Brothers Trucks 1947-1959 Tapered Wheel Bearings Installation


Brothers Trucks 1947-1959 Tapered Wheel Bearings Installation


Our ’57 Chevy 1/2-ton, Project Yard Truck, has been doing general hauling and transportation duty for several months, and is to be commended on its usefulness, dependability, and thumbs-up-generating good looks. We’ve gone to events where it has been well accepted (for a daily driven truck) and have put on a bunch of freeway miles with no problems other than its repeated refusals to shift into Fifth gear (it’s only a four-speed, with too low of a rearend gear ratio). Our effort to keep this truck simple and fun is going well, with no major body or chassis alterations planned. but it’s time to take a look at some safety aspects. After we purchased the ’57, we had the brakes serviced professionally, and were told that “running deep reversed rims is extra-hard on the original wheel bearings.” So we whipped out the good ol’ Brothers catalog to check it out. Sure enough, a roller bearing conversion kit is offered for a ’47 to ’59 Chevy/GMC trucks. In terms of driving safety, original ball-type bearings performed just fine in 1957. but roads and speeds have changed greatly since then. One new enemy beats on the bearings every time we drive. This new enemy is called side-load. It’s generated primarily by today’s radial tires, roads with rain grooves and banked freeway on-and-off ramps. Additionally, higher speeds put greater side-loads on vintage ball bearings that were never designed to endure it. The bottom line is that original-style ball bearings can’t be expected to perform at full capacity for much more than 10,000 miles. Obviously, worn wheel bearings make noise, wear out your tires, and when one fails, you’ll likely be in touch with your insurance agent. Properly installed and lubricated tapered roller bearing are good for more than 100,000 miles. Well, that makes it a no-brainer. We performed a full step-by-step installatin here in case some of our younger readers haven’t done a basic wheel bearing replacement, and for the older readers who haven’t done one in 20 years. We fall into the latter category, so we took the truck to a friend’s shop, where he was available to look over our shoulder and provide a bearing insertion tool, an inexpensive and handy tool to have. However, it’s not an absolute necessity for this job. All you’ll need are your basic tools, a can of bearing grease, and a pair of latex gloves (unless you really like grease on your hands). The job is really quite simple, and well worth the peace of mind it’ll give you while winding your way through picturesque mountain passes heading for a fun day with the gang. Follow along as we revisit Auto Shop 101.

The original-style ball bearings versus the new tapered roller bearings: Which bearing would make you feel safer while cruising on mountain roads at 70 mph? Read the story to find out the difference.

We couldn’t resist. When was this photo taken? Check out the antique mechanical floor jack — older than the truck and still doing daily duty.

Before removing the wheel, make sure you have solid support under the frame. Prevent accidents before they happen.

Our Project Yard Truck still runs the original drums, which work fine for our rural driving. What about the wheel bearings?

We removed the grease cap with a set of slip-joint pliers, working back and forth as we pulled outward. There are no threads.

With the cap off, we removed the cotter key and then turned the nut off. Don’t worry if it wasn’t tight, it’s not supposed to be.

We wiggled the drum while pulling it straight out. It may hang up on the brake shoes, but should come off without using tools. Don’t forget to remove this inner bearing race. We did and were bummed when the hub wouldn’t slide all the way back on

Here is the complete Brothers Roller Bearing Conversion Kit. It includes new inner and outer bearing sets, races, and grease seals.

A close-up of the bearings shows the broad rolling surfaces set at an angle to offset side-loading brought on by radial tires, rain grooves, and banked freeway ramps.

Take the drums inside and lay some cardboard on your workbench, as this job gets messy. First, we lifted out the outer bearing race as shown.

Then the bearing set lifts out. These parts are all throw-aways (but finish reading the captions first) unless you’re a packrat like most of us, in which case, save ’em for 12 years and then throw ’em out.

With a long drift or punch, tap out the inner bearing set (on the backside of the drum). Work your way back and forth and around the diameter with light to medium taps until it drops out.

This got us the race, bearing set, and grease seal as shown.

We turned the drum over and repeated the same procedure for the outer bearing set.

When driving out the bearing sets and races in the preceding steps, feel around in the grease for these notches to set your punch through, or you could be tapping on the hub flange and getting nowhere.

Here again, is a comparison of the old and new technology.

This is a bearing installer, available from any parts house. It comes with different size heads to fit various diameters. Here it’s used to gently tap the inner bearing race into place.

You can also use a hammer or mallet, tapping gently across and around the diameter to keep it from going in crooked. Listen to the sound — the race is bottomed correctly when your taps become thunks.

We changed to a smaller diameter head and installed the outer race just like the inner.

The smallest head is used to press the race all the way to its seat. Again, when tink tink becomes thunk thunk, you’re there.

Now for the fun but messy part. Don a pair of latex gloves and dig out a nice generous glob of fresh grease. This disc brake grease operates to a higher temperature.

The idea is to mash the bearing into the grease like so, all the way around, to get it to push up out the top of the bearing cage.

Keep at it until the bearings are fully packed. There are tools to do this, but this is quick, easy, and visually certain. Plus, you toss the gloves and you’re clean.

The final step is to install the grease seal over the inner bearing. It goes cup side in.

The perfect tool to tap it in with is the old seal (which you didn’t throw away, right?).

Now, doesn’t this look nicer than before? And just wait until you drive it! Yeah, you’re right; you can’t see, feel, hear, or smell ’em — but they will have a positive effect on your brain as you wind through turns safely for the next 100,000 miles.


Staff Writer
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