My local dealership explained to me that my ABS warning light was on because of a broken wheel speed sensor, and that fixing this would cost over $900 because it involved taking the wheel apart and somehow irrevocably breaking it in order to replace something.

They described actually using a hammer to break the bearing to get at something, hence the high cost because then that broken part has to be replaced as well. This is a part of the car I've got limited familiarity with and I lost track of their description.

If anyone knows what they're talking about, could you explain it a bit so I can research it more? When I googled "how to replace wheel speed sensor," it seemed straightforward.

I drive a 97 Subary Legacy.

  • Wheel bearings are usually not an expensive part, if they are telling you that the high cost is due to needing to replace a wheel bearing then I'd say it sounds dubious. – GdD Jun 19 '17 at 16:57
  • When doing business with a Dealership you are paying for the repair and the overhead for the Dealership real estate which depending on the dealership can be in the multi millions. Take it to a reputable independent repair shop, more than likely it will be half or less than a dealership. – Moab Jun 20 '17 at 0:24
  • I would suggest you get clarification. They could be referring to the sensor ring, which is much more complex and labor intensive to replace. – CharlieRB Jun 21 '17 at 18:59

The problem is with what they've said is, on a '97 Subaru Legacy, the wheel speed sensor is detached from the wheel bearing. You only need to remove the wheel to get to it (and could possibly do it without removing the wheel!).

There is one bolt which holds it to the wheel hub assembly, then a couple more holding the bracketry onto the vehicle itself. Then you have one electrical connector. This is a 1/2-3/4 hour job in practice (I have no clue what the book hours are on this). If it's truly just the wheel sensor which has gone bad, I'd take it somewhere else for a 2nd opinion, or possibly even consider doing it yourself (if you know exactly which wheel sensor it is).

Here's what the wheel sensor looks like, if you're at all curious:

Front -

enter image description here

Rear -

enter image description here

If you do consider doing this yourself, please be aware there is a different sensor for each wheel. Ensure you get the right one. If you want to do it yourself, we'd be happy to impart understanding, just ask the question!

  • Could the dealership be referring to the reluctor ring? rockauto.com/info/42/917-557-007__ra_p.jpg – CharlieRB Jun 20 '17 at 12:37
  • @CharlieRB - The OP could be talking about that, but I have to go with what was said in the question. Description is everything. If just replacing the speed sensor, it shouldn't be a big deal. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Jun 20 '17 at 21:11

Keep one thing in mind: at a repair shop, 60-80% of the repair bill is for labour, not parts (on average).

Wheel speed sensors are always on or near the wheel hub. Sometimes you can access them without taking the wheel hub off, sometimes you can't. I just helped a friend replace a wheel hub yesterday, and when they get rusted in (and my friend's was), you need to spray them with lots of penetrating oil, torch them and whack them with a hammer until they come loose.

Since your car is 21 years old, I think it's a pretty safe bet to say your hub is rusted in pretty good. It's a simple repair to do, it just takes time (and energy!) to whack off the rusted hub. You'll need:

  • a jack
  • jack stands
  • large size sockets and wrenches (larger than 15 mm to take the wheel and wheel hub off)
  • regular size sockets and wrenches (10-15 mm to take the brake calipers and brackets off)
  • penetrating oil (it comes in a spray can)
  • a propane or butane torch (to heat the wheel hub near the seam with the steering knuckle)
  • a garden hose or a bucket of water (for rapid cooling of the torched part to help it break loose)
  • pry bars (to help pull the wheel hub off once it's loose)
  • Exactly. This was my experience as well with a different car. The old sensor was rusted solid into the knuckle. I wonder if their estimate was based on a flat rate for that job that actually took this into account. A second or third estimate would be very worthwhile, if you don't do it yourself. – atraudes Jun 19 '17 at 23:31

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