A stuck wheel hub assembly is a common problem and one that can be frustrating. High-quality wheel hubs on well-maintained vehicles will be less likely to present a problem. However, when it does happen, it’s important to know how best to tackle the issue.
What causes a wheel hub assembly to stick and how is the problem rectified?
What causes a wheel hub assembly to stick?
Like all vehicle components, the wheel hub assembly is subject to a range of stresses and strains during daily use. Wheel hubs are continually exposed to water, dirt, dust and a range of other contaminants. During the winter, vehicles’ wheels will be exposed to salt and magnesium chloride. Wheel hubs are exposed to the elements, and as a result, are particularly prone to corrosion. This corrosion will cause problems over time.
As corrosion builds up between the wheel and the hub, the wheel may ultimately start to stick. Wheel hubs are manufactured from high-strength steel and the steering knuckle to which they are attached will generally be made of aluminium. This can lead to a process known as galvanic corrosion. This occurs when two dissimilar metals react with each other, resulting in the wheel hub being effectively welded to the steering knuckle.
What to do if a wheel hub assembly gets stuck
If the wheel hub assembly appears to be stuck, you will need to check to find out what is causing the problem.
Firstly, jack up the vehicle and ensure that it’s properly supported. Without getting beneath the vehicle, grasp each wheel at the top and bottom to attempt to rock it. There should be minimal movement. If there is excessive play, it may indicate that the wheel bearing is worn and needs adjustment or replacement. If by checking your wheels you confirm that your wheel hub is stuck, you will need to take steps to remove it so it can be replaced.
How to remove a stuck wheel hub assembly
There are a number of methods that can be used to remove a stuck wheel hub assembly.
Firstly, try tapping the back of the wheel hub with a hammer. This may loosen it and enable you to pull it off. A slide hammer can also be used to remove a wheel hub – tighten a few lug nuts to secure the hammer and pull it to loosen the wheel hub.
If these methods don’t work, then try threading a bolt to the back of the hub, then hammer it with an air hammer or hammer and punch. The secret to using an air hammer on a stuck wheel hub is not how much force is used, but where that force is applied. Never attempt to force the wheel hub away from the steering knuckle. Instead, the air hammer should be used to twist the wheel hub mounting while avoiding contact with the steering knuckle. Once the wheel hub starts to revolve, it has broken free of the rust and should now be easier to remove.
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