Do you see gear oil leaking form the rear of your SUV or light duty truck? Do
you wonder how difficult it is to change the rear axle seal and bearing? I am a 25 year master tech
and I have created this article and video just for you to be able to do your own
repairs on a Chevy, GMC, Cadillac, Ford and Lincoln SUV's and trucks just to
name a few or at least see what you are paying for when you have taken your
vehicle into the repair shop. Most vehicles use the basically same differentials
that are non independent suspension.
For independent rear suspension vehicles such as Honda, Toyota, Nissan and
Kia instructions are about half way down this article.
Using everyday mechanics tools you to can make these repairs by following my
instructions while saving a considerable amount of money and having the
satisfaction of doing the job right.
The job might seem difficult but once you know the information in the video
below and added tips the video might have missed in the following article you
will feel more confident the job can be done.
To retain the parts for this job visit Amazon, where you can get GM and Ford
OEM factory parts for the same wholesale price the repairs shops pay for them.
You will need
Replacement axle seal and differential gasket
Screw drivers set
Protective gloves and eyewear
Large pry bar
Fluid catch basin
Oil catch basin
Now sit back and relax and watch my son and I do the job, once the video has
finished continue on reading through the article, let's get started.
When doing this repair remember safety first, never get under the vehicle
unless jack stands are in place, I want you to use safety as a normal practice
anytime repairs need to be done as you learn automotive repair.
Before work begins, park the car on level ground while blocking the front tires.
Identify the side of the differential you see the leak on and will be
performing the repair. While the vehicle is still on the ground, break the lugs
loose by pushing downward on the lug wrench this will help you use the leverage
of your body weight and save you from hurting your back, instead of pull upward.
Once loose, place the jack in the center of the differential pumpkin and raise the
vehicle off the ground, install jack stands on either side of the axle tubes.
Continue removing the lugs and then remove the tire, then slide the tire under
the vehicle for an added measure of safety.
Retainer clips are used to hold the brake rotor on during manufacturing, use
a pair of side cutters, pick or small flat blade screw driver to remove them and
discard, this can take some doing but hang in there.
Next, locate the inner brake caliper mounting bolts (15mm) to loosen and
remove both upper and lower units. At this point it's a good idea to put all
removed bolts and clips into a plastic container so they don't get lost.
Grasp the caliper and with a rocking motion back and fourth slip the caliper
upward to remove and set it securely out of the way. Don't allow the caliper to
hang by the brake hose because it can become weak and fail.
Then, carefully remove the brake pads making sure to set them in a clean dry
place as not to get them dirty or greasy which will affect their performance. If
these pads are worn now would be a good time to replace them on both sides.
Again, Amazon is the best place to find OEM replacements.
Now it's time to remove the brake caliper mounting bolts, these bolts can be
fairly tight because the factory might use thread lock during assembly so get a
good grip on the wrench or ratchet while applying pressure. Also be sure the
tool is squarely on the head of the bolt to avoid stripping. The bolt size is
Now that the caliper mount has been removed the brake rotor might be stuck on
the axle flange due to rust and the pressure of the lug nuts. Use a hammer to "shock" the rotor
loose by striking it between the wheel studs. The rotor will then come off which
is heavy so get a good grip on it before you remove it.
If the emergency brake shoes are worn or contaminated with gear oil this
would be a good time to replace them with new units. After the brake rotor has
been removed, locate the small bolt that holds the emergency brake shoe in place
using an 8mm 1/4 drive socket and ratchet to turn the bolt counterclockwise for
Once the retainer has been removed,
lift the brake shoe from the axle assembly. This will take some doing, start by
lifting one end of the shoe over the axle flange and then following it around in
a circular motion which will enable you to remove it. If the shoe is okay you
can leave it in place while replacing the seal.
Now its time to get under the vehicle and remove the rear differential cover,
begin by loosening the bottom three bolts, this will hold the cover in place
while removing the remainder of the bolts. Have a fluid catch basin ready to
collect the gear oil which should start to flow out from the cover.
If gear oil doesn't start to leak you must help break the seal by using a
flat blade (standard) screwdriver and allow the gear oil to drain out. 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 continue releasing the seal.
Continue to remove the cover and place it off to the side, this cover will
need to be cleaned which will be done in later steps. Once the cover is removed it
will exposing the inner workings of the differential.
After inspecting the inner workings, rotate the driveshaft until the carrier
pivot shaft bolt is exposed, this can take a few turns of the driveshaft before
seeing it. Stop turning when the bolt is near the top of housing. Also, keep
your fingers clear while rotating the gear set to avoid injury, these gears can
Once the carrier bolt has been located, use a small ratchet or wrench (8mm) to loosen and remove the bolt.
