Bearing Packing: Hand vs. Tool

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I'm doing some long-overdue front suspension maintenance on my MG, and have broken down the front stub axles(or rather just one of them now-hopefully the other will be faster). I started off just replacing the brake rotor, but project creep and all of that had me figuring I'd best address everything.

In any case, my original Made in England Timken bearings are in good shape(from what I understand/have been told they don't go bad unless abused) and I'd rather reuse them than replace with new of unknown quality and origin. I've cleaned them in kerosene and dried with compressed air. Now that I'm done cleaning/derusting/painting etc every part of the stub axle and front suspension I can access easily, I'm ready to put it all back together.

I know bearings can be hand-packed, and Timken even has how-to documentation on doing it. My biggest fear in doing that, though, is missing a spot and causing issues down the road.

I've seen a variety of hand tools intended to pack bearing races. Part of me never wants to turn down a chance to buy a new tool, but realistically this is going to be a $30 tool that I use once every few years if even that often. Still, though, if I end up doing a better job packing them using a tool than by hand I'd buy it.

Does anyone have any opinions on the merits of doing it one way vs. the other?
 
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I can't speak from personal experience about the tool, as I haven't used one. This summer, I performed my first ever bearing repack on our travel trailer. After watching some YouTube videos and packing by hand, I felt confident that I had loaded the bearings up well. It was quite apparent when grease was being pushed through the bearing.

As an extra (probably unnecessary) cleaning step before greasing, I rinsed the bearings in iso alcohol to make sure I got all of the mineral spirit out. I'm sure blowing them out with compressed air is good enough though.
 
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I've always packed bearings from a tub of grease, so I could literally grab a palm full and then spend a few minutes trying to mash the grease into every nook while rolling the balls/needles/etc around. And once I install the bearing onto the vehicle, I create a "dam" of grease around it.
 
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The only down side of hand packing bearings is that the disposable nitrile glove are more expensive than the grease.😆
Just NO! Nitrile gloves of suitable thickness for automotive work can be washed and reused, and there is no particular need for nitrile gloves to repack a bearing with fresh/clean grease.

This forum has gone off into bizzaro wacko twilight zone land.

It doesn't matter if you miss a spot. If you just get a fair amount of grease in, it will redistribute just fine, and you don't need to get some hypothetical maximum amount possible in.

You only need a tool if doing high volume and need to speed that up.

WTF???!!!
 
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Rahui Pokeka Aotearoa
I use a cone style tool these days, with an air powered gun and pot of grease, faster and less messy than by hand...although I do sometimes pack by hand. On larger bearings I use a needle point between the rollers, and that gets them well packed.

Taper rollers in the MG ? BMC always used to use thrust ball bearings and a spacer.
 
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Hand pack. It’s easy and cheap.
And effective.

Just NO! Nitrile gloves of suitable thickness for automotive work can be washed and reused, and there is no particular need for nitrile gloves to repack a bearing with fresh/clean grease.

This forum has gone off into bizzaro wacko twilight zone land.

It doesn't matter if you miss a spot. If you just get a fair amount of grease in, it will redistribute just fine, and you don't need to get some hypothetical maximum amount possible in.

You only need a tool if doing high volume and need to speed that up.

WTF???!!!

You're offended that someone would want to protect themselves from a potentially harmful substance? And you're offended then that they won't wash a disposable glove?

The rest I agree with, but you must see that you're the one who comes off as "bizzaro wacko" in your post, right? Right?
 
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I worked for three years in a high volume brake shop. We used a mechanical bearing packer because it was fast and clean. The rest of my 30 year career in mechanics I hand packed wheel bearings including class 8 trucks. If done correctly never a problem.
 
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I don’t have any problem hand packing the bearing, but yeah, it’s easier and quicker with the tool. But I wouldn’t worry about doing it manually, worst case scenario...you don’t get grease through every single nook and cranny...so what, there’s still old grease in there and the new grease will just disperse anyway.
 

bunnspecial

Thread starter
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Thanks folks! Sounds like hand packing it is. Since, AFAIK, serviceable bearings(as opposed to sealed/replace when they go bad) are pretty much a thing of the past at least on cars, I should have the experience of doing it.

I'm running low on gloves, so I'll probably just do it bare handed. Between my grease gun needing some persuasion to actually seal to Zerks(and push grease into them rather than around them) and dealing with piles of nasty grease oozing out of the kingpins, and then add to that a Zerk on the kingpin that leaked grease when I started filling another one(yes, I replaced that one) I've had my fair share of axle/bearing grease on my hands lately anyway.

My wife gave me a subscription to the paper as a Christmas present this year, and even though I've enjoyed reading it, having plenty of old newspaper around is certainly handy for stuff like this as it's a lot easier to throw away a newspaper than clean the garage floor.


Taper rollers in the MG ? BMC always used to use thrust ball bearings and a spacer

AFAIK, the MGA used taper bearings also. I wonder if that was something that the sports cars got and the mass market cars got the ball bearings.
 
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Cincinnati, USA
And effective.



You're offended that someone would want to protect themselves from a potentially harmful substance? And you're offended then that they won't wash a disposable glove?

The rest I agree with, but you must see that you're the one who comes off as "bizzaro wacko" in your post, right? Right?
Offended no, but annoyed that people are spreading false info. It is not a potentially harmful substance, until it is used grease. When cleaning old grease out, presumably using a solvent, do use gloves (if you want to do this by hand, I find agitation in a can of gasoline, toothbrush at most, works fine without getting my hands in it).

Bizzaro is adding complexity to a simple job, based on misconceptions and the strange idea that making something more difficult is somehow better. Sorry if that rubs you the wrong way, but I've been seeing that trend a lot on forums recently, the false premise that you have to do irrelevant things to "do it right".
 
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