Guide: Replacing an 09-19 Ford Flex Front Wheel Bearing

by Ryan Stogran

Blue 2013 Ford Flex

Replacing the wheel bearings in your 09-19 Ford Flex can seem daunting, especially for owners who have never done it before. But you’ll need to replace them eventually—and learning how to do it yourself is far cheaper than paying a mechanic for the job. Fortunately, replacing your Flex’s wheel bearings can be easier than you think, as long as you know what to do and how to do it. That’s where we come in.

We’ve been making high-quality aftermarket wheel bearings for Ford Flex’s and other vehicles for years, so we know exactly how these critical components need to be installed for safe and effective use. Read the step-by-step guide below so you can perform this essential maintenance task on your own and keep your SUV’s wheels in great shape.

Required Parts

  • 1x New wheel bearing hub assembly
  • 4x New wheel bearing hub assembly mounting bolts (source from Ford dealer)
  • 1x New axle nut (source from Ford dealer)

Required Equipment

  • A floor jack (or access to a vehicle hoist)
  • Jack stands (if you don’t have access to a vehicle hoist)
  • A new Ford Flex wheel bearing hub assembly
  • A long ⅜ inch drive ratchet (flex head is an advantage)
  • A long ½ inch drive ratchet (flex head is an advantage)
  • A ½ inch drive torque wrench capable of 0-300 lb/ft (flex head is an advantage)
  • ½ inch drive impact gun (not necessary but definitely an advantage)
  • 18mm ½ inch drive shallow socket
  • 18mm ½ inch drive swivel socket (or a regular 18mm socket with universal joint)
  • 19mm ½ inch drive deep socket
  • 32mm axle nut socket
  • ½ inch drive universal joint (if you do not have an 18mm swivel socket)
  • A ⅜ inch drive T35 Torx socket
  • A short ⅜” drive extensions (1-2”)
  • A medium steel punch
  • A large steel punch
  • Soft dead blow hammer
  • Ball peen hammer
  • Small pry bar or large flat head screwdriver
  • Green or red Scotch Brite pads and various wire brushes/scrapers or a die grinder with flap wheel attachments
  • Mechanics wire or a spare coat hanger
  • Penetrating lubricant spray
  • Blue thread lock compound
  • Brake cleaner
  • Shop paper towels
  • Latex or nitrile gloves (optional)

Torque Specifications

  • Wheel lug nuts: 100 lb/ft
  • Brake caliper bracket mounting bolts: 122 lb/ft
  • Axle nut: 258 lb/ft
  • Wheel bearing hub assembly mounting bolts: 98 lb/ft

Step 1: Raise and Support The Vehicle

Using your ½ inch drive ratchet and 19mm socket (socket size may differ depending on the size of your lug nuts, aftermarket wheels, etc.), slightly loosen the lug–but do not remove–nuts on your Flex’s wheels.

Following the directions in your owner's manual, raise the front of the vehicle using a suitable floor jack, or the jack that comes with the vehicle. Lifting both front wheels off the ground will make this job much easier as you can turn the wheels left or right to gain better access.

Make sure to place jack stands under the vehicle at the locations identified in the picture above. Never attempt to work underneath a vehicle without adequate support! Finally, remove the wheel lug nuts fully and remove the wheel from the vehicle.

Wheel bearing hub with caliper and rotor attached

Step 2: Loosen Axle Nut

If you have an impact gun, install your 32mm axle nut socket and remove the axle nut (yellow arrow above). If you do not have an impact gun, use your long ½ inch drive ratchet or breaker bar and a 32mm socket. Have someone press and hold the brakes while you loosen the axle nut. Do not remove the axle nut completely at this time.

Impact gun working on caliper mounting bracket bolts

Step 3: Remove Brake Caliper Assembly

Depending on which side of the vehicle you’re working on, turn the front wheels clockwise or counterclockwise to gain access to the two large brake caliper bracket mounting bolts (in yellow above). We’re replacing the driver's side wheel hub so we turned the wheels counterclockwise.

Using your pry bar or flat head screwdriver, gently pry the brake pads away from the rotor. You’re only looking to gain a small clearance to assist with removing the brake caliper assembly.

Brake caliper hanging by metal wire from the strut assembly

With the 18mm swivel socket, or universal joint, and your long ½ inch drive ratchet, loosen and remove the two brake caliper bracket mounting bolts and set aside. Lift the entire brake caliper and brake caliper mounting bracket assembly out of the way and support it with mechanics wire or a coat hanger secured to the spring of the strut assembly (above).

Man swinging hammer against the back of the brake rotor

Step 4: Remove Brake Rotor

Using the T35 Torx socket and your ⅜ inch drive ratchet, remove the set screw on the brake rotor. It may be necessary to soak this with some penetrating lubricant for a few minutes to free any rust inside the threads. If you damage this screw during removal, that’s okay, it is not necessary to reinstall this during assembly.

Screw a wheel lug nut on one stud about half way to prevent the brake rotor from falling off during this next step. Using a soft dead blow hammer, strike the rotor face and around the hub until the rotor becomes loose on the hub. Do not use a steel hammer for this step or you will damage your brake rotor! Remove the wheel lug nut and brake rotor and set aside.

