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'97 V8 AWD front axle problems

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Old 07-14-2005, 01:09 PM   #1
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'97 V8 AWD front axle problems

Long story short, it all started when I drive my X into a 2-3 foot deep puddle (no, not on purpose). So, I gutted and cleaned the interior - good as new. I replaced the diff and tcase fluids (pond water in there), and of course, cleaned the underside.

After the "incident" I noticed an oil leak (RIGHT after). After some diagnosis, it turned out to be the rear main seal. Not wanting to take that on myself, I got it fixed. At the same time, they noticed the front axle leaking. OK, but not bad enough to fix. Now the pinion seal is leaking a bit, but again, nothing major. BUT, now I am doing about 10 mph, and punch it, and hear a loud clunk from the front end (sometimes 2 or 3) and then it's fine. Towing my boat, same thing. It REALLY felt like the front driveshaft, which is only 2 years old, but when that failed the first time,the truck wasn't even driveable.
Diagnosis by the dealer puts the problem *somewhere* in the front axle. Since I can really feel/hear it under my feet, I'm leaning toward the left half-shaft. They think something in there is slipping, and honestly told me that rebuiding it would be expensive, and I need to think about dumping too much into it.

A friend can help me replace the half-shaft without too much trouble, from what I see here. I'm just wondering if there are any experiences with what I am hearing. I don't know if I want to get into a problem in the front diff. If it is confined to the half-shaft, it sounds like not too bad of a job, and I can get a new one for under $100, after-market (Ford's is close to $400).

Does anyone have any recommendations/experiences, with this type of situation? What might I have to prepare myself for? If I have to get into the diff, I was thinking of just looking for used - but I'd certainly at a minimum go ahead and replace all of those seals at the time.

Thanks in advance,
-Scubajoe

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Old 07-26-2005, 08:23 PM   #2
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I finally had my wife ride the brake while I was on the ground listening for the "clunk". I think Ford was dead wrong about it being in the front axle. I am almost positive that it is coming from the rear of the front drive shaft, or from the tcase. Now the question is, how do I prove it? I'm thinking about pulling the front shaft, but I'm guessing that there won't be enough torque on anything to make the clunk, even it is inside the tcase.

If it IS something inside the tcase, then how can I figure out if Ford could have done anything to cause the problem, since it wasn't there when I brought it in for the rear seal? It looks like doing the rear seal would have been an easier job if they pulled the tranny and tcase together, but who knows. In any case, I'll be quite ticked if I have to fix something that they broke.

Anybody got any ideas?

-Joe
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Old 07-27-2005, 01:14 PM   #3
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Do check the front driveshaft. I had mine go out one month after I bought my 98, on Christmas night. I thought it was an axle, or hub. After changing those, I pulled the driveshaft.

I have heard stories of symptoms pointing away from the driveshaft, and the problem turning out to be the front driveshaft CV joint. Pull the shaft, if the symptom is noticeable enough that you are worried about it, then the CV joint should be diagnosable out of the vehicle. Mine felt awful, so I didn't search further. Good luck,




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Old 07-27-2005, 01:48 PM   #4
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Thanks for the tips. Given that the problem only shows up when there is significant torque on SOMETHING, I'm not sure how to do it. If it is the front axle, then pulling the driveshaft would never put the torque on the front axle that is required to cause the problem, if the problem is there. I am pretty sure that it is not though. There is not play in the wheels or anything, so it's not obvious if the problem is there. And there is no play in the driveshaft. I'm not sure how the rear of the driveshaft would fail. I don't quite understand what is inside there. The universal is at the front of the driveshaft, is not loose at all, and it does not sound like the noise is coming from there. If it's the transfer case then I'd probably need a new driveshaft to prove that the problem is in the transfer case. And expensive way to test it if I can't find a cheap driveshaft. I already replaced it the day before my wedding, 2 and a half years ago.

