When I purchased my Lexus IS350 project car it had multiple issues. One of them was a bad front wheel bearing and hub assembly on the driver side. After doing some research and fixing the problem, I would like to share how you can diagnose and fix a similar issue yourself on your car.
If your wheel bearing and hub assembly are going bad, you may experience unusual growling or grinding noise coming from the wheel. You may also have some play in the wheel bearing. In addition, you may get ABS, BREAK, CEL, VSC, AFS, traction control or slip indicator warning lights on the dashboard. Let’s take a look at how to properly diagnose and fix bad wheel bearing and hub assembly.
Before we begin, I just gotta say this. Please use common sense and abide by all the necessary safety rules and regulations when working on your car. Otherwise, I’m not responsible for any damage or injuries. Car repairs can be potentially dangerous. Do it at your own risk. Refer to your vehicle owner’s manual or repair manual if you have any questions. You can find my full Legal Disclosure page here.
This wheel bearing and hub assembly replacement procedure will work on the following Lexus IS and GS models with rear-wheel drive only:
- 2006 Lexus GS300
- 2007-2011 Lexus GS350
- 2006-2007 Lexus GS430
- 2007-2011 Lexus GS450h
- 2008-2011 Lexus GS460
- 2006-2015 Lexus IS250
- 2006-2015 Lexus IS350
Most common symptoms of bad wheel bearing and hub assembly are as follows:
- Grinding, humming, roaring, clicking or growling noise coming from the wheel well area while driving. That noise usually gets louder the faster you drive.
- You may also notice some change in the volume of the noise when turning left or right. If you are turning the steering wheel to the right, more of the car weight is being transferred to the left side of the car, and vise versa. When this happens, the bad wheel bearing gets a variable amount of load and the noise will get louder or quieter.
- Play in the wheel bearing.
- You may also get an ABS, BRAKE, CEL, VSC, AFS, traction control and slip indicator warning lights on the dashboard.
- Error codes related to the brake, ABS, traction control or other systems when scanning ECU for diagnostic trouble codes.
How to Diagnose the Problem.
- If you have the ABS or other related warning lights on the dashboard, scan the onboard ECU for error codes. This information could be very helpful when trying to pinpoint the problem. Very often when the wheel bearing goes bad, the ABS or wheel speed sensor is no longer getting correct measurements and the ECU then generates an error code. For example, I’ve got the ABS error code C0205 on my 2007 Lexus IS350, which stands for “Front Speed Sensor LH Circuit”. This clearly shows where I need to look for the source of the problem – the front left side wheel speed sensor. I used my BlueDriver car scanner capable of reading ABS diagnostic error codes.
- Most of the times you can clearly determine whether the bad wheel bearing noise is coming from front or back, left or right side of the car.
- Safely jack up the car and try to spin the wheel by hand. You might be able to hear an unusual grinding noise or feel resistance in the wheel bearing. You may need to remove the wheel and the brake caliper assembly if the brake pads get in the way.
- With the wheel still up in the air, check for any play in the wheel bearing. Grab the wheel at 3 and 9 o’clock, and then at 6 and 12 o’clock and try to move the wheel back and forth towards and away from yourself. If you see and feel the play in both vertical and horizontal directions, then you definitely have a bad wheel bearing and hub assembly. If there is only play when you move the wheel at 3 and 9 o’clock, you may want to check for play in tie rods or ball joints instead.
- You may also hear a clicking or knocking sound as you shake the wheel.
- Keep in mind, your bad wheel bearing and hub assembly won’t necessarily have all of the above symptoms at the same time. It could be just one or two symptoms like a loud or grinding noise, while there may not be any play in the wheel or warning lights on the dashboard.
- Also, don’t get confused by noises related to bad tires, balance, or alignment.
Tools and parts required.
Here is a list of tools and parts I used for wheel bearing and hub assembly replacement. Most of the tools are fairly common and you are likely to have them in your toolbox. Otherwise, you should be able to easily find most of them at your local auto parts store. If you want to save some money or if your store doesn’t sell any of the tools you need, you can find them online and usually for much cheaper. For your convenience, I included the links to the replacement parts and tools I used for this repair.
