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E39 (1997 - 2003)
The BMW 5-Series (E39 chassis) was introduced in the United States as a 1997 model year car and lasted until the 2004 when the E60 chassis was released. The United States saw several variations including the 525i, 528i, 530i and 540i. -- View the E39 Wiki

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Old 09-06-2011, 09:13 PM
cn90 cn90 is offline
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Location: Omaha NE
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Mein Auto: 1998 528i 5-sp 140K+
DIY: 1998 528i REAR Bearing the Easy Way!

DIY: 1998 528i REAR Bearing the Easy Way!

- When replacing the REAR Bearing of E39, most procedure books call for Special Tools etc. Also, pulling the Hub off the Axle Splines can be difficult etc. So when people hear about REAR wheel bearing in the E39, they sweat.

- With this DIY, it is no sweat at all! If you follow this simple DIY, you should be able to replace the REAR bearing in 1h per side. The key thing is to use the right tools, read on.

- I will show you how to replace the REAR Bearing in 60 minutes, without the need for any of those fancy tools. In fact, the only special tools you need are: Gear/Bearing Puller (3-Jaw and 2-Jaw types), and Bearing Separator. In fact, Advance Autoparts rent all these tools for free (just put down credit card deposit, they give you full refund when you return the tool within 90 days).

a. The four (4) E14 bolts holding the REAR bearing are in a very tight spot.
- For the E14 socket, only the 1/4" type (instead of 3/8" drive) allows you to access to without moving the Half Shaft Axle too much! This is the key to success. Use this 1/4" E14 socket with wobble extension (see below) and you are in business!
- I use the Industro 00344 socket: Patented 1/4" Drive 12mm-15/32"-E14 Socket. See the picture below. The standard E14 Torx socket has 6 sides. This particular Industro 1/4" E14 socket has 12-point socket and works just fine. Note that the section where the drive/extension is inserted: the 1/4" socket is thinner than the standard 3/8" E14 socket. This allows you to slide this socket in that tight space without any issue!
- I bought this Industro 00344 socket for $6-7 online, ebay has it. Trust me, you will not find this particular socket locally! So order it online.
- To digress a bit, E socket is aka as "Reverse Torx" because the Torx Bolt head is sticking out instead of recessed inside the head of the bolt. E stands for "External".

b. Gear/Bearing Puller & Bearing Separator.
- I have a few Gear/Bearing Pullers laying around in my garage. My favorite is KD3533 "Outer Tie Rod Puller". This is a 5-ton 2-jaw puller and in addition to pulling Tie Rod (as the name implies), it can also be used to pull Hub, Bearing etc. It is a sweet of tool for $40 online. Plus it has 2 jaws, great for pulling Outer Race, b/c the Outer Race has 4 mounting flanges, so a 3-jaw puller will not work for removal of the Outer Race.
I got KD3533 "Outer Tie Rod Puller" from Sears online website (local Sears does not carry this), received it 3 days after placing order:

- Bearing Inner Race Puller = "Bearing Separator". You can rent (Advance Autoparts rents this) or buy it.
I bought mine at local Harbor Freight, Item # 93980, for $40:

c. Four-foot section of 1 Iron Pipe (used for natural gas piping in the house): $10 at hardware store. Home Depot, Lowes, Menards carries this Iron Pipe. Use this Pipe in conjunction with the 1/2" Breaker Bar and 12-point 36-mm Socket (Sears has this for $8.00). This pipe is a must to have when replacing drive axle, repairing CV boots etc. in any cars.

d. Wobble extension set. You need the 1/4" extension, wobble type for the E14 socket mentioned above. This wobble extension is the key because of the tight space. I bought mine from local Harbor Freight (Item # 67971) for $12.00:

Symptoms of Bad Bearing @120K+ miles:

- Car wandering a little bit on highway
- Noise "rao rao rao rao" during turning R or L
- Jack up the tire and spin the wheel, you can hear "marbles in a can" sound.
- See youtube video of another person with the same problem of bad Front bearing:

- If your car has low mileage such as 50-60K, I guess you can only do the bad bearing only.

