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How To: Replacing Rear Axle Wheel Bearings

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Old 05-03-2008, 01:44 AM   #1
gavin
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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).



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!



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.



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!



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.


(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!



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!




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Last edited by gavin; 06-24-2008 at 10:58 PM.
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Old 05-04-2008, 12:16 AM   #2
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Excellent write-up! This should go in the site's list of useful threads or at least be a sticky. Harbor Freight sells this tool set for pulling rear bearings: http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/cta...emnumber=92884

Here's another set from Astro Pneumatic: http://www.eppys.com/ProductHighligh...ProductID=2596

Here's a complete kit: http://www.eppys.com/ProductHighligh...ProductID=1959
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Old 05-04-2008, 09:11 AM   #3
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Thanks Gavin
I have added this to the list of helpful threads.
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Old 05-04-2008, 02:14 PM   #4
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thanks guys

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.




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Last edited by gavin; 05-04-2008 at 06:45 PM.
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Old 05-04-2008, 05:21 PM   #5
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Nicely done. I really appreciate photo threads... they are very helpful for others. It's a sticky.
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Old 05-04-2008, 06:43 PM   #6
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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




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Old 05-04-2008, 10:31 PM   #7
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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"
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Old 05-11-2008, 07:46 AM   #8
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so easy to do. like you said the the old bearing are the hardest to get out.
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Old 09-23-2008, 08:46 AM   #9
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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--
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Old 10-04-2008, 11:40 PM   #10
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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.




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Old 10-05-2008, 12:13 AM   #11
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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.




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Old 10-05-2008, 02:20 AM   #12
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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!




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Old 10-14-2008, 08:13 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gavin View Post
thanks guys

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.

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..
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Old 10-14-2008, 08:17 AM   #14
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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!
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Old 10-14-2008, 09:36 AM   #15
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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.




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Old 10-16-2008, 05:27 AM   #16
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What are the symptoms of a bad wheel bearing? What kind of noise would it make when there's load on it?




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Old 10-21-2008, 08:50 PM   #17
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i am trying to get info on how to replace a front heel bearing on a 1996 ford explorer sport 4wd
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Old 10-21-2008, 09:14 PM   #18
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i am trying to get info on how to replace a front heel bearing on a 1996 ford explorer sport 4wd
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.





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Old 03-02-2009, 04:21 AM   #19
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How different would this procedure be for an open 3.23 on a 1st gen with drums?
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Old 03-02-2009, 11:18 AM   #20
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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




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