Just as I was about to start a different project, my wife Lisa complained that some noise was coming from the front of the car and that she was concerned about it. We test drove the car around the block and sure enough, the noise was coming from the front right wheel.
Just a week before then, I had recharged the AC system with R134 refrigerant for the summer season
(as explained in this post). and I thought I was done.
I jacked up the front right side of the car and when I tried to move the tire back and forth, it felt a little loose. I did the same thing on the left side. The tire felt firm with only the spinning motion. I figured that the problem was with the front right wheel bearing.
The estimate to replace the hub was about $450. Obviously it was easier to replace the whole hub with the bearing with it, because the estimate to replace just the bearing was even higher. Although the bearing was cheaper, the labor was lot more. From the local auto recycling place the quote for the hub came out to be $45, so the balance of the quote mentioned above was labor.
I found this link explaining the steps to replace the hub / bearing for a different year / model of Saturn, but the steps are very similar for 1996 Saturn SL2 model. Scroll down half the page to see step by step procedures with pictures. I followed these steps up to step 14 where you pry out the hub, at that step I diverged.
Here is how the 1996 Saturn SL2 right front hub looks like.
1) ABS sensor, 2) Steering Rod Knuckle, 3) The Suspension Rod Knuckle 4) Brake Caliper Bracket Connections, 5) Splined Half Shaft goes in there. Control Arm Knuckle on the upper left (unmarked).
At the center of the wheel is the 28 mm half shaft nut. I bought a hub/bearing set from Harbor Freight which included number of deep sockets for this kind of a job.
Brake caliper has two bolts, take out the top one. The lower one just slides out. Set it aside on top of the anti-sway bar.
Remove the brake pads.
Remove the caliper bracket held by two bolts.
Remove the brake rotor.
Finally the Hub to be replaced.
Remove the cotter pin and the castle nut.
Tie Rod End Puller Autozone (part # OEM 27022) . When I called Autozone about this tool, he said there was a $10 deposit on it. I was little confused about this. He explained that you could return the tool within 90 days and get your money back. Sweet!
Remove the two suspension rod bolts.
The yellow arrow points to the second castle nut. Remove the cotter pin and loosen the castle nut. It is not possible to remove this nut, because there is not enough clearance above it. Loosen it enough that the hub will move around.
Now yank the hub towards you (away from the car). You will have to wiggle it and push the half shaft towards the engine. It will come out (eventually!).
Once the half shaft comes out, there will be enough clearance to remove the castle nut. You will need to use the puller tool again to push the bolt through the hub.
Here is the part removal sequence.
I can see why they charge so much for this job, because it took a long time to do all these steps. The hardest part was the second castle nut, especially when putting it back in. It took me two half days to finish this repair.