Drive Shaft Removal

Easy to follow step by step guide on how to remove or replace an automotive drive shaft, though appearances may vary, the process is the same on most rear wheel drive vehicles.

Difficulty Level - 4

Tools and Supplies Needed

  • Complete tool set
  • Shop towels
  • Protective eye wear and gloves
  • Hydraulic Jack
  • Jack Stands
Begin with the vehicle lifted enough to access the drive shaft while using jack stands for safety, wear protective eye wear and gloves.

Step 1 - Start by marking the drive shaft orientation before beginning, this will help return the drive shaft to its original position on the differential which can help avoid driveline vibrations.

Mark Driveshaft
Step 2
- Remove the shaft differential flange mounting bolts, these bolts can be very tight so use good quality tools to avoid stripping.

Removing Drive Shaft Mounting Bolts
Step 3 - Using plastic hammer, gently shock the drive shaft loose from the differential flange by striking the rear yoke (U joint mount), at this point the back half of the shaft is free so hang on.

Shock Drive Shaft Loose
Step 4
- Using both hands, gently slide the drive shaft from the transmission or transfer case, a small amount of fluid might leak out so have a fluid catch basin ready.

Removing Drive Shaft
Step 5 - At this point the U joint at either end of the shaft should be checked, grasp the yoke and move it in all directions, there should be smooth motion with no rough spots or play.

Check U Joint Range of Motion
Step 6
- Before re-installing the drive shaft, apply a small amount of grease to the yoke, this will help lubricate the seal in the transmission or transfer case.

Lubricate Drive Shaft Yoke
Step 7 - There is a dust boot along with the rear seal which is located further inside the tail housing, the output shaft is where the drive shaft connects.

Transfer Case Output Shaft
Step 8 - Care must be taken when reinserting the drive shaft yoke as not to damage the seal, push the yoke into place over the output shaft.

Insert Drive Shaft Yoke
Step 9 - Once the front yoke is installed, pull the drive shaft back into place while inserting a mounting bolt.

Install Drive Shaft to Differential
Step 10 - Finish installing the mounting bolts while aligning your marks.

Reinstall Drive Shaft Mounting Bolts
Step 11 - Tighten the bolts evenly and in a star pattern to factory specs, (usually 55-65 foot pounds). Check and fill the transmission or transfer case with fluid after the shaft has been reinstalled if any fluid was lost during the job.

Tighten Drive Shaft Mounting Bolts
Helpful Information

When the drive shaft is removed, the vehicle will no longer be held in park or a standard transmission in gear, it will roll unless the emergency brake is "ON".

Most drives shafts are equipped with "U" joints, "CV" (constant velocity) joints or a flex coupler to help continue the shafts operation without binding while the vehicle suspension is in motion.

When removing an older vehicle drive shaft, use electrical tape to wrap around the u joint cups so they don't fall off.

A drive shaft will need removed to replace leaking transmission tail housing seal, universal joints or if major transmission or differential repairs are needed.

Article first published