How To Replace Wheel Bearings on a Dirt Bike

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Dirt bike standing in a garage on a center stand ready for wheel bearings to be replaced

Do you know how to replace wheel bearings on a dirt bike? How do you inspect and recognize worn out bearings?

It’s time for our maintenance diary where we give easy step-by-step instructions for dirt bike maintenance! The maintenance diary is a series of posts where we provide tips and tricks that make regular maintenance easier and quicker. In these posts, we cover the typical things you need to work over time when riding dirt bikes.

In today’s post, we explain how to replace the front wheel bearings. However, these instructions apply to replacing the rear wheel bearings as well. We also cover how to inspect the bearings for wear.

Wheel Bearings Service Interval

Wheel bearings can wear out anywhere between 30 to 150 hours. The main factors affecting the wheel bearing lifespan are the conditions you ride in and the parts used. Cleaning and correct maintenance will increase the wheel bearing lifespan in most scenarios.

If you ride in rivers, creeks, and in muddy conditions, you will likely wear out wheel bearings much faster. The water, sand, and other debris inside the wheel hub, on the axle, and bearings are the main factors for early wear.

We have also noticed that typically front wheel bearings will last longer than the rear wheel bearings. When you change tires, it’s always good idea to thoroughly check the wheel bearings and regrease them to increase their lifespan. And if necessary, naturally replace the wheel bearings also.

Read also: How To Clean Leaking Fork Seals On a Dirt Bike

Tools and Preparations for Wheel Bearing Replacement

Let’s start the wheel bearing replacement by making the installation of the new bearings easier.

To do this, put the new wheel bearings in the freezer before doing anything else. The temperature difference between a cold bearing and a heated wheel hub will make the installation much easier.

Continue by washing the dirt bike well and setting it on a center stand.

Position the dirt bike so that the front tire is not touching the ground. You can set a wrench under the front of the skid plate to lift the front slightly.

Inspecting and replacing wheel bearings is a simple process and will take roughly 60 to 90 minutes to complete. We recommend inspecting the bearings each time you change the tire.

The following tools will make it easier to replace the wheel bearings, but no special tools are required to complete this service.

  • New wheel bearings, we used Pivot Works kit: (click to check the current price on MotoSport.com)
  • Seal puller (a big flat head screwdriver will also work)
  • Rubber mallet or a hammer to drive old bearings off and to insert new ones
  • Metal rod or similar to push out old bearings
  • Waterproof grease
  • Blow torch (not necessary) or a heat gun

Read also: How To Align Dirt Bike Forks – aka Twisted Forks

Step 1: Remove the Wheel

Remove the front or rear wheel so that you can inspect and replace the wheel bearings.

Place the wheel over a used or new tire to lift the tire off the ground. This prevents the brake disc or wheel hubs from damaging and makes it lot easier to work.

Inspect the wheel bearings by rotating the bearing with fingers. If you feel any roughness or resistance, they are worn out. Any roughness or play in the bearing indicates that the bearing is close to its lifespan and needs to be replaced.

Step 2: Remove Collars and Dust Seals

Remove the bearing collars on both sides. If the bearing collars are stuck, you can use a screwdriver and nudge them from each side slowly to loosen them.

Hand holding a seal puller and removing the wheel bearing dust seals from a dirt bike front wheel
Remove the wheel bearing dust seals with a seal puller or a flat head screwdriver.

Next, take your time and carefully remove the dust seal. Flip the wheel and remove the dust seal also from the other side.

Use a seal puller or a large flat head screwdriver to pry off the dust seals. The new bearing set comes with new seals, so don’t worry about damaging the seal itself.

However, be careful not to damage or scrape the wheel hub by sticking the screwdriver or seal puller against the wheel hub.

Step 3: Remove the Retainer Clip

If you are replacing the rear wheel bearings, please note that rear wheels typically have a retainer clip under the dust seal. It needs to be removed before the next step and driving the wheel bearings out.

Use a small flat head screwdriver or clip pliers to pry the clip off. It is located under the dust seal and the bearing but it is sometimes hard to notice if covered with grease or dirt.

Step 4: Remove Wheel Bearings

Once you have removed both dust seals (and the rear wheel retainer clip), position the wheel bearing spacer inside the wheel hub so that it exposes the bottom bearing. This will allow you to place a push rod against the bearing and drive it out.

Lower wheel bearing lip showing inside the wheel hub in a dirt bike front wheel
Align the spacer inside the wheel hub on one side to access the lower bearing lip.

You can use a screwdriver or a push rod to push the spacer on the side to expose the bearing lip.

Continue placing the push rod inside the wheel hub and start driving the bearing out.

Be careful when positioning the rod inside the wheel hub so that it will only touch the outer side of the bearing. Avoid contact with the inside of the wheel hub and be careful not to damage the bearing housing area.

Continue tapping the push rod to drive the bearing out. Make sure to push it out straight by tapping the bearing from both sides evenly.

