How To Set Pinion Bearing Preload Without Torque Wrench [Top 3 Easy Ways]

Any automotive system comes with a pinion gear system within its mechanism. But it requires a regular change of preload to let it be fully functional.

Now, the obvious tool to change the preload is a torque wrench. But not all the time you have one in your toolbox. Or at least, the right one that fits the pinion gear nut.

Here in this article, we’ve put together three alternative ways on how to set pinion bearing preload without torque wrench. To make the processes actionable, we’ve broken them down into bite-size steps.

You up for it? Let’s dive deep and figure everything out-

What Is Pinion Bearing Preload?

For some of our readers who’re kind of new to pinion bearings, let’s understand pinion bearing preload first.

Simply put- the tension that’s put on a pinion bearing is called pinion bearing preload. It takes place in the form of a collapsible spacer.

The spacer in question stays between the bearings. And the required amount of tension is obtained by adjusting the space manually.

How To Set Pinion Bearing Preload Without Torque Wrench

The Purpose of This Preload

What exactly does this bearing preload do when the pinion gear is in action?- you might ask.

Well, one of the typical phenomena of the pinion gear is the sideways thrust, which might go south while it’s in action. This pinion bearing preload prevents the sideways thrust. As a result, the thrust can act to move the pinion gear to the outer edge of the ring gear.

To make it simple to understand, think of a spring that can counter this sideways motion. This perhaps, lets the pinion gear do the job that it’s supposed to do.

Why Would People Use Torque Wrench to Set PBP?

Torque Wrench for PBP

If you remember the structure of pinion gear, there is a but on one end of it. And that’s called the ‘pinion gear nut’, which is used to set the torque of the preload on the pinion bearing.

As it’s a nut that can be operated for obtaining, a torque range is the most useful tool for the purpose. And most of the mechanics find it pretty hard to set the torque without using a torque wrench.

But this particular guide is written to sort this problem out. Hang tight till we take you through the next segment where we break down the steps for you.

3 Ways on How to Set Pinion Bearing Preload without Torque Wrench

Now, it’s the moment of truth- can you actually set a pinion bearing’s preload without using a torque wrench on the gear nut? The answer is- yes you can.

The concept behind this is- anything that can work as an alternative to a torque wrench can be considered for this purpose. That said, it has to be able to change the torque of a pinion bearing and change the preset as the user wants it to.

3 best Ways on Set Pinion Bearing Preload

Option 1: Using Matching Nuts and Bolts

This might sound weird at first. But when it comes to applying or changing the torque of pinion gear, the leftover nuts and bolts might come into use.

Using Matching Nuts and Bolts

Here go the steps of the process-

Steps Using Matching Nuts and Bolts

Step 1: Find the Right Match

Find a matching pair of nuts and bolts that aligns with the size of your pinion gear nut. Make sure the size matches as precisely as possible. Also, make sure that the thread of your bolt matches with the pinion gear nut as well.

Step 2: Secure a Tight Fit

Put your nut-bolt combination on top of the pinion gear nut. Hold them tight that secures a solid bite on each other.

Step 3: Hold The Nut and Rotate

Now, hold the nut(not the pinion gear nut, the other one) in such a way that you can rotate it. The better of a grip you’d have, the easier it would be to change the preload of the pinion bearing.

Now, based on whether you want to increase or decrease the preload, rotate the nut clockwise or anticlockwise.

Option 2: Using A Duct Tape

Duct tapes are the day-to-day accessories that you use on your garage. Mostly, they are used to prevent any leakage or adhere to two different surfaces. But in court cases, we can use them to tighten up a pinion-bearing nut as well.

Duct Tape and rope

To go along with it, follow these steps-

Using A Duct Tape

Step 1: Find The Right Duct Tape

At first, find duct tape of similar width of the pinion bearing nut. You need to make sure it’s at least a few millimeters smaller in width than the gear in question.

Step 2: Cut The Tape and Find A Rope

Cut a long(about 1 meter) of the length of the duct tape. Now, get a rope of not-so-thick type, and wrap the duct tape around the rope. Make sure the wrapping becomes smooth and flawless.

Step 3: Place The Tape-Rope on Your Pinion Gear Nut

Now position the rope around the nut of your pinion gear. The way of this positioning can vary from gear to gear. But all you need to make sure is the wrapping becomes tight enough to imply direct pressure on the nut.

Step 4: Tighten or Loosen Up The Nut

Now, it’s action time! Once you’ve got a tight wrap around y9our pinion nut, start applying rotational force by pulling the rope.

This will either increase or decrease the pinion bearing preload on the gear, as you want it to be. Make sure to check out the bearing preload after every little change of it.

Option 3: Using Zip ties

Funnily enough, the third way to set the pinion bearing preload of a pinion bearing is to use zip ties. But the difference between the usual zip ties and the one that you will be needing through this process is the size.

Zip Ties

We will get into that shortly in one of these steps below-

Steps Using Zip ties

Step 1: Find The Zip Tie That’s Long Enough

The size of typical DIY zip ties can vary from 4 to 52 inches. For this particular act, we will need a zip tie that’s about 20-25 inches long.

The reason is, the length of a zip tie you will get in hand, the easier it would be to apply torque on the pinion nut. Also, the problem with bigger than 24 inches zip ties is- they might tear off throughout the process.

So, once again, stick to the range of 2-25” of zip ties length.

Step 2: Wrap It Around The Pinion Gear

As you’ve got the right zip tie in your hand, you need to wrap it around the pinion gear.

The good news is, it’s not hard at all to wrap zip ties around the nut. Zip ties are made in such a way that you can wrap them around any diameter and width.

While wrapping up, make sure to get as tight of a connection as possible. If the zip tie slips off during the next step, you need to start over again.

Step 3: Set The Direction and Pull The Tie

Now, this is the final step. Here you need to figure out if you want to increase or decrease the torque of the pinion gear. Based on that decision, you can either pull the zip tie from one side of the gear or otherwise.

However, you need to determine the right amount of tension force you are going to apply on the zip tie. As they are plastic-made, they can’t tolerate too high of tension force through them.

In case you feel the force from one zip tie is not being enough, you can go and attach another one of similar length. Make sure the nut opening is wide enough to host two zip ties at the same time.

At some point, you should be able to rotate the nut and change the preload.

Should You Change The Preload Regularly?

Before wrapping up the discussion, let’s discuss one of the most frequently asked questions- if you should change the pinion bearing preload of your pinion nut regularly or not?

See, we understand the concern behind this question. Changing the preload every now and then would bother its effectiveness and maybe collapse the spacer at some point. But this change of bearing preload takes place so that your vehicle can have the right driving mechanism while running.

A loosen-up pinion nut can invite a stiffness around the pinion gear, which might give you trouble while driving the vehicle.

That said, you should not over-tighten it just because you don’t want to change the pinion bearing preload too frequently.

Bottom Line

If you have noticed, all of the three methods we’ve talked about in this article are pretty available and regular DIY tools. Hence, you really don’t need to break the bank to learn how to set pinion gear preload without a torque wrench.

All you need to do is decide which of these three torque wrench alternatives works best for your pinion gear system.

That said, see you in the next article!


My name is Michael M. Militello, and I want to help you find the right tools and the best products for your next project! As a professional tool expert here in Houston, TX, With my vast tool experience, I can help you choose the right brand, model, and size for the job. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have. You can reach me here on my blog and also on Facebook, Twitter , and Pinterest. I look forward to hearing from you!

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