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Front Axle U-Joint Replacement

Contributed By: Gordon McKenzie

My front joints were toast with three out of eight cups having no bearings. The front clunked when turning especially in 4 lo. So after some reading, the light went on and I tackled it. That was a couple months ago so some of this is from memory and some from the manual.

I have full time so I don't have the locking hubs.

First you need a front hub socket. Big socket with four pins on it for undoing the axles nuts. Haynes calls this a locknut removal socket. I picked it up at Napa. A rubber hammer or a block of wood and a regular hammer are likely needed as well.

Rear wheels blocked, front up on jackstands remove the wheels. Sit on one as the ground is cold.

Remove the caliper and hang it out of the way. Pry off the cap on the hub. Screwdriver works just fine. Pry of the snap ring and the parts will pop out. I put them on paper the way they came out so I don't screw up putting them back in.

Now use that big socket to undo the outer bearing retainer. Just gotta get the socket pins in the slot and reef on it. Then use a couple screwdrivers to pull out the washer. Grease is all that's holding it in. Use the socket to undo the inner bearing nut. Now pull the hub to free the bearings. The outer one will fall out and the inner one will come off with the disk rotor.

Check the bearings (or just replace them) and pack them with fresh grease. To get the inner bearing out, just pop the seal with a small screwdriver and pull the bearing out.

Next comes the spindle. Six obvious bolts hold it on and one additional bolt hold the backing plate on. Remove them all and gently bang on it with the rubber hammer. You don't want to bend the plate and some penetrating oil may be needed.

Next, pull the shaft out. It takes a little fiddling and you may have to knock off a grease nipple to get it through the hole only slightly larger than the u-joint is. I used a chisel on one and the other was gone already (Maybe that's why it failed). Be careful to support the pumpkin end of the shaft as you don't want to bang it on the axle housing.

Pressing the u-joint apart needs a big vise, a socket bigger than the end cap and one smaller than the end cap. What you do is press the smaller socket against one cap to force the opposite cap into the bigger socket. I'd love to tell you more but after two hours of doing this (and I was using my substantial weight to do this) I got mad and had the shop press the old one's out and put new ones in. I guess you can't always beat 18 years of rust at home.

Put the axle back in again being careful not to bang the end. It'll need a little playing to get it to engage the diff. If your u-joint has a grease fitting in an end cap, you'll have to install it after the axle is in. Mine had the filler on the joint body and I can actually get in there to grease it sometime.

Re-install the spindle and backing plate. Slide the disk rotor back on and bolt her up.

Now the two axle nuts are not the same. One has some pins on one face that fit into the washer. This nut goes on first with the pins facing out. Tighten it up 50 ft-lbs and make sure the rotor turns. From there you'll need to back it off. The washer is keyed so you have to adjust the first nut so it's pins will fit into the washer while the washer goes into the key properly. Of course you won't get it right the first time so you have to pull the washer, back off the nut a bit and try again. Haynes says to back off 1/8 of a turn. Once you have it lined up right, put on the outer nut and tighten to 50 ft-lbs. Rest of the install is the reverse of the removal.

When you have the wheel on but still on jacks, grab opposite sides of the wheel and check that it doesn't wobble. If it does, the nuts aren't on right and you'll break something.

Except that I had to wait for the u-joints to be done, this is an easy afternoon job.

Gord, Sue and Countess McKenzie

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