and gain access to Reviews and Discussion of the 2016 and 2017 Ford Explorer Tech Tips, How to Articles, Off-Road Modifications and Events, Street Truck Mods and Events, and much more! Since 1996 our community has covered every aspect of the Ford Explorer, Ford Ranger and all vehicles based on this platform.

Register Today It's free! This box will disappear once registered!

How To: Replacing Rear Axle Wheel Bearings

Discussion in 'Explorer & Ranger Transmissions, Transfer Cases, &' started by gavin, May 3, 2008.

  • Searches ExplorerForum.com
    1. gavin

      gavin Elite Explorer

      Joined:
      September 27, 2002
      Messages:
      3,141
      Likes Received:
      0
      Trophy Points:
      46
      City, State:
      Anchorage, Alaska
      Year and Model:
      '97 Explorer XLT AWD 5.0L
      How To: Replacing Rear Axle Bearings and Seals

      Atleast for the Ford 31-spline 8.8 with 3.73 and limited slip. Per Chiltons, gearing higher than 3.73 (numerically lower) is different?

      What inspired me to make this write-up? Easy. I couldn't find any. Well, I found one (http://www.explorer4x4.com/axleseals.html), and it honestly almost turned me away from doing this job myself, but decided to do it anyway. And so I decided to make one with pictures.

      Tools needed:

      1) wheel chocks
      2) jack stand
      3) floor jack
      4) 3/8" ratchet
      5) 1/2" socket (diff cover)
      6) 10mm socket (brake calipers)
      7) 3/4" socket (wheel lug nuts)
      8) 9mm wrench (pinion shaft bolt)
      9) slide hammer
      a) wheel bearing removal tool
      10) small'ish sledge
      11) small needle nose pliers
      12) small chunk of 2x4
      13) rags
      14) drain pan
      15) about 2.75 quarts gear lube
      16) replacement bearings and seals

      Of course, the first step is to get the rear off the ground, atleast long enough to get the tires off. I did it this way, so that there would be as much room between axle and body as possible to work in there.
      I sat jack stands under the front leaf spring mounts, just high enough that the tires were off the ground. Of course I tested for stability before starting any work, and also chocked the front tires.

      My poor rear axle that hasn't gotten any love (and gotta love that spare tire is the original Firestone).

      [​IMG]

      Next step is to remove the diff cover. These bolts have 1/2" heads (atleast mine did). Make sure you can remove your filler plug before doing this or you'll be screwed!

      [​IMG]

      After removing the bolts to the diff cover, I just used a little grunt to get the seal broken apart just enough to get the oil to drain. If you can't get it with grunt, you can use a screwdriver or chisel but be careful not to damage the mounting surfaces.

      [​IMG]

      While the gear lube is draining, take a chance to go ahead and remove all your brake hardware so you can remove the axle shafts. The caliper bolts take a 10mm socket.

      This is what the inside of the diff cover looked like. Nothing abnormal, really. No little flakes or feel of grit in the oil is always good!

      [​IMG]

      Here's a slightly fun part; you need to remove this bolt (9mm head, atleast in my case), then slide the pin out so that you can access the c-clips. Do not turn the axles after removing this, or you could spend a lot of time trying to get it back in! If you spin the axles, it will get the spider gears out of place, and could be a real pain to re-align.

      [​IMG]

      What you need to do now, is for the side you're working on, push the axle shaft in until you can get access to the c-clip.
      I've already removed the driver's side in this pic.

      [​IMG]

      Now it's easy as pie to slide the shaft out. You will get some more gear lube leakage out of the axle tube.
      This is how my axle looks, where it rides on the bearing.

      [​IMG]

      Getting the seal out is, honestly, the hardest part of this job. I tried prying with a screw driver, trying to get the bearing and seal with the slide-hammer, with no luck.
      What finally worked for me? Vise-grips. Get a good grip on the seal, and just try and work it back and forth. As you can see in this pic, I took out several chunks of the seal.

      [​IMG]

      Now to get the bearing itself, I would highly recommend the use of a slide-hammer. Don't have one? Rent one. I ended up havin to rent it from Schmucks, because the locally-owned shop I would have was closed already. It's only $6/day, that's more than worth it for this! Although, this particular one I wasn't too fond of. No rubber grip or cushion on the handle, and honestly would have probably been easier with one that was a bit longer. But it got the job done.

      [​IMG]
      (yes, this picture was before I got the seal out)
      Now you've got that done, it's time to put the new bearing and seal on! What I did for this, was get the new bearing in as far as I could by hand. I then took the old bearing and a chunk of 2x4. Basically sandwich the old bearing between the new bearing and 2x4 (I recommend covering the wood with a rag, to prevent any splinters from getting into the bearing/axle tube). It hammered in quite easily.
      For the seal; it fits inside the axle tube also. I pressed it as far as I could by hand, then took the 2x4 and hammer again, and whacked it in.