-Joe
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Old 07-27-2005, 06:01 PM   #5
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Well, a lot of people complained about clunking that sounded like it was coming from the front area. It turned out to just be loose bolts on the Front Driveshaft. At 80k, my front driveshaft suddenly decided to loosen its nuts up all its own. The result was a shot front D-Shaft (Which ford Replaced).

I would just through and check the bolts on the front Driveshaft that attach to the Transfer Case. Check them all for Tightness, if all is good there, then check the front part where the U-Joint is located. If its either of these parts and they are actually going, you should be able to pull down the Driveshaft and move it through its range and feel it pop or move on you. If not, then its time to start looking farther forward, but I doubt it would be in the front Diff (not to say it isn't, just a less common occurance then some of the others).

As a side note, I have had to pull my front D-Shaft out because my Viscous Coupler in the Transfer Case seized, causing all sorts of weird driving phenomenon. This would be another place to look for some weird noises.




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Old 07-27-2005, 09:15 PM   #6
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Thanks. A friend recommended marking all joint on the shaft, and then driving it, making it "pop" and see if the marks still line up. I'm not sure I'll be able to tell anything by removing it, as it takes a good bit of torque to make it pop. I can drive it, as long as I take it easy, and don't push it to 3000 rpm too hard. I agree now that it is not in the front diff, as I stuck my head under there as my wife rode the brake and stepped on the gas to make it roll forward, and pop. It was almost definitely at the rear of the driveshaft.

I haven't put a wrench on the bolts, but Ford checked it, and didn't notice anything, and I didn't notice anything OBVIOUS, but I will certainly double check. I know there is some sort of a domed "cap" on the back of the shaft where it connects to the tcase. I guess that is somewhat like a CV joint at the back of the shaft. What if Ford pulled the shaft when they worked on it, and didn't correctly replace it (was reading that the domed cap has to be in place, and carefully tightened down so as not to tighten it down uneven)?

-Joe
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Old 07-27-2005, 10:42 PM   #7
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That certainly could cause a problem if it wasn't properly seated. I would go ahead and put a wrench to all the bolts and see, it can't hurt. My guess is that its either in the front D-Shaft or the T-Case at this point, unless its a ball joint or the Kevlar Patch on the Torsion Bars (adjustment side).




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Old 07-27-2005, 10:57 PM   #8
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I'm gonna try to get under there this weekend. Right now I'm hunting down the best solution to replace that shaft, if that is the problem. Looks like getting rid of that "CV" type shaft is a good idea, but on the other hand, I'd really like to do this as cheap as possible. There are lots of opinions in the forums about what to replace that shaft with, and it certainly sounds like a weak link on the AWD Explorers (since this will be the 3rd one for me). Now, if it DOES turn out to be in the tcase, then I'll REALLY be hunting for a cheap fix for that!

I'll post back what I find.

-Joe
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Old 07-27-2005, 11:21 PM   #9
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That big bulge at the back of the driveshaft is the CV joint. I first replaced mine with a custom adapter, and driveshaft. The adapter was slightly out of balance, and I had found a used spare in the mean time.

I have read recently that the CV joint is rebuildable now. My used driveshaft was $50, but pull the back end down first to check the CV joint. Good luck,




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Old 07-28-2005, 07:20 AM   #10
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Even at junkyards I'm seeing them for like $150. To replace the one that I know doesn't last long, with another just like it, for $150, seems a bit steep. I might contact a local driveline shop to see if they will rebuilt it, but I can't imagine they'd do it for $50. I think I'd rather get that CV out of there. From my experience, and what I've been reading here, that thing sucks. Costs anywhere from $250 to $400 and doesn't last very long.

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Old 07-28-2005, 09:57 AM   #11
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Well, I have a brand new front Axle (with the updated CV) for sale right now. I was asking for $150 for local pickup, but I could make an exception. I had it replaced because the old CV went out and I had an Extended Warranty. It was in for about 5,000 - 6,000 miles and then I pulled it out because my Transfer Cases Viscous Coupler died, so its pretty much brand new.

PM Me if interested.




