Rear Axle Bearing (and more...)


No-so-good axle


4X4 ICON 2000 - 2008 The DVD! - Click here for details!

4X4 ICON 2000 - 2008 The DVD!


My rear axle had developed a leak on the driver's side.  Gear oil was leaking out of the axle end and running down the inside of the tire.  I had taken the wheel and brake drum off to investigate and found bent brake shoes.  I took them off and straightened them out.  I also noted the leaking axle bearing oil seal and ordered new seals and bearings.

When I got the parts and Saturday came around, I put the Jeep back up on stands and got started. 


I planned to remove the axles and replace the bearings and seals then put it back together.

Axle Shaft Bearing RemovalAxle Shaft Seal Install

  The steps are pretty simple and only a couple special tools are required to do the work right.

Bearing Remover ToolBearing and Seal Installers

$70 MAC Tool Race, Bearing and Seal Driver set  Item Number:  BRD129MA

I bought the bearing and seal installer tool at Pep Boys for about $35.00  I borrowed a slide hammer from a fellow club member. 

Slide Hammer

I borrowed the bearing puller from a fellow club member.

Axle Bearing and Seal Installation tool - Click to Enlargement$120 MAC Tool Rear Axle Bearing Puller Set PRAB7494A - Click to Enlarge

I bought cleaning supplies, grease, gear oil and thread locker at Pep Boys.

Supplies - Click to Enlarge

I bought the bearings, seals and other parts from the dealer.  I like the gear oil resistant RTV that the dealer sells so I bought that there as well.

Axle Bearing - Click to EnlargeRTV for Diff Cover - Click to Enlarge
Axle Seal - Click to Enlarge

Instructions - Click to Enlarge

I printed the pages from the factory manual and brought them outside with me. 

The basic steps include:

  • Raise and support vehicle. Ensure that the transmission is in neutral.
  • Remove wheel and tire assembly.
  • Remove brake drum.
  • Clean all foreign material from housing cover area.
  • Loosen housing cover bolts. Drain lubricant from the housing and axle shaft tubes. Remove housing cover.
  • Rotate differential case so that pinion mate gear shaft lock screw is accessible. Remove lock screw and pinion mate gear shaft from differential case. (I had to remove the right carrier bearing cap because it stands in the way of removing the screw that holds the center pin)

Bearing Cap Removed
Removing Center pin after bearing cap

  • Push axle shaft inward and remove axle shaft C–clip lock from the axle shaft.
  • Remove axle shaft. Use care to prevent damage to axle shaft bearing and seal, which will remain in axle shaft tube. Also, exercise care not to damage the wheel speed sensor on vehicles equipped with ABS brakes.

I went through all the steps and got the passenger side axle shaft out. 

Good Axle Shaft

It looked healthy so I set it aside and started on the driver's side.  When I got it out, I discovered that the axle shaft was trashed. 

No-so-good axle

The bearing rollers had cut a groove in the axle and it would need to be replaced.  Crap!

It was 2 in the afternoon on Saturday and at a minimum I needed a Superior 30-spline shaft for a Dana 35c.  Yeah, Pep Boys will have one of those... Not!

I called my supplier and put in an order that would not get processed until Monday morning.  Clearly, the bearing had failed and there would be no warrantee replacement here.  I asked for the shaft to be shipped over-night.

Then I went back to the work at hand.  I still had the new brakes to install so I went ahead and did that.  It was pretty gloomy work except that I had to be thankful that the damaged axle had not failed.  That would have been disaster, especially if I had been cruising down the highway, loaded up with wife and kids...

Here's a look at the bearings.  The one to the right, or on top in the photos is the bad bearing.

Bad Bearing

Bad Bearing on Right - Click to Enlarge

Bad Bearing on Right
Bad Bearing on Top
Bad Bearing on Right
Bad Bearing in front

So now I am going to be stripping the housing down to bare case, cleaning out all the metal particles, then completely rebuilding it by replacing all the bearings and then reinstalling the carrier and axle shafts....  More when the parts arrive...

The axle bearings and pinion bearings are factory standard; the carrier bearings are special because of the larger splines, so I ordered a rebuilt kit to include those bearings.


Hurry up and wait...  Basically, the axle shaft and bearing kit for the oversized carrier splines are not a dealer item, so they must be ordered in.  The axles comes from California and the bearing kit from Tennesee.   I paid for overnight service on the shaft; called the manufacturer to "remind" them to over-night it, and found when I had hung up the call that my shafts were reported by UPS Tracking to be sitting on my front porch.  Doh!  And indeed, when I got home from work that afternoon, there was a beautiful Superior Axle and Gear box sitting on my front porch.  I needed to reassemble everything temporarily so I could transport the vehicle to a shop to have the carrier removed and the carrier and pinion bearings replaced, and the whole thing put back together, after first flushing out the housing.

