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How to adjust swivel bearing play

by Annette Flottwell

Keuring - the dreaded Belgian equivalent of MOT, l'inspection par le service des Mines or TÜV, these nosy guys who know nothing about Land Rovers but all about their interpretation of the golden book of rules - noticed that there was some play in the swivel bearings. If even they do notice, that means there is a LOT of play. As they mentioned it with no more consequences than the condition of my seats ( has anyone a pair of Series III front seats catching dust in the shed? - tell me!) we postponed this dreaded work during the whole winter.

But then the short halfshaft snapped and that was just the day to do it, everything was now easily accessible, the job is easier than you'd think. There is no brute blacksmith's work involved, so any girl can do it.

What you need

This job will be a bit awkward if you don't combine it with other repairs, like fresh brakes, hub bearings or in my case a broken halfshaft. In practice, you could do it without removing the stub axles and the brake drums and all that, but you can access the swivel pin a lot easier when you can see what you're doing.

You will need a 9/16" spanner for this job, hammer, mallet, a small chisel and a torque wrench. You'll need as well a ball joint remover for the drag link or track rod, 400-600 sandpaper, CRC, WD40 or such like. Then you also want to have some container ready to drain the swivel housings. Plumber's tools recommended for turning and slackening drag link. (see picture left) Calipers come very handy to measure the shims.


Jack up the axle and put it on stands, better use an elevator if at all possible. Put her out of gear, wiggle the wheels to get an idea of the play. I recommend to remove the drag link, because you want to feel how loose or tight your swivel bearings are after your first attempt of adjustment. It may happen that the track rod is stuck solid, but you will want to adjust your wheel alignment later and then you should be able to turn that piece of engineering genius. I'm writing that as only a genius can think of a long pipe which is soaked in all sorts of mud and grime all year and provide nothing to turn it with. It took Takeo some thinking and an elaborate setup to get that @£$%$#^& unstuck (see above) while I was happily cleaning the shims.

Swivel Pin

Take hammer and a small chisel and open the lock tabs without breaking them off. That may involve various showers of CRC. Loosen the bolts and remove them and the lock tabs carefully.

Withdraw the swivel pin and the shims without dropping the shims in the dirt. Some are only 0.02 mm, so treat them with respect.



Usually the lowest shim is the thinnest. Clean them carefully, clean also the swivel pin and the surface onto which the shims will be refitted. Don't use sandpaper on the surface of the thinnest shim, be careful when you clean the edges. If any loose crap stays between the shims, you'll never get rid of your play and you might damage the surface of the pin's cone on the long run. My pin and shims needed a lot of de-rusting.

Measure them if you can and sort them. For a start , you may want to take out .10 mm unless you have a lot of play, then try .20. Check again whether all surfaces AND the cone are clean and refit shims, swivel pin, bolts and lock tabs. Torque up 70-90Nm. Yes this is written on ANY torque wrench.

Pull the track rod eye and - in theory that is - measure with a spring balance whether resistance to turn the swivel ball is between 36 Nm and 45 Nm. In reality, try your index finger or your little finger if you are a wiry bloke like my beloved husband.

If the result is not satisfying - still too loose or already too much resistance, repeat procedure till you are happy with the results. Don't forget to torque the bolts up. Make a note of which shim(s) you have left. It is very likely that the other bearing will have similar play.

Now torque up the bolts properly and hammer the lock tabs up again. Don't forget the two in the back, yes it is almost impossible to get there.

Repeat the whole procedure for other wheel. It is likely that you'll have to remove as much rust and as many shims as on the other side.

Put the track rod back in with help of a mallet. Torque up the ball joint nut to 40 Nm. Don't forget the split pin.

Now put her back on wheels, we are in for the alignment fun. The toe out is adjusted with a tracking stick, other high tech equipment like a tape measure and a piece of pipe should also do the trick. You want the clearance between your tyres in the front 1.2-2.5 mms wider than in the rear. Adjust by turning track rod. Roll back and forward to check the results until you're happy or your arms are very long.

Go for a test drive, you'll be pleased with the exact and predictable steering. And check if she still goes sort of straight.

That's all there is to it.

Drive safely!

by Annette Flottwell

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