      I then took some gear lube, and tried to work it into my bearings, to help prevent any dry-running.

      Slide the axle shaft back in, replace c-clip, and we're done with that side!

      [​IMG]

      Of course the other side is just as easy. Actually, it was easier knowing exactly how to get things to work.

      Don't forget to put that pin back in, along with the bolt. Then, of course, clean the mounting surfaces of the diff cover and diff, then put some silicone on the diff cover. Not a lot is required. Just about a 1/4" to 3/8" bead should be plenty.
      When bolting the cover back up, make sure and tighten down in a star-pattern (just like you do when tighting lug nuts).
      While you're waiting for the silicone to cure a bit, go ahead and put your brakes back on.

      Now go ahead and fill 'er up with gear lube (you can get your filler plug loose, right?) and you're all set!
       
      Last edited: June 24, 2008
    2. Support EF


      Join the Elite Explorers for $20 a year

      Explorer Forum has probably saved you that much already, and will continue to save you money as you learn how to diagnose and fix problems yourself, and learn which modifications work without having to experiment on your own. Elite Explorer members see practically no ads, add your own profile photo, upload photo attachments directly to your posts and Media Gallery, create more private Conversations, and more. Join Today. Your support is greatly appreciated.



      to hide adverts.
    3. BrooklynBay

      BrooklynBay Staff Member Moderator Elite Explorer

      Joined:
      November 11, 2005
      Messages:
      50,769
      Likes Received:
      14
      Trophy Points:
      58
      City, State:
      Brooklyn, NY
      Year and Model:
      88 89 93 95 96 Aerostars
    4. Turdle

      Turdle Check it out Staff Member Moderator Elite Explorer

      Joined:
      June 16, 2003
      Messages:
      26,818
      Likes Received:
      20
      Trophy Points:
      58
      City, State:
      Humboldt, KS
      Year and Model:
      2000 Mounty
      Thanks Gavin
      I have added this to the list of helpful threads. :thumbsup:
       
    5. gavin

      gavin Elite Explorer

      Joined:
      September 27, 2002
      Messages:
      3,141
      Likes Received:
      0
      Trophy Points:
      46
      City, State:
      Anchorage, Alaska
      Year and Model:
      '97 Explorer XLT AWD 5.0L
      thanks guys :D

      might as well add just a bit more info here, too.

      The consensus I've received on my axle shafts, is that they need replacing.
      The amount of wear on the shaft, where it rides on the bearing, is bad enough that it could continue to keep eating through bearings.

      Now, there's 2 ways to ago about this. If yours look like this (or worse), the best thing to do would be to just replace the shafts. Preferably NOT from a junkyard, unless you can inspect them and make sure they are not worn.
      Or, you could go a cheaper route, although only a band-aid.
      They make axle-saver bearings. These are spendier than the regular bearings (~$40 per side, vs ~$20 for bearing and seal, per side), but they also have the seal built-in.
      What the axle-saver bearings do, is actually place the bearing farther to the outside of the axle tube. This allows a less-worn part of the axleshaft ride on the bearings. It's a cheaper alternative, but chances are you will be doing the job again. So if you can afford it, get the shafts replaced. If you're in a bind, the axle-saver bearings are an okay alternative.
       
      Last edited: May 4, 2008
    6. Glacier991

      Glacier991 EF Tranny Guru Moderator Emeritus

      Joined:
      February 8, 2003
      Messages:
      9,830
      Likes Received:
      4
      Trophy Points:
      38
      City, State:
      Sacramento, CA 95827
      Year and Model:
      1992 XLT
      Nicely done. I really appreciate photo threads... they are very helpful for others. It's a sticky.
       
    7. gavin

      gavin Elite Explorer

      Joined:
      September 27, 2002
      Messages:
      3,141
      Likes Received:
      0
      Trophy Points:
      46
      City, State:
      Anchorage, Alaska
      Year and Model:
      '97 Explorer XLT AWD 5.0L
      thanks :)
      and yes, I know how helpful pics are.

      it always makes things easier to follow!

      that's why I only read picture books and the Sunday funnies :confused:
       
    8. Glacier991

      Glacier991 EF Tranny Guru Moderator Emeritus

      Joined:
      February 8, 2003
      Messages:
      9,830
      Likes Received:
      4
      Trophy Points:
      38
      City, State:
      Sacramento, CA 95827
      Year and Model:
      1992 XLT
      In comparing my photo threads to Sunday funnies.... there are similaries and differences. Both make people laugh, mine because they are kinda dumbly written sometimes... but! mine save them money. Yours also saved them money my friend. Thanks for taking the time, you now appreciate what it takes to add photos to a writeup.