I took the new shaft out of the shipping carton and stood it up next to the old one.  They were the same size in all regards, so I installed the lug bolts that I had removed from the old shaft, after cleaning them and applying some blue thread locker.  I stood the axle up on the back of the wheel and used the wheel for leverage to tighten down the studs.

Next I put some bearing grease on the oil seal and the bearing surface of the new shaft and carefully guided it into the axle tube and found the alignment with the splines.  Then I gently sent it all the way home.  I checked and found the C-Clip groove just shy of being exposed so went back and lightly tapped the end of the axle with a block of wood.  The shaft slid in willingly and I placed the C-Clip so the opening was facing downward.  Then I went back to the axle end and pulled it back out.  It came easily and a quick check confirmed that the C-Clip was now recessed inside the carrier as intended.

I cleaned up the bolt that holds the center pin in place and threaded it back together.  Then I made sure the bearing race was clean on the carrier, and wiped clean the bearing cap.  I cleaned the bolts and put some blue thread locker on them.  Then I tamped the bearing cap into place making sure to orient it the same way around as it was before I removed it.  Then I threaded the bolts in and tightened them to spec.  I was surprised and concerned that it did not feel very tight but have learned to have faith in the torque wrench...

I installed the wheels after rechecking the brake adjustment and installing the brake drums.  As it had gotten dark, I left the case open and will finish up tomorrow evening.


I got started in the morning by cleaning up the bolts that hold the cover on the differential.  I cleaned up the surfaces to be sealed.  Then I put some oil-resistant RTV sealer on the cover.  I made a seal around each bolt hole and ran two beads around the circumference of the cover.   Then I put the cover in place and threaded in the bolts.

With the bolts tightened down, I measured out 1.5 quarts of gear oil and drained it into the differential.  Since it was cool out and the hose is small in diameter, it took quite a while.

Refill differential
Refill differential
Refill differentialRefill differential

I cleaned up my tools, put everything away, emptied out the Jeep for the trip to the shop, and had breakfast...

Jeff's house
Jeff's House

With that out of the way, I confirmed with Jeff and drove over to his house and dropped off the Jeep.  The Jeep drove fine with no noises.  Naturally it rode much smoother than it had with the bad shaft.   When I got to Jeff's house I checked the wheels, brake backing plates and axle and did not find any leaks.  Small consolation as Jeff will be tearing down the whole housing to install new carrier and pinion bearings, and to replace the axle bearings and seals that I installed purely for the purpose of driving it to his house!

I brought along the old shaft and bearings so he could see what they looked like.  I also brought the parts I had, and my detailed list of activities...  I took a couple pictures and left it in his capable hands.  More later..


Long day...  I had lots to do.   By the time I got up in the morning I had decided that I needed a new housing, located a housing, claimed it and made arrangements to pick it up.  I was fortunate that I still had Bills truck so getting it to Jeff was not a problem.  But my schedule was shaping up a real nightmare.

I brought Teddy to school and Tommy to the babysitter.  I went to work and got caught up with everything and then at lunchtime I drove to Purcellville to pick up the housing at Jimmy's place.  I hustled back to work and got there a little after lunch was done.   I worked for a few more hours and then plugged into my cellphone/blackberry/internet mobile mode and headed for Jeff's.  Along the way I continued to do business and got more work done.  I got to Jeff's around 2:30 and dropped off the housing.  He had concluded the same thing (old housing rubbish) so the new housing was music to his eyes...

Then I headed back to my house to work for a couple more hours.  Around 5:30 I met up with Carl and we went over to Bill's house to drop off the Suburban. I loaded all my stuff into Carl's Jeep and we drove to Jeff's. 

Once there we tore into the old and new housing, swapped out backing plates and brake parts, breather hose, some retainers and all kinds of little stuff, including the bolts that hold the backing plates onto the housing.

Removing old housingOld Housing

Meanwhile, Mitch was getting the new housing ready to take the internal parts.

new housing interiorNew Housing assemblyNew Housing assembly

carrier and bearings from new housingDetroit from old housing

New shaft with 30 miles in old housing

One of the things I asked Jeff and Mitch to do was move the ABS tone ring from the old shaft to the new one.   They did, once some heat had been applied to coax it into submission.  Jimmy had trouble with them last time too.

They commented that the pinion didn't look too bad but did have a couple nicks, lots of scratching from the loose metal particles in the oil.  And they noticed a manufacturing defect in the metal, something that looks like a bubble that can be seen in the photo.