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Old 07-28-2005, 05:44 PM   #12
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There you go, good find. My custom shaft and adapter was in the $250 range, but now I have two universal joints.




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Old 07-28-2005, 10:22 PM   #13
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SO, what is the "updated" CV? I don't want to get another one of these bad shafts, for a lot of money. If I'm gonna have to spend close to $200 anyway, I'd rather move to the shaft with 2 universals.
Don, Where did you get your shaft? I've got links for a couple places from the boards, but I guess I have to call them to price one out. With where I am today with the truck, I'd rather put <$100 into a used shaft, and see what else creeps up on me (this still all assumes it IS the shaft).

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Old 07-28-2005, 10:36 PM   #14
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Supposedly, they had problems with the design of the original driveshafts in the AWD Explorer's. Don't remember what the issue was, something with one of the joints. So when I got the replacement one they told me it was the "Update" Driveshaft. Supposedly just last longer. I don't know beyond that, all I know is its basically a brand new front driveshaft, hehe. But if you can find a low mileage used one locally for cheaper, I say go for it, at least it'll help you confirm the problem.




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Old 07-28-2005, 10:44 PM   #15
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That's my plan. I need to call the junkyard, but I will definitely keep it in mind. BTW, you said front "axle". I assume that was a typo, and you actually meant "driveshaft". In any case, I AM on the second one. Got it two years ago, so I suppose it would be the latest one, but it appears to have not lasted so long. Maybe that's how the shop that did it got a Ford part for $250 when Ford charges more like $400 for it.




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Old 07-28-2005, 11:31 PM   #16
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You are right, I did mean "driveshaft" and not axle, hehe.

As for getting the part cheaper, that's possible. Although, repair places also get special pricing from Ford. Ford pretty much marks up all their parts 2x, so getting real OEM parts cheaper isn't that hard. I actually purchased some parts once and saw the "List" Price and "Charged Price". Everything was exactly 2x, and list price is what Motorcraft says its worth, so Ford gets them WAY cheaper than that.




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Old 07-29-2005, 07:00 AM   #17
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Well, of course, but to have a shop actually charge me less than list when I needed my car fixed the day of my wedding surprises me. Although they did charge, if I recall, $250 in labor to replace the driveshaft, which I think is highway robery for probably a 30 minutes job.




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Old 07-29-2005, 06:46 PM   #18
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Go ahead and pull the driveshaft bolts at the CV joint. The problem could be something else, and you don't need to spend more money on a third shaft if so. Regards,




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Old 08-01-2005, 08:49 PM   #19
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Well, I finally had a few minutes to crawl under the truck and look closely at the driveshaft CV. Nothing obvious there at first glance. I put some lines all over it with a marker to see if I could see any movement after I caused it to pop several times. Nothing jumped out at me there either. So, I put a wrench on it, and pretty much just leaned my hand on it, so find out that they never torqued the bolts down.

My 1/2" torque wrench only goes down to 25 ft-lb, and doesn't fit very well under the car 'cause it's about 2 feet long, but I snugged all of the bolts anyway. I doubt they are 22 ft-lb at the spec calls for. And I don't want to give Ford any ammo, trying to claim that I tightened them too much. It still didn't look like anything was obviously out of place as a result of this, but I'm sure going to raise heck with the dealership about it. Looking at the the way the tcase mounts to the tranny, I find it hard to believe that they pulled the tranny without pulling the tcase, which means they had to remove both shafts.

I'm hoping to find time to take it in tomorrow and do a little bitching (which I must say, I'm pretty good at), so I'll post back if I find any resolution. Since the problem wasn't there when I brought it to them I hope they take responsibility. Maybe it's not their fault, but those bolts certainly were not tight.




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Old 08-01-2005, 10:13 PM   #20
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Are you meaning the driveshaft bolts? The rear bolts take an 8mm socket, and hand tightening them should be plenty. The CV joint will not show signs of damage like axle CV boots. You would have to remove the bolts, and pull the driveshaft down to feel the joint motion. Good luck,




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