- In my case, I have 120K miles and since the lifespan of most bearings is about 130-170K miles, both REAR bearings are bad in my case. I hear a slight noise but when I raise the car and spin the rear bearing, I can hear the typical "marbles in a can" noise.
If you neglect this further, then the noise will be more pronounced later. Very often we sit in the car with engine/road noise, so it is hard to hear a bad wheel bearing until the problem is more severe. So it is easiest to jack it up and spin the wheel and listen to any noise.

- When you diagnose the front bearing noise, there is no hard-and-and rule: some say bad RF bearing is bad when turning L, some say RF bearing is bad when turning R etc. etc.
* It all depends on which row(s) of bearing is bad. BEST is to jack the car up and spin the tire to check for noise (see youtube video above) and check for play (I have a very very slight play, my suspension is brand new, so I know this is from the bearing play).

- Take your time and study this generic bearing picture. Most modern cars use "double-row bearings".
* The Inner Race is split into 2 parts: "1a" and "1b" during the mfg process.
* When you hold the new bearing in your hand, the only thing that holds the Inner Races (1a and 1b) together is the bearing seals!
* After installation, the Large 36-mm nut clamps down on the Inner Races and the Axle itself to achieve a tight fit.
* Once you master this picture, you can fix any Drive Axle! The FWD Volvo, Honda Accord, Honda Odyssey Van etc. are conceptually the same. Every time you see a Drive Axle, you see this setup. The only difference among car models is in the way the Outer Race is mounted: the BMW E39 REAR bearing has 4 mounting bolts so removal and install is easy. The Honda Odyssey Van FWD Bearing and the BMW E46 REAR Bearing uses a Circlip to hold the Outer Race (which itself is press-fit in the wheel carrier), so you need appropriate Ball Joint/Wheel Bearing Adaptors to remove the Outer Race.
* It is actually very simple: the Axle Spline is mated to the Hub I.D.; The Hub O.D. is mated to the Bearing Inner Races 1a and 1b; The Bearing Outer Race is mounted to the wheel carrier with four (4) E14 bolts.


* Google "BMW E39 REAR Bearing DIY" etc.

* mmm635 REAR Bearing DIYs:

* cdb3113 REAR Bearing DIY:

* If you don't have the Bearing Separator, then I guess you can remove the Inner Race the "barbaric way" with an angle grinder, but be very very careful not to cut through the hub!


- Factory Front Bearing (BMW PN 33411095652) is made by SKF, yes my factory REAR bearing was made by SKF ($80 online). But if you buy TIMKEN (which is a very good mfg of bearing), you get KOYO bearing anyway but at a much cheaper price. TIMKEN simply buys KOYO bearing and put it in a TIMKEN Box!

- TIMKEN 512225 BMW E39 REAR Bearing is $35 online! I got mine at autoparts123 dot com for $35/each, so $82 for both at my door incl. shipping.

- Good website to look up TIMKEN Bearings PN!

- The large 36-mm Nuts: PN 33411133785: $10-12 at BMW dealer. Qty = 2 per car.

- The E14 bearing bolts: PN 33321093661: $1.50/each at BMW dealer. Qty = 8 per car.

- E14 sockets: 1/4" and 3/8" type as mentioned above.
- Wobble extensions: 1/4" and 3/8" type as mentioned above.
- 17" long 1/2" breaker bar. Get it at Harbor Freight for $9. Sears has this too.
- Four-foot section of 1" Iron Pipe for extra leverage (about $8 at hardware store).
- Loctite
- Antiseize
- Metal coat hanger or wire to hang the brake caliper.

- Floor Jack + Jack Stands
- Bearing Puller & Bearing Separator as mentioned above.
- 16-mm wrench (for brake caliper)
- Cold Chisel
- Rubber Hammer (to tap the 16-mm caliper bolts), standard hammer, 3-lb hammer.