Man spraying penetrating lubricant on axle shaft

Step 5: Remove Axle Nut & Wheel Hub Assembly

With your 32mm socket, remove the axle nut the rest of the way and discard.

It’s now a good idea to spray some penetrating lubricant on the splines of the driveshaft (above) and between the wheel bearing hub assembly flange and spindle to help free it for the next step. Let soak for a few minutes.

Place the steel punch in the centre hole of the drive shaft (yellow arrow above) and strike gently with your ball peen hammer. You’re looking to free the splines from the hub while also pushing the axle towards the inside of the vehicle about a ½ to ¾ of an inch. Do not use a lot of force or push the axle shaft all the way in or you could damage the CV joints.

Location of wheel hub mounting bolts

Grab your ⅜ inch long ratchet, short extension, and 18mm shallow socket and loosen the 4 wheel bearing hub assembly mounting bolts (yellow arrows above). It may be necessary to turn the wheels left or right to expose the other mounting bolts.

It’s important that your driveshaft is pushed in far enough that the socket does not rub on the steel retaining band of the rubber CV boot. As you can see in the picture below, the steel band (yellow arrow) is directly beneath the extension, which is ideal.

Man holding ratchet removing wheel hub mounting bolts

Using a large punch and ball peen hammer, strike the side of the wheel bearing hub assembly (below) to break it loose from the spindle. You can use quite a bit of force here as long as your punch isn’t coming into contact with the spindle. Depending on the age of your Flex or the weather where you live, there will be varying degrees of corrosion on these surfaces.

Man prying against spindle to loosen wheel hub assembly

Once loosened, gently tap the old wheel bearing hub assembly free from the spindle and remove it from the vehicle. Pay attention to the drive shaft and make sure it stays in the vehicle while the hub is removed. You do not want the axle shaft coming out of the transmission during this step.

Before and after of dirty versus clean spindle face and bore

Step 6: Clean Spindle & Prepare for Installation

Using a variety of the cleaning tools, wire brushes, scrapers, and Scotch Brite pads, thoroughly clean the hub mounting surfaces and inner bore of the spindle of any corrosion or foreign materials. Die grinders with flap wheel attachments (or a cordless drill) will greatly speed up this process.

You’re not looking for a shiny showroom finish here, just a smooth surface that is free from dirt and debris. Wipe down the surface and hub with brake cleaner to remove all oils. Once all clean, apply a little bit of penetrating lubricant to the axle shaft splines only.

Man holding new wheel hub assembly and lining up axle shaft splines

Step 7: Install the New Wheel Bearing Hub Assembly

With the new wheel hub assembly in your hands, carefully line up the splines of the driveshaft with the grooves on the inside of the hub assembly. Gently push the new hub onto the axle and line up the wheel bearing hub assembly mounting holes.

New wheel hub assembly lined up ready for bolts

You’ll notice that the mounting holes are spread wider apart on the bottom than the top. This makes locating the new part a snap.

Using the 4 new wheel hub mounting bolts, hand thread each one into the threaded holes of the new wheel hub assembly. With your ⅜ inch drive ratchet, extension, and 18mm socket, tighten each bolt in a cross pattern evenly drawing the hub assembly into the spindle hub bore. Pay attention to the drive shaft making sure it is not binding. Torque all 4 bolts to 98 lb/ft in a cross pattern.

New wheel bearing hub assembly installed on car

Thread the new axle nut on the axle shaft and tighten with the 32mm socket until the drive shaft is fully seated. Do not overtighten or torque at this time.

Brake rotor reinstalled on car

Step 8: Reinstall the Brake Rotor and Brake Caliper Assembly

Clean both braking surfaces of the rotor with brake cleaner and mount the rotor onto the wheel studs. If your vehicle has the T35 Torx set screw for the brake rotor, now is the time to reinstall it. If it’s missing, like our demonstration vehicle, you can use a single hand-tightened wheel lug nut. Avoid touching the clean braking surface with your bare hands–consider using latex or nitrile gloves during this step.

Man applying blue thread lock compound to caliper bracket mounting bolts

Apply a small amount of blue thread locking compound to the caliper bracket mounting bolts and set close by for the next step.

Man reinstalling caliper and bracket assembly onto car

Remove the brake caliper and bracket assembly from your metal hook and reinstall onto the vehicle. Line up the two mounting hole locations and start each bolt by hand. Tighten both bolts (yellow arrow below) with an 18mm socket and torque to 122 lb/ft.

Man reinstalling caliper bracket mounting bolts

Step 9: Reinstall the Wheel & Lower the Vehicle

Remove the single lug nut from the previous step and remount the wheel onto the hub. Hand thread all wheel lug nuts to start and then tighten until the wheel is fully seated against the hub. Do not over tighten the lug nuts–they should be tight but not over torqued. You will be torquing them in the next step.

Carefully raise the vehicle just enough to allow you to remove the jack stands. Gently lower the vehicle back to the ground and remove the floor jack. Torque your wheel lug nuts to 100 lb/ft in a cross pattern.

Make sure to pump the brakes a few times before driving to remove the excess clearance you created during Step 3.