- New front wheel bearing and hub assembly with ABS speed sensor
- TechStream diagnostic cable and software
- Hydraulic floor jack
- Jack stands
- Wheel chocks
- Breaker bar
- 1/2″ ratchet and sockets set
- 5″ socket extension
- Penetrating grease
- Brake cleaner
- 320 grit sandpaper
- Anti-seize lubricant
- Medium strength thread locker
- Flathead screwdriver
- Torque wrench 1/2″ drive
- Brake rotor micrometer
- Dial Indicator with magnetic base
- Brake pads (if necessary)
- Brake rotor (if necessary)
- Slide hammer puller set (you can also rent this tool for free at your local auto parts store)
Make sure to check parts compatibility with your particular Lexus year and model when buying online.
*These are Amazon and eBay affiliate links.
- Disconnect the negative terminal on the battery since we are going be working with electrical wires, to avoid accidentally damaging the ABS sensors or the car ECU.
- Engage the emergency brake and place the wheel chocks behind the rear tires.
- Before you lift the car up in the air, loosen the wheel lug nuts. For that, I am using a 1/2″ drive 24-inch long breaker bar, 21-mm socket, and a 5″ socket extension. When loosening the lug nuts, always find a position where you can push down on the breaker bar using gravity and your body weight for your advantage. If you are pulling the breaker bar up, all that tension from the lug nuts is transferred to your lower back, and that is something you may want to avoid doing. DO NOT loosen the lug nuts all the way yet! Turn the lug nuts no more than 90 degrees from their original position to avoid placing the load of the car weight onto the lug nut studs and potentially breaking or damaging them.
- If necessary use a wheel lock key tool to remove the secure lug nut.
- Jack up the car in a safe manner. Never use a floor jack to support the car for any extended periods of time. Instead, use the jack stands with enough rated capacity to support your particular car (consult your owner’s manual for more details). Be sure to jack up your car in the right place. For example, on my Lexus IS350, the front floor jack mounting point is right in the middle of the engine cross member between the two front wheels. In the back, it is right under the rear differential. Make sure you don’t place the floor jack in the wrong place such as under engine oil pan or under transmission. Consult your owner’s manual for proper jacking point.
- I’m using a wood block to prevent the cross member from getting damaged.
- Check and tighten the wheel chocks under the rear tire one more time, as they may get loose after you jacked up the front of the car.
- Place jack stands in the proper position and lower the floor jack until the car is securely rested on the jack stands. I recommend using two jack stands. This will make it much easier to turn the wheels later to get easier access to the hub assembly bolts.
- Keep the floor jack under the engine cross member just lightly touching it, but not supporting the weight of the car. This will provide for extra protection in case jack stands fail.
- Before you remove the wheels, carefully try pushing the car from side to side to verify that it is resting securely on the jack stands.
- Remove one or both wheels, depending on whether you going to replace just one or both wheel bearing and hub assemblies.
- I also like placing removed wheels under the side of the car for extra safety, in case the jack stands fail.
- Next, we are going to remove the brake caliper assembly. In my case, it is a fixed caliper type, which doesn’t have any sliding pins and instead has two pistons on each side pushing against the brake pads. You may have a different type of caliper on your car, but the removal procedure should be pretty similar. There are two 17-mm bolts in the back of the brake caliper holding it in place. Those bolts are usually sitting in there very tight, so you will need to use a breaker bar to loosen them. For easier access to those bolts, turn the steering wheel all the way to the left or to the right, depending on which side you are working on.
- Use 5″ socket extension to get around the brake line when removing the top brake caliper bolts.
- To avoid breaking or damaging the brake fluid line, place the disk brake caliper assembly onto a secure high platform or hang it onto the wheel shocks using a bungee rope. Step stool or empty bucket usually works pretty well too.
- Inspect the brake pads while you have the brake caliper removed. If the brake pad lining thickness is less then 1 mm, replace the pad.
- Remove the brake rotor. It also might be stuck and won’t come off easily. If that’s the case, try to spray the contact areas with penetrating grease. Let it soak in and do its job and then try to remove the brake rotor again. If that doesn’t work, you can use two bolts and screw them into the holes on the rotor to pry it away from the hub.
