How To Change Semi Truck Wheel Seals: A Step-by-Step DIY Guide

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Leaky wheel seals are a common problem for semi-trucks. If you catch oil or grease residue around your wheels, you probably have a failing seal. Replacing a wheel seal isn’t the most beginner-friendly task, but with the right tools, guidance, and some mechanical know-how, you can handle it yourself.

Why Wheel Seals Matter

Wheel seals are crucial for keeping the lubricating oil within your hubs and preventing contaminants from entering. A damaged seal can lead to:

  • Bearing damage: Without proper lubrication, bearings can overheat and fail prematurely.
  • Safety risks: Severe oil leaks, especially on a drive axle, can lead to hazardous conditions and possible wheel lock-up.
  • Unexpected downtime: Leaking oil can get on brake components, reducing their effectiveness and necessitating unscheduled repairs.

Which grease is best for bearings

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Before You Start

  • Safety first: Park on a level, stable surface, engage parking brakes, and use wheel chocks. Work in a well-ventilated area, wearing gloves and safety glasses.
  • Gather the right tools: You’ll need an impact wrench, sockets, torque wrench, dead-blow hammer, screwdrivers, a seal removal/installation tool kit, jack stands, and drain pans.
  • Identify your parts: Find the correct replacement seal for your specific truck model. You may also want to have new bearings on hand depending on the condition of existing ones.
  • Consult the manual: Refer to your truck’s service manual for specific instructions and torque specifications.

Related: How to Deal with a Dead Car Battery

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Remove the Wheel and Drum:
    • Loosen lug nuts and securely raise the relevant side of the truck using jack stands.
    • Remove the wheel and tire assembly.
    • Release the brake, remove brake drum, providing access to the hub.
  2. Access and Remove the Hub:
    • Drain oil from the hub into a container.
    • If required, loosen axle flange nuts (do not remove completely).
    • Depending on your hub design, remove hubcap, locking mechanism, and adjusting nuts.
    • Carefully pull the hub off the spindle.
  3. Remove the Seal and Inspect:
    • Use a seal puller tool to extract the old wheel seal.
    • Thoroughly clean the hub’s seal bore and spindle.
    • Inspect the spindle’s sealing surface for wear or pitting. Minor wear can often be addressed with fine-grit emery cloth, but serious damage may require spindle replacement.
  4. Prepare and Install the New Seal
    • Apply a light coat of lubricant to the spindle and the inner lip of the new seal.
    • Align the new seal squarely into the seal bore.
    • Using a seal driver tool and a hammer or dead-blow mallet, gently tap the seal in until flush. Important: Avoid striking the seal’s center, as this can damage it.
  5. Reinstall the Hub Components:
    • Clean and inspect the bearings. If worn or damaged, replace them.
    • Pack bearings with wheel bearing grease and reinstall into the hub assembly.
    • Reinstall the hub onto the spindle, being careful with the new seal.
    • Adjust bearing preload and install locking nuts and axle flange nuts as per your truck’s service manual specifications. Torque all fasteners according to specifications.
  6. Reinstall the Drum and Wheel
    • Mount the brake drum.
    • Replace the wheel and tire assembly, tightening lug nuts to required torque specifications.
  7. Replenish Oil and Check for Leaks
    • Fill the hub with the designated gear oil to the proper level.
    • Inspect for leaks around the new seal. Test drive the truck and recheck for any leaking.

Additional Tips

  • Work on one wheel at a time to avoid confusion.
  • Cleanliness is crucial. Prevent dirt and debris from entering the hub.
  • Always refer to your truck’s manual for specific torque figures and processes.
  • If the job looks beyond your skills or comfort level, enlist professional help.

Featured image source.

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