Axle Seal Replacement

Step by step guide on how to replace a rear axle seal. This guide pertains to inner axle retainer vehicles only.

Difficulty Scale: 6 of 10

Tools and Supplies Needed

  • Replacement axle seal
  • Socket set
  • Screw drivers set
  • Wrench Set
  • Protective gloves and eyewear
  • Breaker bar
  • Large pry bar
  • Gear oil
  • Differential cover gasket
  • Gasket sealer
  • Fluid catch basin
  • Dikes (side cutters)
  • Shop towels
  • Hydraulic jack
  • Jack stands
Before work begins, park the car on level ground, in park with the emergency brake on.

Step 1 - Once the vehicle is safely in the air, remove the tire on the side where the repair is needed and remove the retainer clip.

Removing Retainer Clip

Step 2 - After removing retainer clips (installed for manufacturing, not needed on reassembly) remove the caliper mounting bolts.

Removing Caliper Mounting Bolts

Step 3 - Next, lift the caliper off the brake pads and secure it out of the way.

Removing Brake Caliper

Step 4 - After the caliper has been removed, lift the brake pads out of the caliper mounting bracket. (Note: If gear oil has leaked onto the rear shoes or pads they must be replaced. Visit - Rear brake shoe replacement, Rear brake pad replacement.)

Removing Brake Pads

Step 5 - Once the brake pads have been removed, loosen and undo the caliper bracket mounting bolts to remove the bracket.

Removing Caliper Mounting Bolts

Step 6 - Sometimes rust can hold the rotor to the axle, in this case use a plastic or rubber hammer to "shock" the brake rotor to loosen. 

Brake Rotor Shock

Step 7 - After the hammer shock loosens the rotor, simply grasp the rotor to remove it.

Removing Brake Rotor

Step 8 - Next, remove the parking brake shoe retainer bolt.

Removing parking Brake Shoe Retainer

Step 9 - Once the retainer has been removed, lift the brake shoe from the axle assembly.

Removing Emergency Brake Shoe

Step 10 - Only loosen and don't remove the bottom three cover bolts, fully remove the remaining bolts. Have a fluid catch basin ready to catch gear oil which will start to flow from the cover.

Removing Cover Bolts

Step 11 - Once most of the gear oil has drained into the catch basin, remove the remaining three bolts to remove the cover, use a large screw driver to release the seal.

Loosening Differential Cover Gasket Seal

Step 12 - Next, remove the cover while exposing the inner workings of the differential.

Removing Differential Cover

Step 13 - Then, rotate the driveshaft until the pinion pivot shaft bolt is exposed. (Note: keep fingers clear while rotating the gear set.

Locating Pinion Pivot Bolt

Step 14 - After the pinion pivot bolt has been located, use a small ratchet or wrench to loosen and remove the bolt.

Removing Pinion Pivot Bolt

Step 15 - Once the pinion pivot bolt has been removed, rotate the driveshaft to maneuver enough clearance to allow the pinion pivot to slide completely out. Use a finger to push up from the bottom, grasp to remove.

Removing Pinion Pin

Step 16 - After the pinion pin has been removed, again rotate the drive shaft until the "C" clip access port appears.

C Clip Access Port

Step 17 - Next, at the axle flange (wheel side) move the axle inward, it will move slightly, to allow enough clearance for the "C" clip to be removed.

Removal Clearance

Step 18 - Use a small screwdriver or magnet to work the "C" clip out of the assembly which will release the axle.

Removing C Clip

Step 19 - Once the C Clip has been worked out of the gear set check the clip for wear and replace if needed.

C Clip Removed

Step 20 - Next, grasp the axle at the flange and pull outward. The axle should slide completely out of the differential housing.

Removing Axle

Step 21 - Once the axle has been removed inspect the bearing and seal surface of the axle and replace if worn. If this axle was worn you would see an obvious groove in this area.

Bearing and Seal Surface

Step 22 - After the axle has been removed the axle seal is ready for replacement.

Axle Seal

Step 23 - Next, use a large pry bar to leverage the seal out of the differential housing.

Removing Axle Seal.

Step 24 - Once the axle seal has been removed, inspect the axle bearing for wear and replace if needed.

Inspecting Axle Bearing

Step 25 - Using a shop towel, clean the seal mounting surface which will ensure proper installation.

Clean Seal Mounting Surface

Step 26 - Once the surface has been cleaned, match the new axle seal to the differential housing.

New Axle Seal

Step 27 - Next, push the seal into the differential housing, then use a flat bar and hammer to install the seal by tapping it into place. The seal is completely installed when its flush with the housing.

Installing New Axle Seal

Step 28 - After the seal has been installed, carefully install the axle without damaging the seal with the axle. (Note: Always lubricate seal before axle shaft installation.)

Installing Axle Shaft

Step 29 - Axle will slide into place while rotating slightly back and fourth.

Axle Installed

Step 30 - Next, insert the C clip retainer, and move the axle outward to secure the clip.

Re-Installing C Clip

Step 31 - After the C clip installation insert the the pinion shaft. (Note: Orientate the shaft as to align bolt hole.)

Reinstalling Pinion Shaft

Step 32 - Example of bolt hole orientation.

Align Pinion Shaft Bolt Hole

Step 33 - After the shaft has been installed, insert the retainer bolt and tighten.

Installing Pinion Bolt

Step 34 - Once the bolt has been tightened remove old gasket and clean surface.

Removing Differential Gasket

Step 35 - Next, clean the metal debris from the differential cover magnet (Note: some magnets are located inside the differential housing.)

Clean Metal Debris

Step 36 - After the differential cover has been cleaned of debris and old gaskets, install a new gasket using gasket sealer. (Note: Use high grade silicon rubber, create bead inside of the bolt holes.)

Installing Gasket Sealer

Step 37 - Next install the differential cover being careful not to move the cover once contacted to the housing. (Excessive movement will cause the sealant to be less effective.)

Installing Differential Cover

Step 38 - Install cover bolts and tighten in a star pattern. Bolts don't need be super tight, just snug.

Tightening Differential Cover Bolts

Step 39 - Once the cover bolts are tight, remove the differential fill plug to install gear oil.

Refilling Differential Gear Oil

Step 40 - The fluid level is full when gear oil is dripping from the fill port, to double check the level gentle dip a finger inside the port. (Note: Never turn drive shaft or axles when checking gear oil.)

Checking Differential Gear Oil

Step 41 - After the fluid has been refilled, reinstall the fill plug and tighten.

Reinstall Fill Plug

Once the job is complete check for leaks at the cover gasket or axle seal. Safety return the vehicle to ground level. Test drive the vehicle and listen for abnormal noises. also recheck the differential for fluid leakage.

Helpful Information

A differential requires three shaft seals (2 axle - 1 pinion gear) to maintain gear oil which is used to lubricate the gears while in operation. When these seals fail disassembly is required to replace them. When replacing an axle bearing a special puller is needed to extract the bearing from the housing. It can be reinstalled by using a hammer and a punch, or bearing driver.

Best Practices

  • Use high quality silicon rubber to ensure a proper seal.
  • Always refill the differential with factory recommended fluids.
  • Differentials that are limited slip require special fluid.
  • Use jack stands when working under a vehicle.


Written by
Co-Founder and CEO of
35 years in the automotive repair field, ASE Master Technician, Advanced Electrical and Mechanical Theory.


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