Now, flip the wheel and continue on the other side in order to complete the wheel bearing removal.

Old wheel bearings, wheel bearing spacer, seal puller and Pivot Works wheel bearing replacement kit box laying on the floor with dirt bike front forks showing
Old wheel bearings have now been removed. We replaced the old wheel bearings with a new Pivot Works Bearings kit.

Step 5: Clean the Wheel Hub

Now it’s time to clean the wheel hub thoroughly and inspect the bearing housing for any scratches.

Use a small pick tool or screwdriver to completely remove any dirt and dust inside the hub and the bearing housing area.

Hand holding a small screwdriver and removing dirt inside the wheel hub of a dirt bike front wheel
Remove all dirt and dust inside the hub with a small pick tool or screwdriver.

It’s important to clean the wheel hub thoroughly. This allows an easy installation and provides a good seal.

If you see any scratches inside the housing, use a 200 grit sandpaper to smoothen areas that may prevent the new bearings from sliding in. Be careful not to sand too much and thus making the housing larger. The goal is only to smoothen the surface.

After cleaning, it is time to apply waterproof grease on the wheel bearing inside spacer.

The grease helps preventing corrosion as well as dust traveling inside the wheel hub.

Apply grease generously inside and outside the spacer. The grease on the inside prevents the wheel axle from sticking and being corroded.

Apply a small amount of grease inside the bearing housing and on the new bearing to make the installation easier.

Step 6: Install New Wheel Bearings

This step requires a little planning and timing. At this point, your new set of bearings should be in the freezer.

Next, we are going to heat the wheel hub and then quickly insert the new bearings in place.

Blow torch heating the wheel hub of a dirt bike front wheel during the replacement of wheel bearings
Heating the wheel hub with a blow torch or a heat gun makes the installation easier.

The temperature difference between the wheel hub and the bearing will drastically make the installation easier.

Heat the wheel hub evenly and slowly avoiding excessive heat. Take one bearing out of the freezer at a time to maximize the heat difference.

Once the hub is warm to touch, place the cold and slightly greased bearing directly from the freezer in place and tap it in with a rubber mallet.

Make sure you’re driving it in slowly and straight. You can use the old bearing to double up on top of the new one to make sure the new bearing goes in straight.

Once the bearing is in level with the wheel hub, you can use a large socket or a similar spacer that is slightly smaller than the wheel hub to get the bearing all the way in. Make sure you are tapping the bearing in by alternating the sides to drive it in straight.

Once the bearing is seated all the way in against the lip, the tapping sound will change noticeably. Now, stop and check that the bearing is fully seated and straight.

Hand holding a greased wheel bearing spacer and installing it back in the wheel hub
Remember to put the spacer in place before installing the other bearing.

Next, put the spacer in place. Remember to do this before installing the other bearing for you are not able to install the spacer if both bearings are already in place.

Once the spacer is in place, you are ready to install the other bearing. Heat the wheel hub and repeat the installation process.

If you’re installing the rear wheel bearings, do not forget to install the retainer clip before moving forward to the next step.

Step 7: Install New Dust Seals and Collars

Prepare new dust seals by greasing the inside groove thoroughly. Make sure to apply grease generously to fill the area in order to prevent dirt and water traveling past the seal.

Push the dust seal in place by hand. It should level with the wheel hub.

Grease the collar and push it in place. Check that the collar and bearings are rotating freely without any resistance.

Step 8: Reinstall the Wheel

Reinstall the front wheel by following good practices to make sure the forks are not binding.

You can find detailed instructions on how to correctly reinstall the front wheel and tighten the front fork bolts after wheel removal in our article How To Align Dirt Bike Forks – aka Twisted Forks.

If you are installing the rear wheel, make sure to align the rear wheel straight and check the chain free play.

Read also: How To Change Fork Oil On A Dirt Bike

Our Wheel Bearing Recommendations

Check manufacturers warranty. Some manufacturers like All Balls Racing and Pivot Works offer lifetime warranty. It usually means that if you need to replace them, you will get new for free one time per purchase. For us who ride a lot, this lowers the overall maintenance costs.

Also these kits have much more improved sealing capability and are using better improved collar design. The kit also includes extra o-rings that you can replace when changing wheels.

We highly recommended this Wheel Bearing And Collar Kit by Pivot Works: (click to check the current price on MotoSport.com)

Read also: How To Wash Your Dirt Bike

Maintenance Summary

A wheel bearing service may sound intimidating or hard to complete. But it actually is quite simple.

With the help of these step-by-step instructions you will be able to replace wheel bearings quickly and safely without damaging your dirt bike.

Replacing the wheel bearings can also help drive down the overall maintenance costs and improve maintenance interval when performed correctly.

So, remember to check the wheel bearings each time you change the tires and replace them if needed.

See you out on the trails!

Last updated: April 17, 2022