How to Repack (Grease) a Wheel Bearing

Updated: Apr 12

Decided to have a look at your wheels?

Sometimes, all they need is a little l̶o̶v̶e̶ grease! You may not need to replace your wheels bearings but greasing them will certainly keep them going longer.

Looking at your wheels, apart from being true and balanced, it seems like there is not much to be done right? Wrong!


The bearings in the hubs are an essential part of the bike and are far too often neglected until they are really close to a catastrophic failure. If a bearing fails on the trail, you are basically stuck without being able to roll the wheels without causing more damage.


Why greasing rather than replacing the bearings?

The topic discussed in this post is when a bearing is still good meanings there is no play at all but might need a little grease to perform better and last longer.


So the first step is to access the condition of the bearings. This an easy operation that is best done while the wheels are still on the bike.

Check your wheel bearings once in while, will you?

Ideally but it is not a necessity, you will lift your bike off the ground, one wheel at the time during the checking procedure.

It is easily done with the center stand if you have one or a mechanic stand/crate/a dead KTM engine, or what have you.


Then, position your hands on the tire, opposite to each other across the diameter of the wheel and try to rock it on the axle (no spinning here). Meaning, while you are on your knees on the side of the bike, try to push-pull your hands close or away from you.


If you do feel any play at all, then continue and try to look down at the junction of the wheel spacer and the dust cover (the first seal you see from the outside).

You might be able to see these two parts moving from each other.


If you can feel a play and sometimes also confirm by seeing it, this means your bearing is shot and needs to be replaced ASAP!


Check our other guide: How to replace a wheel bearing (coming soon) and get yourself a bearing replacement kit from the store.

We carry affordable OEM quality as well as high-quality replacement kits for the DR650.


Note: On the rear wheel you might feel a play but can't see anything moving on the axle. This is likely a play in the swingarm axle you feel while rocking the wheel.

This too needs to be addressed.


When you do not have any play...

This is where you can give some love to your wheels. by greasing the bearings.

Repacking the bearings will help them last longer, avoid overheating and prevent water ingress leading to rust and premature failure.


Typically on the DR650, the front wheel bearings last 3/4 seasons of riding whereas the rear one could last 1 or 2. Of course, it all depends on how much/how hard/how loaded you ride and where you ride.


Here in the PNW, we replace rear bearings every 2 seasons or earlier, if a failed seals allowed water to get in, they won't last long. Otherwise, we grease them Front and Rear every spring if they are still good.


 

Here is the complete tutorial to repack your bearings


Tools and supplies needed

  • Wrench size 10, 19 and 24 to take the wheels off

  • Large flat screwdriver

  • Pick tool (a fine tip of some sort)

  • Brake cleaner

  • Rags/Shop towel and a pan

  • Grease (good waterproof grease like the Maxima is best)


Nice to have:

  • Drill + a tool handle that friction fit well into the inner race of the bearing (here I use the pick tool as it fit very well!).


Step 1: Accessing the bearing balls


Remove the wheel spacer by pulling it out.

A little lip on the spacer holds it in place so that they don't fall off when taking the wheels off for repair but they come out with a little persuasion.

DR650 Wheel bearing
Spacer out! You can see the little lip at the edge acting as a retainer.

Now with the large screwdriver, carefully pry the dust seal out.

The correct way to do this is to push the flat tip as far as possible (against the hub) underneath the seal.

You want to ensure you are prying on the outer edge of the seal and not the soft lip part otherwise you can easily damage the lip and/or kink the spring behind it.


Then you can see the actual bearing and clean the area before opening it.

Wheel bearing DR650
Prying out a dust seal the correct way, be careful!
Wheel bearing dust seal DR650
Example of a damaged seal with a torn lip and kinked spring

Note: Sometimes the seal are pressed too much in the hub (past flush) or are not the correct thickness (aftermarket).

This situation leaves no gap between the seal and the bearing making the above difficult.


This where you want to push the flat tip

all the way to contact the hub before

prying it out.





To remove the rubber seal on the bearing itself you must use the pick tool with finesse!

It's highly important that you do not damage this seal either as it is the last protection against water and dust from the outside.


The technique consists of pushing the seal sideways and then up, using the pointy tip to grip the surface of the rubber.

Start by poking (gently) the tip in the middle and try to wiggle it out.

Some seals come more easily than others.

If not, like in the photo below, you will have to resort to prying carefully from the edge of the seal to pop it out.

DR650 wheel bearing
Now you see me! This is the actual bearing with a rubber seal in place

Step 2: Clean the bearing


Once you can see the balls inside the bearing, have a good look at it and evaluate how much grease is left, do you have any trace of rust color in the grease or is it simply dry.

Just take a mental note to remember how well this bearing has faired until now.


Hold the wheel with the bearing facing down and above a catch pan.

Spray generously the brake cleaner inside the bearing to dissolve the grease and grime.

Wipe it down and then use the drill and the round handle of a tool to spin the bearing at high speed. This will helps expel the grease out really quickly.

(drill technique in the photo below for grease application)


Repeat a few times until fairly clean and let dry for a few minutes after a final wipe


Step 3: Repack with love


The bearing is now ready to be greased thoroughly!

At this point, you should be able to spin the bearing with your finger without feeling much resistance or "sand grain" on the race.


Armed with a smaller flat tip screwdriver or your grease gun, apply the grease generously pushing it in the bearing.

Once it looks "packed", spinning the bearing with the drill will help spread it everywhere.


Repack and spin again, it should look completely full as the last picture.

The drill technique: fast and easy way to apply grease on a bearing

A wheel bearing repacked with grease

Step 4: Reassemble and ride!


The bearing is now ready to be closed.

Just press the rubber seal with your hand, you will feel it clipping on the outer race.

Give the bearing a spin to make sure all is in place as it should be.


Then the same way goes for the dust seal, it should go in with your hand.

If needed a large socket matching its diameter or simply tapping the outer edge with

a mallet should help.


Note: It is critical that you only press the dust seal in flush with the edge of the hub.

If you do push it further it could come in contact with the bearing and the seal's lip will ride on the retaining lip of the wheel spacer. This will damage the dust seal really quickly and allow water ingress toward the bearing. Not good!


Put the wheel spacer back in and the wheel is ready to go on the bike!


Tip: When you buy new bearings, take off the dust cover and pack them with extra grease. They tend to come with very little from the factory in the first place which will lead to premature failure. Thanks to Murray B. for this fine tip :)


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