This bolt can be snug so make sure your tool is squarely on the head of the bolt
to avoid rounding which will make the job much more difficult.
Once the pivot bolt has been
removed, reach your hand down around to the bottom of the carrier and use your
finger to pop the pin upward while grabbing it with your other hand. You might
need to maneuver the driveshaft to gain enough clearance to allow the pinion
pivot to slide completely out.
After the pinion pin has been
removed, again rotate the driveshaft until the "C" clip access port appears.
Watch the unit as you slowly turn it, if the spider gears (small gears) start to
move into the port turn the axle with the driveshaft to keep the gears in their
Next, at the axle flange (wheel side) push the axle inward toward the
differential, the axle will move inward slightly. This is to allow enough
clearance for the "C" clip to be removed which holds the axle in the
Using a small screwdriver or magnet work the metal "C" clip in a circular motion, this will enable you to remove the
clip which will release the axle from the differential, this can take a little
time so hang in there.
Once the C clip has been removed from the carrier check the clip for wear and
scoring and replace if needed, this will be a dealer part.
Now that the C clip has been removed grasp the axle at the flange
and pull outward, the axle should slide out completely from the differential
housing, use a shop towel around the axle as it's being removed to wipe residual
gear oil to keep the mess down to a minimum.
After the axle has been removed
inspect the bearing and seal surface to check for wear/scoring and replace if
damaged, if this axle was worn you would see an obvious groove in this area. Do not reuse the
axle at this point because the new seal will fail prematurely. These axles are
available at the dealer for about $200.00 bucks.
Now we are ready to replace the seal, use a large pry bar to leverage the
seal out of the differential housing, you can also use a seal puller but I have
found this method works pretty good.
Once the seal has been removed, inspect the differential seal house flange
for damage and if so, this may allow the new seal to leak in which case use
silicone rubber to help fix the problem when installing the new seal. Also check
the bearing for wear or pits in the rollers which means it needs to be replaced,
reference the video above. When replacing the assembly 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. To see how
to replace the bearing reference the video above.
Using a shop towel, clean the seal mounting surface which will ensure proper installation. Use carburetor cleaner
to make sure the surface is clean and dry before you begin reinstalling the
Once the surface has been cleaned, match the new seal to the old unit and apply sealer to the differential housing
Next, set and hold the seal in place, then drive the seal into the
differential housing using a flat bar to hammer against while installing the seal,
continue this operation until completely installed and flush against the housing
and seal lip, this seal can only be installed one way.
After inspecting the axle for damage and you see that it's okay to reinstall,
apply a small amount of gear oil to the bearing and seal surface. This will help
lubricate the surfaces and give you a better chance for the new seal not to
leak. Then carefully install the axle by holding it up not allowing the weight
of the axle to ride against the seal lip which will damage it.
While the axle is sliding inward you will need to push down on the bottom of
the flange while pulling outward on the top, this will lift the end of the axle
up and into the carrier. Also turn the axle slightly at the same time, this will
allow the axle spline to engage into the carrier. Then continue to push the axle
inward until it stops.
Check to see if the axle has been fully engaged into the carrier enough to
put the clip into place, now reinsert the C clip retainer onto the axle through
the access port, you can use a small pair of needle noise pliers if needed.
After the C clip installation is complete, pull the axle outward to lock the
C clip in place, then insert the pinion shaft, you might need to rotate the axle
to align the spider gears for the shaft to be installed, also turn the axle to
help, Take note of the shaft bolt hole so you can reinstall the bolt.
Example of bolt hole orientation.
After the shaft has been installed, insert the retainer bolt and tighten,
this bolt needs to be fairly snug.
After the axle has been reinstalled use a scraper to remove the old gasket and clean
the differential surface. Make sure this surface is clean from gear oil or it
will contaminate the sealer and possibly cause a leak. Use a shop towel to wipe
out the differential housing to help control additional oil.
Next, clean the metal debris from the differential cover magnet and continue
to clean the gasket surface with the scraper free from gear oil, use carburetor
cleaner to ensure no oil is present.
Then, install the new gasket using silicone rubber as a sealer, create bead
inside of the bolt holes to help stop leaks. Do not use cheap home grade sealer
you need to get the good stuff which costs a little more but is available from
Amazon, Home Depot or Lowes hardware stores.
Carefully install the differential cover as not to disturb the gasket
location on the cover. Excessive movement will cause the sealant to be less
Install the cover bolts and tighten in a star pattern. Bolts don't need be
super tight, just snug.
