Rear Axle Bearing Replacement Passenger Car or 1/2 Ton Truck or SUV
Do you see gear oil leaking from the rear wheel? Is your vehicle making a
roaring sound that follows the vehicle speed from the rear? Do
you wonder how difficult it is to change the front or rear axle seal and bearing
or bearing hub? You have come to the right place. We are a team of ASE certified online mechanics that have created this guide for you
to save you money while having the satisfaction of doing the job right.
If you are not going to do the repair yourself this guide with video will show you what
you are paying for when you take your vehicle into a repair shop.
Why Does an Axle Bearing Fail?
A bearing is made of high grade steel which has a super hard coating over the
rollers, inner and outer races. A bearing goes bad when this coating is worn
away due to mileage or extreme load which just leaves the normal steel which
then degrades and destroys the bearing components. Also, failures can occur when
moisture combined with salt from roads penetrate the seal and contaminate the
bearing, or over time the grease used to lubricate the bearing can liquefy
leaving it dry causing a failure.
This is what a failed axle bearing looks like. You can see the roller cage is
broken and there are pits on parts of the rollers themselves.
Before We Begin
Before you begin, park your car on level ground with the transmission in park. You will need to
up your car with a floor jack and secure it using jack stands for safety and
and reinstall the wheel. Remember safety first, never get under the vehicle
unless jack stands are in place. We want you to use safety as a normal practice
anytime repairs need to be done as you learn automotive repair.
The brake caliper will need to be removed along with the caliper mount and the
If you are not replacing the brake pads then you don't need to open the bleeder or push the piston back into the caliper for this job.
Identify the side of the differential you see the leak or hear the noise
on before performing the repair. In this repair you will be dealing with gear oil so have a fluid catch basin
ready. Also, if the gear oil has been leaking for a while you will need to replace the
emergency brake shoes.
to replace parking brake shoes
Remove the Rear Backing Plate
Once the vehicle is safely in the air and on jack stands its time to get
under the rear of it 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. Remove the
remainder of the cover bolts and store them in a plastic container so they don't
If gear oil doesn't start to leak you should help break the seal loose 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 expose the inner workings of the differential.
Locate and Remove Pivot Pin Bolt
After inspecting the inner workings and while the transmission is in natural, 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. If the bolt breaks inside the carrier
use an air hammer which can be used to force
outward (break downward) the pivot rod through the carrier. The pivot pin will need to be
replaced along with the bolt.
Remove the Pinion Pin
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.
Remove the C Clip and Axle
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 then 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 into 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.
In this picture the parking brake shoes have been removed for replacement but
if the shoes are okay you can leave them installed while replacing the bearing
After the axle has been removed inspect the bearing and seal surface to check for wear and scoring and replace if
damaged. If this axle is worn you will see an obvious groove in this area. Do not reuse the
axle at this point because the new seal and bearing will fail prematurely. These axles are
available at the dealer for about $200.00 bucks.
Remove the Axle Seal
Now we are ready to remove the seal. Use a large pry bar to leverage the
seal out of the differential housing, you can also use a seal puller but we have
found this method works pretty good.
Remove and Install Axle Bearing
Use an axle puller to remove the axle bearing, once installed push the shoe
of the puller straight which will help it lock behind the bearing. Then, thrust
the anvil outward to start the pulling action, this will take several thrusts to
remove the bearing.
After the bearing has been removed, use a shop towel to wipe the housing
clean from oil and dirt. Also check the housing for obvious scoring which can
make the new seal leak. If a grove or scoring is present you will need to
install the seal using silicone rubber and allow it to fully dry before
refilling the differential, preferably overnight.
After the bearing has been successfully removed match the old bearing to the new unit they should be an identical match.
This is a bearing installation tool. Match the size of the tool to be just
slightly smaller in size than the bearing. If the tool is larger or the same
size it can get stuck inside the housing which will create a problem. You can
use a large punch and work around the bearing to install it, but using the tool
is the preferred method.
Set the new bearing squarely into the differential housing, then use the tool
to install the bearing using a hammer. Once the bearing is fully installed the
hammer will have a hard clunk sound and the bearing will not move inward. This
is signaling the bearing is completely against the house shoulder.
Install the Axle Seal
Once the bearing has been installed the seal is next. Inspect the seal surface for grooves or scores.
Use a shop towel to clean the seal mounting surface which will ensure the proper installation. Use carburetor cleaner
to make sure the surface is clean and dry before you begin reinstalling the seal.
Next, the new seal must be installed, match up the new seal to the old one. These seals have a outer lip so the seal can only be installed one way. The
seals should look identical unless they have been updated by the manufacturer.
Once the surface has been cleaned, match the new seal to the old unit and apply sealer to the differential housing
if needed. Most seals have a sealer allied to them as a thin coating, this seal
uses an orange colored sealer.
Next, you can use the seal installer which is one and the same to the bearing
installer but we thought we would show you how we did it in the old days in this
example. 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.
Reinstall the Axle
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. 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 at 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.
Next, 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. Take note of the shaft bolt hole so you can reinstall the bolt.
Example of bolt hole orientation before the final installation.
After the shaft has been installed, insert the retainer bolt and tighten,
this bolt needs to be fairly snug.
Reinstall the Rear Cover Plate
After the axle has been reinstalled use a gasket 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 inner 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 until 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 control 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. These bolts don't need be
super tight, just snug. You should also revisit these bolts in a few days to
give them an extra snug. We have received a lot of questions on how tight these
bolts should be which is tough to say because the gasket likes to flatten in
time but if you tighten them to manufactures specifications you can spilt the
gasket so its best to do it in stages. Too tight will spilt the gasket while to
loose will allow a leak, it's an art learned like anything else.
Refill with Gear Oil
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 (limited slip) 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 pinion gear. Reinstall and tighten the fill plug and you are all set.
Double check your work by looking for leaks at the cover.
After reinstalling any brake parts and the wheel. Safely 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. Its a good
idea to tip the vehicle to the side the repair was performed to bath the new
bearing in gear oil.
Watch the Video!
To get an idea on what you are in for with this repair please watch the video