- Inspect the rotors while you have them removed. You can use a brake rotor micrometer gage to measure the thickness of the rotors or to check whether they are worn out evenly. If necessary, you can have them turned at your local auto parts store if they are warped. Replace the rotors if they are worn out beyond the minimum allowed thickness (for example on my 2GR-FSE Lexus IS350 minimum brake rotor thickness is 27 mm).
- Disconnect the ABS wire harness and move it out of the way. It is located in the back of the steering knuckle.
You can use a flat-head screwdriver to depress the plastic tab securing the wire harness, and then slide the wire harness off of the ABS speed sensor. Here is a closer look at the wire harness release tab.
- Remove the wheel bearing and hub assembly. You will need to remove 4 bolts in the back of the steering knuckle. Those bolts may also be very tough, so use a good breaker bar to make it easier. You can turn the steering knuckle with your hands to the left or right to get easier access to the bolts.
- After you remove the bolts, the hub assembly may still be stuck inside the steering knuckle. You can try spraying it with penetrating grease in the back of the steering knuckle in the area around ABS wheel speed sensor.
- Next, I used a slide hammer puller set to take out the wheel bearing and hub assembly. Most auto parts will usually let you borrow this tool for free for up to 48-72 hours. Assemble the slide hammer and the axle puller. Attach the axle puller housing to the hub using wheel lug nuts. Start using a slide hammer, lightly increasing force each time until the hub is removed.
- Before installing the new hub assembly, I cleaned the steering knuckle area using brake cleaner and 320 grit sandpaper and applied anti-seize lubricant.
- When buying a new wheel bearing and hub assembly I went with genuine OEM factory replacement part that comes with preinstalled new ABS speed sensor. Since I had ABS related diagnostic trouble codes, I wanted to be certain the new part would be perfect fit and compatibility. I did not want to replace just the hub assembly and later find out that the ABS sensor was also bad. You can check the current prices for new OEM hub assembly here.
- Install the new hub assembly and front disc brake dust cover with the 4 bolts.
- Use medium strength thread locker on all of the bolts. If necessary, remove old thread locker using a wire brush. The thread locker was used originally from the factory and we want to do the same. Wheel hubs and brake calipers are very critical parts, so we definitely want to make sure those bolts don’t get loose from vibration.
- Torque the front hub assembly bolts down to 69 N*m (702 kgf*cm, 51 ft.*lbf).
- Inspect the disc rotor runout. Install the disc rotor and tighten it with 3 or 5 lug nuts. Torque them to 103 N*m (1,050 kgf*cm, 76 ft.*lbf). I used my floor jack handle to hold the rotor while torquing the nuts.
Use a dial indicator to measure rotor runout 10 mm inside (0.39 in.) the outer edge of the disc. If you are interested, I wrote an entire article here explaining how to easily measure rotor runout.
Brake rotor runout shouldn’t be more than 0.05 mm (0.002 in.) according to the factory repair manual. If runout is more than 0.05 mm – try to change the position of the rotor and measure runout again until you find the position with the minimal runout. If the runout still exceeds the maximum value, you can grind the rotor. Auto parts stores usually charge around $10-15 to grind a brake rotor. If the rotor thickness is less than the allowed minimum, replace the brake rotor.
- If necessary, slowly depress the brake caliper pistons to be able to slide the brake caliper assembly onto the brake rotor.
- Install the brake caliper and tighten it with two 17-mm bolts. Torque: 78 N*m (795 kgf*cm, 58 ft.*lbf).
- Connect the ABS speed sensor wire harness. Make sure not to twist the sensor wire.
- Connect the negative terminal on the battery.
- Install the wheels and torque them down to 103 N*m (1,050 kgf*cm, 76 ft.*lbf).
After replacing the hub assembly ABS, BRAKE and other warning lights should disappear right away or after driving the vehicle for some time. If all or some of the lights don’t go away, you will need a diagnostic tool to turn them off. In my case, the BRAKE light disappeared while ABS light and error codes remained. I used my BlueDrive scaner again to erase the ABS error codes.
Pay attention to the car behavior after this repair. Listen to any unusual noises or abnormal operation that can indicate a problem. Perform further inspection if necessary.
I hope this was helpful information that inspired you to do it yourself! Feel free to share your experience, tips, and comments below.