Once the cover bolts are tight,
remove the differential fill plug which is located near the driveshaft this will
be a 3/8 drive socket extension or ratchet head. Then install the gear oil, if
your vehicle has the clutch style posi-traction unit you will need to pour in an
additive which helps lubricate the clutches. Usually there will be a tag near
the fill plug that indicates what kind of oil is required.
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. Never turn driveshaft or axles when checking gear oil to avoid
injury from the gears. Reinstall and tighten the fill plug and you are all set.
Double check your work by looking for leaks at the cover. Safety return the
vehicle to ground level and take it for a test drive while listening for
abnormal noises, also recheck the differential for fluid leakage.
Use high quality silicon rubber to ensure a proper seal.
Always refill the differential with factory recommended fluids.
Differentials that are limited slip require a special fluid.
Use jack stands when working under a vehicle.
If the bolt breaks inside the carrier an air hammer can be used to
force outward (break) the pivot rod through the carrier, the pivot pin will need to be
replaced along with the bolt.
Rear Axle Bearing Replacement on Independent Suspension Vehicles
Easy to follow step by step guide on how to replace or remove an automotive rear
axle bearing for IRS vehicles (independent rear suspension), though appearances
may vary, the process is similar in most cases.
Difficulty Level - 7 of 10
Tools and Supplies Needed
Mechanics tool set
Protective eye wear
Begin with the vehicle lifted enough to access the rear bearing while using jack
stands for safety, wear protective eyewear and gloves.
When an axle bearing fails, it may cause the wheel to have play
from top to bottom, grasp the tire firmly and jog the wheel back and forth to confirm
Remove the wheel lugs and the tire, (Note: If a regular lug wrench
is used, loosen the lug nuts one turn before lifting the vehicle).
While using a wrench to keep the caliper slide bolt from turning,
use an additional wrench to loosen and remove the caliper mounting bolts.
Grasp the brake caliper and remove it from the brake pads, gently
place it off to the side, (Note: Do not allow the caliper to hang by the brake hose).
Once the rear caliper has been removed, gently remove the brake
pads from the caliper mount.
Next, using a wrench or socket remove the brake caliper mount
bolts to remove the bracket from the spindle.
An impact screwdriver is necessary to remove hard to loosen screws
and small bolts such as brake rotor mounting screws.
Place the impact screwdriver over the screw while striking it
with a hammer to loosen and remove.
The rotor will be seized to the bearing hub in most cases, use
a hammer to strike the rotor between the wheel studs, the rotor will pop loose,
(Note: Do not contact the wheel studs with the hammer or damage will occur).
Firmly grasp the brake rotor and remove it from the bearing
Using a pair of pliers or dikes to remove the bearing hub nut
Using a large socket remove the axle nut from the bearing hub,
(Note: If air tools are not used, this step must be done while the rotor is still
on with the emergency brake fully engaged to keep the hub from spinning).
Rear axle nut removed
Use a small screwdriver or pick top remove the axle nut washer.
Locate and remove the ABS sensor mounting bolt and remove, (Note:
The ABS sensor wiring harness can be disconnected as an alternative to this step).
Grasp the sensor and remove it, you might notice fine metal
particles over the magnetic end of the sensor this is from the bearing failure and
must be cleaned off before reinstalling the sensor.
Locate, loosen and remove the brake line mounting bolt.
Next, attach a bucket under the parking brake shoes, use water
to clean the shoes for disassembly.
A brake spring removal tool is needed to help remove the brake
shoe return springs.
Insert the tool over the brake spring and twist to release,
release both forward and rear facing shoe springs.
The emergency brake shoes are held to the backing plate by a
small spring and retainer assembly, one on each shoe.
While holding the rear of the spring pin, use needle noise pliers
or a brake spring retainer removal tool and push inward while twisting the retainer
to release, perform this for both shoes.
Once all mounting spring have been removed, grasp the emergency
brake shoe and remove them from the baking plate.
While grasping the parking brake cable spring, move it upward
on the cable to create room to remove the brake shoe actuator arm from the cable.
Once the shoe actuator cable has been removed, locate and remove
(release) the cable housing retainer clip, (Note: This step can vary by way of a
multi fingered retainer which is released from the outside of the backing plate).
Grasp the emergency brake cable firmly and pull it outward from
the backing plate, (Note: Pliers can be used to help in the removal).
While using a wrench to back up the rear swing arm nut, use
a socket to remove the through bolt.
