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Front Drive Axle Replacing
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

Front Drive Axle Replacing

Nick Czerula

Time:

4 hours4 hrs

Tab:

$500

Talent:

***

Tools:

Phillips & flathead screwdrivers, 36mm 12 point socket, axle removal tool

Applicable Models:

X3 E83 (2004-06)
X3 E83 facelift (2007-10)

Parts Required:

Left and right front drive axles

Hot Tip:

Break the axle shaft fastener loose by removing the center cap for the wheel while the car is still on the ground

Performance Gain:

Stop clicking noise from worn axle shafts when turning

Complementary Modification:

Change front differential oil at the same time

While you are driving your car you engine is producing power in the form of torque. This torque is applied to your transmission and due to ratio gear changes, drops the engine rpm as speed increases. This torque coming out of the transmission is split between the front and rear axles at the transfer case. The front driveshaft applies its torque to the front differential and from there the torque is split between the left and right side axle shaft. Because these axle shafts must flex with both suspension movement and steering movement CV joints are used at both ends of the axle shaft. From all this flexing CV boots can tear and let dirt in the CV joint. This dirt acts as grinding compound and can wear out the internal components of the drive shaft. This will sound like a clicking noise when you turn your vehicle at full lock conditions.

The front drive axle on BMW X3 models connects the front differential to the front drive wheel. The axle boots fail over time and an axle may also become noisy or create a vibration. Removing the axles is not a difficult job, but plan to spend about half the day replacing it. You can replace the axle boots or the external CV (constant velocity) joint. 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 front drive axle.

In this tech article we will go over all the steps to remove your right front drive axle.

Lift and support front axle of the vehicle. You will have to remove the front tires to perform this job and it does make access much easier since you may not have access to an automotive lift. See our tech article on jacking and supporting your vehicle and removing the front tires.

The procedure to replace the front axle shafts are the same for both the left and right sides.

Remember your car may have been serviced before and parts 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 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. Never work on your vehicle if you feel the task is beyond your ability.

The front drive axle (red arrow) on BMW X3 models connects the front differential to the front drive wheel.
Figure 1

The front drive axle (red arrow) on BMW X3 models connects the front differential to the front drive wheel. The axle boots fail over time and an axle may also become noisy or create a vibration. Removing the axles is not a difficult job, but plan to spend about half the day replacing it. You can replace the axle boots or the external CV (constant velocity) joint. 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 front drive axle. Begin by leaving the vehicle on the ground and removing the center cap from the wheel. With an extension you can reach the axle shaft fastener and loosen it while the vehicle weight is holding the wheel still. There is a 36mm 12 point fastener to loosen. Lift and support front of your vehicle. See our tech article on jacking your vehicle.

You have to remove the strut to get the axle out.
Figure 2

You have to remove the strut to get the axle out. This is a lot easier than dealing with the suspension. Start by removing the ABS and brake sensor wiring from the mounts at the strut, pull them straight out to remove. Then remove the brake hose from the strut. Unbolt and remove the brake caliper, support it on a jack stand, do not allow it to hang from the brake hose. See our tech article on brake caliper replacing. Then remove the two strut fasteners. See our tech article on strut replacing. Pull the strut (blue arrow) out of the wheel bearing carrier (red arrow).

Use a small punch or flathead screwdriver, bend the edges of the nut out of the locking channel (red arrows).
Figure 3

Use a small punch or flathead screwdriver, bend the edges of the nut out of the locking channel (red arrows). Put wheel back on vehicle and remove from jack stands.

Remove the axle nut using a 36mm 12 point socket and a ratchet (red arrow).
Figure 4

Remove the axle nut using a 36mm 12 point socket and a ratchet (red arrow). If needed, counterhold the wheel by placing a flathead screwdriver in the brake vent. Do not use this technique to break the nut free. Damage to the rotor may occur.

The axle will not slide out of wheel bearing easily, tap out using a brass punch and a soft-faced hammer.
Figure 5

The axle will not slide out of wheel bearing easily, tap out using a brass punch and a soft-faced hammer. You can also try putting the nut on and tapping on the socket to move the axle out. If it is still stuck, use an axle removing tool (inset). This tool will push the axle out without damaging the wheel bearing or axle shaft.

Pull the spindle away from the axle as you pull the axle out and away from the spindle.
Figure 6

Pull the spindle away from the axle as you pull the axle out and away from the spindle.

Next, use a long prybar (yellow arrow) to lever the axle (red arrow) out of the front differential.
Figure 7

Next, use a long prybar (yellow arrow) to lever the axle (red arrow) out of the front differential. Use a fast motion to lever the axle out. Constant pressure may not remove it, as you have to compress the axle clip.

Once axle moves free, slide it out of differential and remove from vehicle.
Figure 8

Once axle moves free, slide it out of differential and remove from vehicle. If stuck, use a pry bar (red arrow) to lever it out. Use a fast motion to overcome the axle snap ring.

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Page last updated: Thu 6/29/2017 03:18:41 AM