One of the most common failures on a live axle is the universal joints. Worn universals will often sound like a worn bearing, or you may feel clunking from the front end. The way to test them is to get under the vehicle and check if the uni joints have any play. If the do, then they should be replaced.
There are maintenance free universal joints and also ones that come with a grease fitting – it’s up to you which type to use. Replacing the uni joints is not a difficult job but you do need a large socket to undo the wheel nut and you’ll need access to a large vice to press in the new uni joint caps.
Removing the old uni joints can need a fair bit of hammer action (the ones on this vehicle pictured looked like they were the originals and felt as though they were welded in). When the caps come out, expect to have a lot of needle bearings flying out all over the place – luckily these are not reused so you won’t need to worry about finding them.
When fitting the new uni joints, it can be a bit awkward setting up the vice to press in the caps – otherwise it’s a simple process. Make sure to thoroughly clean the axle and apply a light coating of grease before carefully re-fitting the axle into the diff housing.
01. Loosen wheel nuts, then jack up vehicle and place on support stands. Remove the wheel.
02. Remove split pin and discard. Use a new split pin when reassembling.
03. Remove hub-securing nut. Put a screwdriver in the disc to lock the hub while loosening the nut.
04. Remove brake caliper and secure with wire or a cable tie. Don’t let it hang from the brake hose.
05. Remove the brake disc.
06. Remove the hub. In this case the wheel bearings are integral with the hub.
07. Carefully remove the axle from the differential housing.
08. Remove the four circlips from the universal joint.
09. Place the shaft on a vice and hit it close to the joint until the universal joint cap comes out.
10. Remove the cap , turn the joint over and hammer out the cap on the opposite side.
11. Separate the shafts.
12. Place shaft so exposed joint ends are resting on a vice. Hammer shaft so remaining caps are forced out.
13. The new universal joint and caps. Some come with a grease nipple like this one.
14. Take off the caps and squeeze the new joint into the axle.
15. Press caps into place with a vice. Use same method to fit other two caps. Fit four new clips on uni joint.
16. Grease the axle before carefully refitting it in the diff housing.