      I once commented on the moderators forum that I had reached a milestone of over 1000 pictures posted, and I received a rude comment that reaching 1000 picture posts meant I was a bandwidth hog.... and this was from a from a mod who had never ever done a thread with pix in his life... other than showing his girlfriend a few times. Which, of course, never helped a soul. (grrrr)

      Anyway, don't stop with the picture posts... no matter where you are in the learning curve, there is always someone behind you who can learn from what you do! Well done..Keep up the good work.

      A thanks to BB too who showed the pullers. I own a set of The Astros and when ya need em they are invaluable. ( A good slide hammer puller is a must own once you get to the intermediate/advanced level of auto repair).

      For Gavin: "APPLAUSE"
       
    9. fex98

      fex98 Elite Explorer

      Joined:
      June 9, 2006
      Messages:
      93
      Likes Received:
      0
      Trophy Points:
      0
      City, State:
      Crestmead logan QLD
      Year and Model:
      98 explorer 4x4
      so easy to do. like you said the the old bearing are the hardest to get out.
       
    10. Turdle

      Turdle Check it out Staff Member Moderator Elite Explorer

      Joined:
      June 16, 2003
      Messages:
      26,818
      Likes Received:
      20
      Trophy Points:
      58
      City, State:
      Humboldt, KS
      Year and Model:
      2000 Mounty
      Be sure to count all of the bearing rollers if the cage breaks apart on the one you pull out-
      they can remain in the tube and cause trouble if not removed-

      A magnetic pickup tool will get them out--
       
    11. gmanpaint

      gmanpaint Torsion Bar Free Elite Explorer

      Joined:
      August 1, 2008
      Messages:
      8,273
      Likes Received:
      9
      Trophy Points:
      58
      City, State:
      STL MO
      Year and Model:
      94 XLT-95 FX4
      How long did this take to do? I need to do it as well, shop prices are way to high for me right now. My gear oil is leaking out on my tire, it is so bad. Do you have to do both sides? is it just better to do both, or a must do? Only my dr side is bad. just wondering.
       
    12. gavin

      gavin Elite Explorer

      Joined:
      September 27, 2002
      Messages:
      3,141
      Likes Received:
      0
      Trophy Points:
      46
      City, State:
      Anchorage, Alaska
      Year and Model:
      '97 Explorer XLT AWD 5.0L
      it would only take MAYBE 2 hrs, but then you need to add in the fact that you should allow the gasket-maker to cure for an hr or so before adding lube back in.

      No, you do not NEED to do both sides, BUT... if you already have it apart, why not? I would highly recommend both sides, so you don't have to drain all that gear lube again when (if) the other side goes bad.
       
    13. turboexplorer

      turboexplorer Elite Explorer

      Joined:
      August 23, 2008
      Messages:
      1,900
      Likes Received:
      0
      Trophy Points:
      46
      City, State:
      Eagle Mountain, UT
      Year and Model:
      98' XLT 5.0L 4X4
      Nice writeup, I've done this before very easy for anyone to do. Just like he said don't spin the shafts while going out or in can move the spider gears and that can turn into a whole fiasco if that limited slip spring comes out. :) Happy changing!
       
    14. Redneck0907

      Redneck0907 Active Member

      Joined:
      March 27, 2006
      Messages:
      107
      Likes Received:
      0
      Trophy Points:
      0
      City, State:
      Mass
      Year and Model:
      2000 Explorer Limited AWD

      gavin, when you had this happen did you actually end up replacing your axles? if so where did you find the shafts? i found some on summitracing.com just they will not ship until november and my seal just let go now..
       
    15. Redneck0907

      Redneck0907 Active Member

      Joined:
      March 27, 2006
      Messages:
      107
      Likes Received:
      0
      Trophy Points:
      0
      City, State:
      Mass
      Year and Model:
      2000 Explorer Limited AWD
      also is this relitivily common for these seals to let go with out there being something else wrong? besides the bearing too, for instance do the bearings inside the pumpkin tend to wear out causing the whole shaft to start spinning un-true? sorry for all the questions first time working on one a differential that i always thought was bullet proof.. thanks!
       
    16. gavin

      gavin Elite Explorer

      Joined:
      September 27, 2002
      Messages:
      3,141
      Likes Received:
      0
      Trophy Points:
      46
      City, State:
      Anchorage, Alaska
      Year and Model:
      '97 Explorer XLT AWD 5.0L
      I actually purchased some Yukon shafts off ebay.
      can't remember how much I paid, but it was a good deal.

      when it comes to the carrier bearings, I'm not sure if that would cause an axle shaft to rotate un-true, but it would cause a vibration.
       
    17. storlied

      storlied Well-Known Member

      Joined:
      June 20, 2007
      Messages:
      4,546
      Likes Received:
      0
      Trophy Points:
      0
      City, State:
      Anchorage, Alaska
      Year and Model:
      98 5.0L V8 AWD XLT
      What are the symptoms of a bad wheel bearing? What kind of noise would it make when there's load on it?
       