- Angle Grinder ($20 at Menards Hardware Store): this is probably the best money spent. I use the Angle Grinder to cut 2 opposing grooves to allow the Bearing Separator to bite on (see below). I did not use the Angle Grinder to cut through the Inner Race as some people have done, you can damage the hub this way! The Angle Grinder has a diamond wheel. Wear goggles, work gloves! The Angle Grinder switch is either ON or OFF with no safety switch. This means if you drop it, it still runs! So exercise safety when using The Angle Grinder. Practice on how to use this on a piece of wood first. I did this on my grass, so all the dust settles onto the grass, nothing to clean LOL.

- Large Bearing Separator (Harbor Freight # 3979): if you decide to use technique shown by mmm635 (the large bearing separator "bites" on the interface between the Inner Race and the Hub, which I found very difficult to do) or using the technique by champaign777 to push the Outer Race out, but with technique, you have to remove Parking Brake, creating the need to adjust the Parking Brake shoes later etc. Here is the the technique by champaign777 in case you want to do it this way. Personally, if you use the Angle Grinder as mentioned above, you don't need to use this Large Bearing Separator, the Standard Bearing Separator Harbor Freight, Item # 93980, for $40 works just fine with the Angle Grinder:

- CRC Brake Cleaner to clean grease off rotors.

- Optional: Propane Torch (you may or may not need this).

a. Removal:

- The BIG Trick: A few days before the procedure, remove plastic hub cover, spray the 36-mm area with WD-40 or something similar. This is to loosen the bond/rust formed between the Axle Spline and the Hub. This proved to be a life saver trick, it was a breeze to push the Axle Splines inward! I started spraying the 36-mm nut area daily since Wednesday and on Saturday had no problem pushing the Axle Spline inward.

- First, unstake the 36-mm nut before loosening it.

- With car on the ground, Parking Brake applied, car in 1st gear (I have Man Trans; those with Auto Trans may wish to put gear in neutral to avoid damage to the A.T. pawl!!!).
- FRONT wheels chocked, brick on Rear Wheel, undo the 36-mm nut using the 12-point 36-mm socket + 1/2" Extension + Breaker Bar + Iron Pipe as shown. To avoid stripping the nut, use one hand to ensure the socket is all the way in. Best is to have another person to help, if not some bricks/wood is used to hold the extension level:

- Loosen wheel lugs, but do NOT remove them.
- Jack up the car and place jackstand under subframe as shown. But read "bimmerteck" caution against jacking under the rear differential!
- What do I do? Jack the Left Front, yes Left Front! The Left Rear will be raised high enough for the jackstand to go in. Then jack the Right Rear at the Subframe large bolt area. Then place jackstand.

- Remove wheel and place under car for added safety.

- Remove Brake Caliper using 16-mm wrench (a rubber hammer is useful here). You may need to pry the brake pad a tiny bit to loosen it so you can free it from the rotor's rusted edge.
- Hang the Brake Caliper on the Spring using coat hanger or wire.
- Remove Rotor (remove the 6-mm Allen bolt first).

- Picture of the old Bearing/Hub assembly, note that the mounting bolts stick out about 5mm or so. Add a drop of oil on the old bolts to make removal smoother.
- Using the 3-Jaw Gear Puller, push the Axle inward until it stops. Do not force it further.

- Using the standard 3/8" E14 socket + appropriate extension(s)/universal joint(s), loosen the E14 bolts one turn or so, then STOP because if you continue, the socket will hit the Axle, and now you cannot remove the socket LOL.
- Here is the magic of the Industro 1/4" E14 socket: when used with 1/4" extension(s) it slides right in and allows you to remove the E14 bolts with ease. At first, I tried to undo the E14 from the start using this 1/4" socket but the 1/4" extension broke because the E14 bolt was tight from the factory! So use the 3/8" E14 socket to loosen the bolt, then switch to 1/4" E14 socket: this is the key to success.

