The wheel bearings on your Saturn are located between the axle and the brake rotors. The bearings reduce the friction between the two moving parts, and if they go bad, you will find that the parts will wear out quickly due to the loss of the buffer between them. You may not realize that they are going bad until it becomes an emergency situation. Fortunately, they give off some noise that indicates they are starting to wear.
Popping, clicking or snapping sounds mean that the outer CV joint is wearing or damaged. The bearing could have excessive endplay that may be due to inadequate clamping. You will hear this sound when you are making a sharp turn or going around a corner.
Grinding noises while driving means that the wheel-end system has some sort of mechanical damage. The raceway or roller may be damaged. It is most noticeable when there is a turn or a shift in the load.
Clunking or knocking means that you have too much play in the U joint or the CV joint. There can also be too much backlash in your differential gears. While this is not usually a bearing problem, you should be aware of it. You will hear it when you shift from drive to reverse or upon acceleration from coasting.
Humming, growling and rumbling usually come from the drivetrain components, tires or electrical system. If this is a bearing issue, you will have a vibration or a noise when you drive straight forward. It will get louder when you turn the wheels to the right or left. The defective side is usually the opposite side where you hear the noise.
Wobbling or vibration in the wheels is usually due to a worn tire, suspension or wheel component or a bad alignment. If this is associated with the hub or your bearing, you may find that there is severe damage or a loss of clamp. If the lug nuts are not at the proper torque, you can get wobbling and vibration.
Shimmy, vibration or shudders when you are driving at a constant speed is usually due to a worn out suspension component. You could have tires out of balance. This is not normally a bearing problem.
Side pulls upon braking usually mean that you have a bad caliper or equalizer. It also may mean that the brakes or rotors are worn. A looseness that is bearing related may cause runout that can make the brakes pull or pulsate. Usually, this is a warped rotor because of a caliper problem.
Uneven brake pad or rotor wear means that you have a bad caliper or equalizer. Severe looseness due to a damaged or worn bearing can cause runout that can put uneven wear on the rotor or the brakes. Usually, this is a warped rotor because of a caliper problem.
Uneven or abnormal tire wear is commonly caused by suspension parts that are damaged or worn, a bad alignment, tire pressure inadequacies or bad tires. A bad bearing can cause the tires to wear, but tire wear is normally associated with the other failures.
ABS failure can be due to a bearing or hub bearing assembly. Any excessive movement can cause the external or internal sensors to become damaged. You will find this when you have a severe mechanical issue. A sensor can also become damaged due to outside hazards or rust.
Installing a New Set of Bearings
You may find that you need to replace the wheel bearings in your Saturn, and if you do, these instructions will help you.
- Rubber mallet
- Floor jack and jack stands
- Wheel chock
- Spray lubricant
- Bungee cord
- Light grade sandpaper
- Replacement bearings
- Flathead screwdriver
- Slide hammer with hub removal adapter
- ½ - inch drive socket set
- ½- inch drive breaker bar
- ½- inch drive ratchet
- ½-inch hub nut socket
- ½-inch drive adjustable torque wrench
- Box end/open end hand wrench set
- Park on a flat, dry surface and set the parking brake.
- Open the hood and disconnect the negative terminal. Set the wheel chock.
- Take the hub cap off the tire on the wheel with the bad bearing. Have a helper press the brake pedal down while you use the breaker bar and hub nut socket to loosen the hub nut. They can get out of the car when you get the nut loosened.
- Use the breaker bar and socket to loosen the lug nuts.
- Use the floor jack to lift the front quarter of your Saturn. Put the jack stands under the frame rail in the appropriate spots. Take the lug nuts and wheel off, and then take off the hub nut.
- Use the flathead screwdriver to pry the rotor against the outboard brake pad in order to compress the caliper piston.
- Take the two anchor bolts off the caliper. This allows you to take the caliper, anchor and pads off in one piece. Use the bungee cord to support the caliper to the coil spring. You do not want the brake line to hang down.
- Take the brake rotor off. You may need to use the spray lubricant if it is stuck. Spray it on the rotor center where the hub bearing connection is, and give it a tap with the rubber mallet to get the rotor off the hub.
- If you have ABS, you need to disconnect it at this time. Take the ABS sensor jumper connection off the strut bracket.
- Find the three mounting bolts that hold the wheel bearing assembly to the knuckle and remove them with the breaker bar and your socket. If you need room to get the socket onto the bolts, you can give the driveshaft spindle a tap inward. You can switch to a ratchet once you have the bolts loosened.
- Put the slide hammer on the bearing assembly lug studs and secure it to the assembly by using the lug nuts. Use the slide hammer to take the bearing off the knuckle. You may need to use spray lubricant in the joint connection. Once you have the spacer and bearing taken off, you want to make sure that you make a note of the spacer position. You want to put the new on one in the exact same place. Pay attention to the location of the backing plate as well.
- Use the light grade sandpaper to clean the hub cavity and the knuckle face surface. Be sure to clean the rotor inside where the rotor hub is against the hub bearing flange.
- Put the spacer on your new bearing and place it in the knuckle. Put the backing plate between the pieces. Put the mounting bolts back on loosely, and then go around and tighten them up in order to evenly draw the bearing in the knuckle. Use 90 foot pounds of torque on the bolts.
- Put the ABS jumper connection back onto the strut bracket. Reattach the ABS sensor connector.
- Put the caliper assembly, rotor and mounting bolts back on, and torque them to 80 foot pounds.
- Reconnect the battery.
- Have your helper step on the brake pedal as you use 90 foot pounds of torque on the hub nut.
- Put the wheel and lugs back on. Tighten the lugs and bring the Saturn down off the jacks. Use 100 foot pounds of torque to tighten the lug nuts.
- Take the wheel chock out and disengage the parking brake.
- Take your Saturn for a test drive.