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Rear Drive Axle Replacement
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

Rear Drive Axle Replacement

Nick Czerula

Time:

2 hours2 hrs

Tab:

$300

Talent:

****

Tools:

Flathead screwdriver, pry bar, 30mm 6 point socket, E12 inverted Torx socket

Applicable Models:

BMW Z3 (1996-02)

Parts Required:

Rear drive axle, drive axle bolts, exhaust bolts for rear section of exhaust

Hot Tip:

Replace bolts

Performance Gain:

Repair faulty drive axle

Complementary Modification:

Replace differential fluid

Drive axles transfer power from the differential to the wheels. The differential is solidly bolted to the rear sub frame, whereas the wheels move up and down on the vehicle suspension. The drive axles therefore need to be equipped with flexible joints that allow a significant amount of bending and flexing by the drive axle. This is accomplished by equipping each drive axle with a constant velocity (or CV) joint at each end. The joint is filled with high temperature grease and sealed with a rubber boot. 

These axle boots fail over time causing loss of grease in the CV joint. As a result an axle may become noisy or create a vibration. Removing a rear drive axle is not a difficult job, but plan to spend about half the day replacing it. Each inner CV joint attaches to the differential output flange using six special bolts. The outer CV joint includes a stub axle that fits through the wheel-bearing hub and is secured to the hub with a 30mm nut. The left side axle is a bit harder to remove due to obstruction by the exhaust system. If you are having trouble removing the driver side axle, you may want to remove the rear section of the exhaust system for better access. See our tech article on exhaust system removing. The right side axle is much easier as you have plenty of room to get to the fasteners and axle. Usually, I am able to sneak the axle out without removing the exhaust system. I will unbolt the rear control arm to get some movement out of the wheel hub.

You can replace the axle boots and clean and repack the CV joints with high temperature molybdenum grease. However, if the boot has been torn for a while, the damage has been done. At this point you are better off replacing the complete drive axle.

Keep in mind that when your car was serviced before, parts may have been replaced with different size fasteners used in the replacement. The sizes of the nuts and bolts we give may be different from what you have, so be prepared with different size sockets and wrenches. 

Protect your eyes, hands and body from fluids, dust and debris while working on your vehicle. If you're working with the electrical system, disconnect the battery before beginning. Always catch fluids in appropriate containers and properly dispose of any fluid waste. Recycle parts, packaging and fluids when possible. Do not work on your vehicle if you feel the task is beyond your ability. 

Vehicle models change and evolve, as they grow older, so the vehicle shown in our illustrations may vary slightly from yours. If something seems different, let us know and share your info to help other users. Do you have questions or want to add to the article? Leave a comment below. When leaving a comment, please leave your vehicle information.

In this tech article, I will go over how to replace the rear drive axle on BMW Z3 vehicles.

If replacing the left side drive axle, remove the rear section of exhaust (green arrows).
Figure 1

If replacing the left side drive axle, remove the rear section of exhaust (green arrows). See our tech article on exhaust system replacing.

Remove center cap on rear wheel of vehicle.
Figure 2

Remove center cap on rear wheel of vehicle. Do this on the side of vehicle you are replacing axle on. Use a small flathead screwdriver to lever center cap out of wheel. Next you will loosen the drive axle nut (green arrow) through the hole in wheel. Using a 30mm 6 point socket and a breaker bar, loosen rear axle nut. Lift and support rear of your vehicle. See our tech article on jacking your vehicle. Remove drive wheel.

Once loose, remove the nut with the washer from the drive axle.
Figure 3

Once loose, remove the nut with the washer from the drive axle.

Next you have to loosen six axle mounting bolts (green arrows).
Figure 4

Next you have to loosen six axle mounting bolts (green arrows). You will need an E12 socket and a swivel extension. Loosen bolts until they come out of the axle flange in differential. You do not have to remove bolts from axle. Green arrows point to four of the six bolts. Rotate axle to access all bolts.

This photo shows loosening the drive axle nuts using an E12 socket with a swivel extension and flex-head ratchet.
Figure 5

This photo shows loosening the drive axle nuts using an E12 socket with a swivel extension and flex-head ratchet. If the boot is giving you trouble when accessing the bolts, loosen the top bolts, then rotate the axle to move the next bolt to the top. When doing this, add a 4" extension to the ratchet.

Pull drive axle (green arrow) down and away from rear differential.
Figure 6

Pull drive axle (green arrow) down and away from rear differential. If it is stuck, use a flathead screwdriver to detach it, or tap it with a soft-faced hammer.

Next, remove the drive axle from the wheel hub.
Figure 7

Next, remove the drive axle from the wheel hub. You will have to drive it out. If axle does not slide out of wheel bearing easily, tap out using a brass punch and a soft-faced hammer.

As you drive axle out of wheel hub, guide it down and remove it from the vehicle.
Figure 8

As you drive axle out of wheel hub, guide it down and remove it from the vehicle. If replacing drive axle with new, now is the time to remove the axle bolts and flat washers and transfer these parts over to the new axle.

Install axle in reverse order of removing.
Figure 9

Install axle in reverse order of removing. Install axle bolts on differential and tighten. Then install axle nut, be sure to line up flat sides of washer with notches in hub (green arrows), tighten axle nut, you will complete final torque of axle nut with vehicle wheel on ground.

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Page last updated: Wed 12/7/2016 03:07:04 AM