    18. chuck59

      chuck59 New Member

      Joined:
      October 21, 2008
      Messages:
      1
      Likes Received:
      0
      Trophy Points:
      0
      City, State:
      mn
      Year and Model:
      1996
      i am trying to get info on how to replace a front heel bearing on a 1996 ford explorer sport 4wd
       
    19. gavin

      gavin Elite Explorer

      Joined:
      September 27, 2002
      Messages:
      3,141
      Likes Received:
      0
      Trophy Points:
      46
      City, State:
      Anchorage, Alaska
      Year and Model:
      '97 Explorer XLT AWD 5.0L
      if it's 4 wheel drive, it's going to be a whole hub/bearing assembly. I'm not sure about 2wd.

      remove tire, remove caliper, caliper mounting bracket, and rotor.

      Then there are 3 (9/16"?) bolts to remove.

      may take a bit of grunt without removing the half-shafts, but removing half-shafts is not a necessity. Every time I've replaced mine, I did not remove the half-shafts.

      [​IMG]
       
    20. manousos

      manousos Active Member

      Joined:
      April 24, 2006
      Messages:
      101
      Likes Received:
      0
      Trophy Points:
      16
      City, State:
      Kelowna, BC
      Year and Model:
      '993, Sport
      How different would this procedure be for an open 3.23 on a 1st gen with drums?
       
    21. Maniak

      Maniak Moderator-Stock 91-94 Staff Member Moderator Elite Explorer

      Joined:
      February 9, 1999
      Messages:
      11,996
      Likes Received:
      7
      Trophy Points:
      58
      City, State:
      Vail, Arizona
      Year and Model:
      1992 XLT 4x4
      I just pulled one of my axles (bad seal) back in January.. Our X is a 1992 and came stock with 3.37 (or is it 3.23) gears. It now had 4.10's but that doesn't actually matter..

      I didn't pull the rear brakes when pulling the axle out. I pulled the diff cover, pulled the cross pin, pulled the c-clip, pulled the tire and brake drum off, and pulled the axle right out.. not exactly in that order, but you get the idea.

      basically, its the same procedure except you need to pull the rotor/caliper out of the way if you have disc brakes and with drum you just pull the drum off.. the axle will clear all the brake hardware/shoes.

      ~Mark
       
    22. manousos

      manousos Active Member

      Joined:
      April 24, 2006
      Messages:
      101
      Likes Received:
      0
      Trophy Points:
      16
      City, State:
      Kelowna, BC
      Year and Model:
      '993, Sport
      excellent, sounds like a pretty straightforward procedure. Shop quoted me $225CAD for parts & labor. Looks like I'll be tackling this one!

      Thanks for the write-up - I too found this link slightly discouraging
       
    23. fuzzyyyy

      fuzzyyyy New Member

      Joined:
      April 27, 2009
      Messages:
      6
      Likes Received:
      0
      Trophy Points:
      0
      City, State:
      Barrett Station Texas outside Houston
      Year and Model:
      97 ??
       
    24. fuzzyyyy

      fuzzyyyy New Member

      Joined:
      April 27, 2009
      Messages:
      6
      Likes Received:
      0
      Trophy Points:
      0
      City, State:
      Barrett Station Texas outside Houston
      Year and Model:
      97 ??
      have 1997 ford explorer awd. previous owner removed front drive shaft. right cv joint went out. just want to remove half-shaft. removed wheel, brakes, brake assembly, rotor, then stuck like chuck. Any advice?
       
    25. gavin

      gavin Elite Explorer

      Joined:
      September 27, 2002
      Messages:
      3,141
      Likes Received:
      0
      Trophy Points:
      46
      City, State:
      Anchorage, Alaska
      Year and Model:
      '97 Explorer XLT AWD 5.0L
      you CANNOT, I repeat CANNOT drive around without a half-shaft!

      the hub-nut and CV hold the bearing together.

      driving without the shaft in can have VERY dire consequences (ie, bearing falling apart)

      at the very least; take the whole shaft apart, and place the outer part through the hub and tighten down the hub nut.


      disconnect the knuckle from the upper control arm, and you should get enough movement to push the stub through the bearing and knuckle.
       
    26. fuzzyyyy

      fuzzyyyy New Member

      Joined:
      April 27, 2009
      Messages:
      6
      Likes Received:
      0
      Trophy Points:
      0
      City, State:
      Barrett Station Texas outside Houston
      Year and Model:
      97 ??
      I'll do it but if I don't have an axle, do I need a bearing? Don't mean to be dense, but I'm lucky to get in a tire without messing something up and this is a first for me. I'm NOT mechanically competent. Thanks for the help & I'll take your advice.
       

    Share This Page




    Click Here

    We Support Our Troops!