- Remove the old bearing/hub combo as a unit and deal with it later.

- Clean the Axle Spline with WD-40 to remove rust. Use an old toothbrush (the Spline edge is sharp and can cut your skin!).
- Clean the mating surface with a flat screw driver. Spray some WD-40 to wash all the gunk down.
- Apply a smear of Antiseize on the Axle Spline to prevent seizing later (it makes the next bearing job easier).
- NOTE: pay attention to the wheel speed sensor and do not damage it.

- Now, let's deal with the old bearing removal. It is very easy if you follow these steps.
- Using 2-Jaw Puller and 36-mm "Ampro" socket (I bought this Ampro socket at Advance Autoparts, it is the 6-point socket used for oil change but it fits perfectly as shown), pull the Outer Race. In fact, the Outer Race will come out with the Inner Race "1a".

- The crux of this DIY is next: how to remove the Inner Race "1b". Some people use the Angle Grinder to cut it off (with chisel) but you risk damaging the Hub in the process. mmm635 used the Large Bearing Separator to bite at the interface between the Inner Race and Hub. I tried this way but the tool just slid off LOL. There is a much much easier way, read on.
- Now it is time to use the Angle Grinder in an intelligent way, do not cut the Inner Race off, but to make opposing grooves so the Standard (not Large) Bearing Separator can bite on. Mark areas to be grooved, basically 10 ---> 2 o'clock and 4 ---> 8 o'clock.
Make the grooves 1/2 way through the thickness of the Inner Race "1b". Now use the Standard Bearing Separator to remove the Inner Race; it took 2-3 minutes to make the grooves and it saved tons of time! The Inner Race came out in a breeze but first, spray a bit of WD-40 down the interface between the Hub and the Inner Race.

- Do not throw away the old bearing yet, the old Inner Race must be used to install the new bearing. Actually, keep the old Inner Race in your tool box as a permanent collection!

b. Installation:
- Check new bearing to be sure it is in good shape, spin it and you will see it is tight.
- Clean mating surfaces with a small screw driver.

- Clean the HUB well and apply a thin smear of Antiseize as shown.
- Now before you get all excited and slap on the new bearing, STOP! It is very very easy to install it wrong. If you don't pay attention, you get 50-50 chance of doing it right LOL. Nothing worse than installing it wrong, because you will ruin an otherwise brand new bearing.
- Now, with the HUB facing down on a piece of wood, the NEW BEARING FLANGE (where the bolts go in) must be facing UP toward you!
- Use the Old Inner Race to tap on the New Bearing Inner Race. Do not under any circumstances tap on the New Bearing Outer Race, you will definitely ruin the new bearing!
No need for excessive force, a few taps just to seat it onto the Hub:

- Now use the Gear Puller to seat the New Bearing in until it stops. Note that the Old Inner Race is used again. Final clamping effect is done at the very end when you tighten the 36-mm nut.

- Insert new E14 bolts: apply a drop of Loctite on the bolts and the threads.
- Slide the Hub into the Axle Spline. The Right side goes in without issue.
- The Left side was a challenge! BMW makes a special tool just to pull the new bearing in (see thread by champaign777 on this tool). This BMW tool is very expensive, about $300-400. But don't sweat without this tool, read on.

- Align the Hub to the Axle Splines and gently tap it with the rubber hammer just to seat it. Actually if you have a 2nd person it will be much easier: one person reaches his hand inside to push the Axle outward (taking care not to damage the speed sensor) while you install the Hub. Tape the 36-mm socket (I use the "AmPro" 36-mm socket for this) as shown while you pound on the Hub. Do not pound at the Hub Bore (where the Wheel mates into), instead pound on the 36-mm socket so it hits in inner part of the Hub.

