Replace the Rear Axle Bearings and Seals on a Ford Explorer
Ford Explorers (Non Year Specific)
Atleast for the Ford 31-spline 8.8 with 3.73 and limited slip. Per Chiltons, gearing higher than 3.73 (numerically lower) is different?
What inspired me to make this write-up? Easy. I couldn’t find any. Well, I found one (http://www.explorer4x4.com/axleseals.html), and it honestly almost turned me away from doing this job myself, but decided to do it anyway. And so I decided to make one with pictures.
1) wheel chocks
2) jack stand
3) floor jack
4) 3/8″ ratchet
5) 1/2″ socket (diff cover)
6) 10mm socket (brake calipers)
7) 3/4″ socket (wheel lug nuts)
8) 9mm wrench (pinion shaft bolt)
9) slide hammer
a) wheel bearing removal tool
10) small’ish sledge
11) small needle nose pliers
12) small chunk of 2×4
14) drain pan
15) about 2.75 quarts gear lube
16) replacement bearings and seals
Of course, the first step is to get the rear off the ground, atleast long enough to get the tires off. I did it this way, so that there would be as much room between axle and body as possible to work in there.
I sat jack stands under the front leaf spring mounts, just high enough that the tires were off the ground. Of course I tested for stability before starting any work, and also chocked the front tires.
My poor rear axle that hasn’t gotten any love (and gotta love that spare tire is the original Firestone).
Next step is to remove the diff cover. These bolts have 1/2″ heads (atleast mine did). Make sure you can remove your filler plug before doing this or you’ll be screwed!
After removing the bolts to the diff cover, I just used a little grunt to get the seal broken apart just enough to get the oil to drain. If you can’t get it with grunt, you can use a screwdriver or chisel but be careful not to damage the mounting surfaces.
While the gear lube is draining, take a chance to go ahead and remove all your brake hardware so you can remove the axle shafts. The caliper bolts take a 10mm socket.
This is what the inside of the diff cover looked like. Nothing abnormal, really. No little flakes or feel of grit in the oil is always good!
Here’s a slightly fun part; you need to remove this bolt (9mm head, atleast in my case), then slide the pin out so that you can access the c-clips. Do not turn the axles after removing this, or you could spend a lot of time trying to get it back in! If you spin the axles, it will get the spider gears out of place, and could be a real pain to re-align.
What you need to do now, is for the side you’re working on, push the axle shaft in until you can get access to the c-clip.
I’ve already removed the driver’s side in this pic.
Now it’s easy as pie to slide the shaft out. You will get some more gear lube leakage out of the axle tube.
This is how my axle looks, where it rides on the bearing.
Getting the seal out is, honestly, the hardest part of this job. I tried prying with a screw driver, trying to get the bearing and seal with the slide-hammer, with no luck.
What finally worked for me? Vise-grips. Get a good grip on the seal, and just try and work it back and forth. As you can see in this pic, I took out several chunks of the seal.
Now to get the bearing itself, I would highly recommend the use of a slide-hammer. Don’t have one? Rent one. I ended up havin to rent it from Schmucks, because the locally-owned shop I would have was closed already. It’s only $6/day, that’s more than worth it for this! Although, this particular one I wasn’t too fond of. No rubber grip or cushion on the handle, and honestly would have probably been easier with one that was a bit longer. But it got the job done.
(yes, this picture was before I got the seal out)
Now you’ve got that done, it’s time to put the new bearing and seal on! What I did for this, was get the new bearing in as far as I could by hand. I then took the old bearing and a chunk of 2×4. Basically sandwich the old bearing between the new bearing and 2×4 (I recommend covering the wood with a rag, to prevent any splinters from getting into the bearing/axle tube). It hammered in quite easily.
For the seal; it fits inside the axle tube also. I pressed it as far as I could by hand, then took the 2×4 and hammer again, and whacked it in.
I then took some gear lube, and tried to work it into my bearings, to help prevent any dry-running.
Slide the axle shaft back in, replace c-clip, and we’re done with that side!
Of course the other side is just as easy. Actually, it was easier knowing exactly how to get things to work.
Don’t forget to put that pin back in, along with the bolt. Then, of course, clean the mounting surfaces of the diff cover and diff, then put some silicone on the diff cover. Not a lot is required. Just about a 1/4″ to 3/8″ bead should be plenty.
When bolting the cover back up, make sure and tighten down in a star-pattern (just like you do when tighting lug nuts).
While you’re waiting for the silicone to cure a bit, go ahead and put your brakes back on.
Now go ahead and fill ‘er up with gear lube (you can get your filler plug loose, right?) and you’re all set!