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Front Drive Axle and Seal
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

Front Drive Axle and Seal

Nick Czerula

Time:

4 hours4 hrs

Tab:

$500

Talent:

***

Tools:

Phillips & flathead screwdrivers, 36mm 12 point socket, axle removal tool, floor jack, two jack stands, two wheel chocks, safety glasses, torque wrench

Applicable Models:

BMW X5 (2000-06)

Parts Required:

Left and right front drive axles, drive axle seal

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 change 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 a 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 E53 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 bad 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 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 is 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.

If you do not have a breaker bar you can also leave the car on the ground and remove the center cap (green arrow) from the wheel.
Figure 1

If you do not have a breaker bar you can also leave the car on the ground and remove the center cap (green arrow) from the wheel. With an extension you can reach the axle shaft fastener and loosen it on the ground. Lift and support the front of your vehicle. See our tech article on jacking up your vehicle.

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

You have to remove the strut bolts 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 (green arrow). Pull them straight out to remove them. Then remove the brake hose from the strut (yellow arrow). Unbolt and remove the brake caliper. Suspend it from the vehicle using a stiff wire. Do not allow it to hang from the brake hose. See our tech article on brake caliper replacing. Then remove the two 22mm strut fasteners (red arrows). See our tech article on strut replacing.

Remove the axle nut using a 36mm 12-point socket and a ratchet (red arrow).
Figure 3

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 (green arrow). 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.
Figure 4

The axle will not slide out of wheel bearing easily. Tap it out using a brass punch and a soft-faced hammer. If it is still stuck, use an axle-removing tool. 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 5

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

Next, use a long pry bar (yellow arrow) to lever the axle (red arrow) out of the front differential.
Figure 6

Next, use a long pry bar (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 the axle moves free, slide it out of the differential and remove it from the vehicle.
Figure 7

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

With the axle removed, inspect the drive axle seal for damage or signs of leaking and replace if needed (red arrow).
Figure 8

With the axle removed, inspect the drive axle seal for damage or signs of leaking and replace if needed (red arrow).

If the axle seal needs to be replaced, lever it out using a seal puller (red arrow).
Figure 9

If the axle seal needs to be replaced, lever it out using a seal puller (red arrow). Then install the new seal using a seal installer until it is flush with the differential output flange.

Install the new axle in the reverse steps of removing.
Figure 10

Install the new axle in the reverse steps of removing. Use the axle removal tool to install the axle. Pull it into the wheel bearing (if needed). Then tighten the axle nut. You will complete the final torque of the axle nut with the vehicle wheel on the ground. Don't forget to set the axle nut using a chisel to lock it in place.

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Comments and Suggestions:
Mak Comments: I have an oil leak from the right hand side seal where the axle runs through the oil pan. Is this seal the same as the left hand side?
November 22, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I don't believe so.

Give The Pelican Parts parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can figure out what part or repair kit you need.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Oggy Comments: Hi. Do you have to drain any oil before removing the drive shafts? Thanks.
September 19, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No. IF replacing a seal, place a pan under the seal to catch the oil. Then drain and fill as desired or needed. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Mike piet Comments: I have a 2003 bmw x5 3.0 . When installing the new axle there is a c clip on the end. My drivers side went in well but at first it seemed to hangup with about a half inch to go. I Rotated the CV Axel pulled it out and pushed it home stopping when it hitagainst the case.. Passenger side is not as easy.. Its not hitting home on the case it looks like about a quarter inch to go. C clip a problem? . any ideas? Thanks. Michigan mike
September 10, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Try pulling it out, then pushing it in with a strong swift motion. You have to overcome the circlip. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Sergio Comments: Can you elaborate on replacing the axle seal? Do you think i can get away with using regular tools to carefully install them? Do i have to replace them if they are not leaking?
July 20, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: If not leaking, you should not have to replace it. You can use any tool that can get the job done, up to you to decide. However, if you bend the seal it will leak. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
tron Comments: Could you please provide a few more comments on reinstalling the new axle, and where you can get that tool featured in figure 4?
September 21, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: We can get you the too.
Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799.

Installing is just reversing the steps. Not much to add, unless you have an area your snagged on, I may be bale to offer insight. - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
pista Comments: You are wrong showing the tool press out the axle the you set at up is pulling that in the hub.if you do some thing do it right.
February 16, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: If you are referring to step 4, the tool is in fact in the assembly order to remove an axle, not install it. There is a threaded nut on the inside of the collar. - Nick at Pelican Parts  

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Page last updated: Mon 12/5/2016 02:42:25 AM