The first step is to have the vehicle on jack stands and the wheels and tires removed. After you remove the brake drums be sure to set them aside in a clean and safe place. Remember to label the axle shafts according to the side in which they were installed, as they are different lengths. There is an access hole in the wheel flange that allows you to get a socket on the nut that holds the axle shaft and brake backing plate in place. The rest, as they say, is a piece of cake.
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Step-1: Loosen Nuts
Use the correct-size deep-well socket or a shallow socket with an extension to reach in and loosen the four lock nuts nuts (a deep-well socket avoids the socket falling off the extension and having to fish the socket out from behind the axle flange). Notice that the brake hardware is in place.
Step-2: Remove Nuts
Once the nuts are loose, reach behind the flange to retrieve them. (This backing plate has the brake shoes and hardware already removed.) You can leave the brake hardware in place or remove it. Keep in mind that removing the brake hardware prior to the axle shafts makes the job a little easier. Your overall plan is also a factor. If you have fresh brakes and are going to retain the drum style, then it makes sense to leave the brakes attached to the backing plates. If you want to remove all the rust and repaint the backing plates, the brake hardware needs to be removed.
Step-3: Loosen Axle Shaft Plate
The rectangular shaped steel plate under the nuts holds the axle shafts and bearings in the housing. Once the nuts have been removed, you can lightly pull the plate loose. It is still trapped on the axle shaft, but you need to make sure it is loose. Be careful because it may move around a little.
Step-4: Remove Axle Shaft (Special Tool)
Use a slide hammer tool, such as this one, to pop the axle shaft loose. It’s a great tool to have in your shop, but runs about $150. You can use pry bars to dislodge the axle shaft but be careful not to bend the plates. (Later, you’ll see how the bearing arrangement traps the plates on the axle shafts.) If you are going to re-use the bearings, the plates are also re-used. I strongly recommend replacing the bearings at the same time because it’s a minimal investment to ensure good performance.
Attach the slide hammer tool to the axle shaft wheel hub. The base of the puller slips over the wheel’s studs and the bolts secure the puller to the hub. A couple of quick pulls and the shaft should be loose. This tool really makes this job simple and effortless.
Partially remove the axle shaft. Notice how the ball bearing traps the retainer plate on the axle shaft. The retainer ring is to the left of the ball bearing. This ring keeps the axle bearing on the axle shaft. Also notice the polished section to the left of the ring from the seal riding on the journal. This is a common sealed ball bearing wheel end arrangement.
Once the axle shaft has been completely removed, inspect the bearing and seal surface. I recommend replacing the bearings for any rebuild, but if they are in good condition, you may get away with re-using them. But it’s a risk. This axle shaft uses the large ball bearing arrangement. This sealed-style bearing cannot be re-greased. You can see the wear mark from the seal. If yours has a groove, replace the shaft. If it is a big-bearing shaft, you may want to upgrade to the stronger, tapered-bearing arrangement. The housing accommodates the larger tapered bearing; it just requires a different axle shaft.
A production axle shaft end never touches the differential pin, in contrast to to the semi-fl oat style used on Ford 8.8-inch axles. For this reason, this very rough cut end was common from Ford during high-volume production. Aftermarket shafts are never this roughly cut.
Step-5: Remove Brake Backing Plates
Remove the brake backing plates for cleaning and painting. (The brake lines should have already been removed from the wheel cylinders.) Lightly tap around the backing plates to remove them. They usually come off with little effort.
Step-6: Seal Inside of Housing
Once the axle shaft has been removed, look for the seal inside of the housing. This seal keeps the gear oil in the axle for ballbearing wheel ends. The tapered-bearing style of wheel ends do not use this seal as they share oil with the axle. Note that this axle flange shows signs of the original gasket and sealant. This needs to be cleaned off and prepped before re-assembly. The T-bolts can be pushed out now.
Step-7: Remove Retainer Ring
Replacing the bearings and retainer plates means that you need to remove the retainer ring from the axle shaft. One method is to partially drill through the ring and then press the bearing off. The ring has a significant press fit, so it’s very difficult to press off. Remember, this is holding the wheel on the vehicle and you might have to destroy it. A quick center punch on the ring in the middle of the unit acts as a guide for the drill.
Using a 1/4-inch bit drill partially into the ring making certain to center the hole. Being very careful, set the drill on a low-RPM setting and drill almost to the bottom. To avoid drilling too deep you can mark the desired depth on the bit with tape, but still stop and check often. If you drill too deep, you’ll actually drill into the axle shaft. If this happens, you need to replace the axle shaft because it creates a stress riser in a critical area, and the axle will probably break in this area.
Using a hammer and chisel, solidly strike the ring at the drilled section. If you support the other side of the ring with a block of wood you can hammer away.
Here you can see the slight crack in the retaining ring. This is all that is required to relieve the press fit. Now you can use a typical bearing puller tool and shop press to remove the retainer, bearing, and plate.
Written by Joe Palazzolo and Republished with Permission of CarTech Inc
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