are the seals. modern materials used in seals have increased bearing life. when installing these seals, follow the recommendations of the manufacturer and not the instructions in this article.


One item not discussed in this article is ABS tone rings. ABS or anti-skid was more than a decade away. On some modern vehicles, the tone ring is the bearing retainer or in the differential housing. Before the tone ring is replaced, make sure there are no missing teeth and it is placed on the correct part of the shaft.


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