Remove the forward swing arm bolts from the bearing housing
Locate and remove the trailing arm mounting bolt from the lower
Using a sharp object such as a scribe, mark the location of
the strut mounting bolts so they can be reassembled in the same location.
Mark the strut to spindle alignment which also helps preserve
the rear camber adjustment if any (alignment).
Use a socket and wrench to loosen and remove the strut mounting
bolts, (leave the top bolt in without the nut) the spindle can become loose so keep
your hands on it.
After all mounting bolts have been removed, grasp the bearing
housing and spindle and work it outward and away from the drive axle, (Note: The
drive axle can get stuck and may need help by pushing it outward through the hub).
Install a hydraulic press collar over the bearing hub and tighten
to secure it between hub and bearing plate.
Set the collar and bearing assembly downward into the press.
Use a steel drift or large socket just smaller than the wheel
hub itself, this must be large enough to grab the hub without binding inside the
Position the bearing, hub and spindle assembly squarely
under the plunger, this must be as square as possible to avoid damage and injury
while operating the press.
Once the press alignment is correct, begin pumping the press
downward, the plunger will contact the drift or socket while pressure builds there
will be a "pop" as the bearing starts to move outward from the spindle.
After completely pressing the bearing hub, it will become loose
and fall from the bottom of the press.
After removing the spindle from the press the failed unit
will be exposed.
Turn the spindle over and locate the bearing retainer snap ring,
using a pair of snap ring pliers remove the ring.
Reinstall the press collar onto the spindle.
Reinstall the spindle back into the press, using a larger socket
or drift, force the failed bearing from the housing, again there should be an audible
"pop" when the bearing starts to move.
Once the press operation is complete the failed bearing will
fall from the bottom of the press.
Match the new bearing to the old unit, they should match
After wiping clean the spindle housing, insert the new
bearing, (Note: Bearing is unidirectional and doesn't matter which side is inward).
Reinsert the bearing and spindle assembly back into the press
while using a large socket or drift, force the new bearing into place.
After the bearing has been completely installed, reinstall the
retainer snap ring.
Use a punch and hammer to tap the snap ring into place.
After wiping the wheel hub clean, insert the hub squarely into
the bearing, (Note: Be sure part of the old bearing is not still on the hub).
Align the wheel hub squarely under the press plunger and force
it down into the the new part, the hub will stop moving when fully installed.
Once complete the new bearing spindle assembly is ready
to be reinstalled onto the vehicle.
Lift the assembly into place, slide the upper strut bolt through
the spindle bolt hole while feeding the axle through the wheel hub.
Insert and tighten the lower trailing arm bolt.
Align the rear swing arm bolt hole and install and tighten the
Install and tighten the front swing arm bolt and nut.
Install the parking brake cable into the baking plate housing,
reinstall the retainer clip if equipped.
Install the bottom strut mounting bolts and nuts, tightening
both while keeping the scribed line in alignment with the strut to retain the camber
After cleaning the sensor free from metal particles, install
it back into the spindle, install and tighten the mounting bolt.
After all suspension bolts are tight, reinstall the axle-wheel
Then, install the axle nut by hand to avoid cross threading.
Tighten the axle nut to manufacturers specifications (usually
140-180 torque pounds),
Align the cotter pin holes for easy installation.
Insert a new cotter pin, use dikes to bend and cut as needed.
While using a pair of dikes, pull the spring back and hold it
as you install the parking brake shoe lever.
Mount the parking brake shoe by installing the thrust spring
Connect the lower return spring along with the self adjuster.
Once the forward hose has been installed along with the actuator
plate which is located between the shoes, install the forward most return spring.
After installing the upper shoe retain plate, use a pair dikes
to grab the spring lightly and pull it into position, repeat this operation for
the rear spring as well, (Note: A brake spring tool can be also used).
Double check all springs and actuator plates ensuing all guide
slots are in place.
Reinstall the rear brake rotor onto the wheel hub.
Gently place the brake caliper mounting bracket over the rotor
and insert the bolts, then tighten.
Reinstall rear brake caliper over the brake pads and onto the
caliper mounting bracket.
Reinsert the caliper mounting bolts and tighten.
After double checking all nuts and bolts for tightness reinstall
the tire onto the wheel hub and studs.
After threading the wheel lugs by hand, tighten them in a star
pattern to manufactures recommended specifications, (usually 80-90 pounds). Be observant when first driving the vehicle after a major repair, look for abnormal
noises or performance that could indicate a problem which will need further inspection.
If you need more information about this subject please visit our forum where
axle bearing and
questions have been previously answered by our online mechanics.