- Loosely install the 4 bolts a few threads just to loosely hold the Hub stable (do not tighten these bolts yet). Keep pounding on the 36-mm socket as mentioned until a few threads of the Axle are exposed, install the 36-mm nut and just snug it tight. Do NOT tighten it to 300 Nm now, do this when the car is on the ground!

- Tighten the four (4) E14 bolts. If you look at mmm635 DIY, he mentioned 30 Nm, but it definitely felt much tighter than this when I removed the old bolts. Also, this is an M10x1 bolt and in most cars, the M10x1 bolt goes for 60-90 Nm. My 1998 Volvo V70 Front Bearing uses exactly same setup (same E14 bolts, similar SKF bearing, Axle also made by GKN-Lobro, and the 36-mm nut etc.) but Volvo procedure calls for 45 Nm, then turn another 60 degrees. Back to the E39 bearing bolts, I use a 3/8" breaker bar and just snug it tight, somewhere around 70-80 Nm or so. Anyway, torque these bolts the way you want. If anyone knows the exact torque for this E14 bolt (with certainty), please post.

- Clean the Parking Brake Shoes from any grease.

- Apply Antiseize on the Hub to prevent Rotor from bonding to Hub.
- Re-install brake rotor and retaining bolt (but first: apply a tiny bit of antiseize on the retaining bolt).

- Re-install Brake Caliper, I use a bit of Antiseize on the 16-mm bolts. Torque to spec.: 65 Nm. Since it is difficult to fit a Torque Wrench in this tight space, I usually tap this with a Rubber Hammer for about 60 degrees (from let's say 1 o'clock to 11 o'clock positions).

- Clean rotor from any grease created by this job using CRC cleaner.

- Install wheel and just snug the lugs tight.

- Remove jackstand and lower car to the ground to tighten the 36-mm nut. It is much safer this way. The BMW book says 300 Nm, with this much torque, you may even knock the car off jack stand, so it is safest to do this on the ground. Most Standard 1/2" Torque Wrench stops at 210 Nm. The 1/2" Torque Wrench that goes to 300 Nm usually costs $130-150: no worry if you don't have this expensive 1/2" Torque Wrench. My 1998 Volvo V70 has the exact same setup and Volvo procedure calls for 120 Nm, then turn another 60 degrees, this is exactly what I use for my BMW 36-mm nut using my Standard 1/2" Torque Wrench and Volvo procedure for the 36-mm nut.

- Before you get all excited and torque this 36-mm Nut, STOP! Chock the tire, apply Parking Brake, car in 1st gear (Man Trans). For A.T.: you might want to shift to Neutral to avoid damage to the pawl.
- This is the trick: tighten it to 120 Nm, then STOP. Then I used blue paint to paint the Nut and the Hub at 12 o'clock position. The idea is to turn this 36-mm Nut to 2 o'clock position (or 60-degree turn), however after you tighten to about 1:30 o'clock (or 45-degree turn), you will feel it to be very tight. I stop at 1:30 o'clock, good enough.
If you over-tighten this 36-mm nut, you risk damaging the Bearing Inner Races. So again, I stop somewhere between 45-60 degrees with the Iron Pipe.

- Since you do not have enough room to stake the 36-mm nut with the wheel on, jack up the car again and remove the wheel. Now stake the 36-mm nut with the cold chisel as shown. The 3-lb hammer makes this easier.

- Re-install wheel and snug-tighten the lugs.

- Lower car to ground and torque wheel lugs to spec. 120 Nm.

- With engine OFF, gently depress the brake pedal to seat the brake pads (remember you pried the brake pads apart a little bit before). This step is IMPORTANT, do not bypass this step!!!

This seems like a long DIY write-up because I list all the special tools, tricks/tips and precautions, but believe me, if you have wrenched before, it is 1h per side! Now car drives like new at a cost of $35 per Koyo bearing, which was inside a Timken box bearing!

That is all boys and girls.....Don't let anyone scare you about REAR bearing, it is very easy with the right tools and procedure.
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Last edited by cn90; 09-06-2011 at 10:32 PM.
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