Pinion...  Good?

While they were working I had occasion to take a look at my tires that were sitting on the side.  There was some chunking which undoubtedly occurred on the trip to Green Ridge...

Tire Chunking

Carl hung around until 9:00pm and then headed home.  Mitch lives around the corner from me so I decided to stay until we either finished, or 11:00pm, whichever came first.  We worked through getting the new housing fitted with all the necessary parts from the old housing, hanging it up under the Jeep, and getting the ring and pinion and carrier in place. 

While the new housing was easy to work on, Carl suggested I drill holes for the air suspension bags.  It made sense to do that now, even though I am not sure I will get the bags.  If I do, this tough part of the job will be done!

Spring Pad

The new housing didn't have the plastic parts for the spring pads, breather nipple, brake lines, ABS wire loom holder or brake line bracket.  So I moved the parts over from the old housing.

Putting new housing up

About the time that Jeff and I had finished reassembling the brakes, Mitch had finished putting the ring and pinion back together.  He put some paint on the gears and checked the pattern. 

Checking backlashChecking backlashOh Oh!

He wasn't happy with what he saw and it was 11:00 so we called it a night.  Mitch had the same reaction that I have to lots of dilemmas - he wanted to think about it and I could tell he even wanted to keep going but we all had a long day so quitting was a good thing...  More tomorrow!


Time for a new Ring and Pinion...  The damage was just too advanced - it will be noisy.  The gearset is used and no matter how much skill is applied to the setup, it will be noisy.  What's the point in installing it, knowing that will be the case?  It is going to be sub-optimal, so for the cost of a new ring and pinion, and almost no extra cost in labor, it is, like the new housing, a no brainer.  I decide to go ahead and order a gear set.

Ring and Pinion Drawing from FSM

At this point, what remains of the original axle assembly is one shaft, the backing plates (because the new housing is not an ABS unit), the Detroit locker (that's something to be thankful for...) and the smoldering hole in the ground that used to be my wallet.  This is the last time a Dana 35 will propel this vehicle!  Now I need to start a savings program for my new "rear end".

Late in the evening, I got a message from Jeff:

"Just washed my hands it is done! The gear setup came out perfect.  I have a pile of used parts for you we noticed your RF axle u joint is bad.  The rear is very quiet no ABS light and besides that backing plate we are very satisfied with the job. I am going to make you an invoice before I keel over that coffee kept me up all night. We also noticed some antifreeze on your radiator drain plug did you just change the coolant? If not you may want to get a new plug that radiator is not the original radiator it is out of a newer model.

"I am headed to VA around lunch time to get my bumpers.And will be there for several hours as we need to finish them up."



Well, the worst is over. The rear end is all back together and I even came out ahead because the ABS braking system is back online.

ABS Gap Setting

(Set sensor air gap to 0.28-1.5 mm (0.011-0.059 in.). Use feeler gauge to measure air gap (Fig. 10). Tighten sensor bolt to 12-14 Nm (106-124 in. lbs)

It has been off since I put the Super 35 in (the sensor gap was not set correctly).

A couple things remain.  The backing plate on the drivers side was bent in the e-brake event. The new housing had beautiful backing plates but they are not ABS backing plates so I think I will be drilling a perfectly placed hole for the ABS sensor to pass through as soon as possible.

Unrelated to the rear axle was the discovery of a bad but not yet grenaded RF u-joint. Ironically, I just ordered the tool everybody talks about from Harbor Freight and had already planned complete round of U-joints before wheeling again...

And so, if anyone locally has a backing place for a D35 with the proper ABS config that they want to throw my way, let me know.

Thanks to:

  • Fred (YellowX) for the precious reference materials.
  • Randy Wood for supplying the 4.56's and delivering them.
  • Jimmy C. for the deal on Pete's old housing.
  • Pete for the quick tip on where his virginal old housing was lurking.
  • Randy's R&P for getting the R&P rebuild kit out pronto.
  • SAG for the left shaft for the S35
  • (yes) the dealership for the other stuff that I got
  • And of course to Jeff and Mitch who are slumped in a corner with caffeine withdrawl tremors from the last two days, and Carl for driving me up there.
  • And last but not least my wife who is storing up the strength to kill me.

Now I need to go put some more rare collectible used Jeep parts on eBay to pay for this mess...

Used Superior 4.56 rear R&P? Or how about a Trac-Loc with 15K miles on it? (SOLD) Nice twisted housing with a history? (Recycled at the county recycling center)  Gear oil with a nice metallic pearl quality to it...?

And of course, everybody needs a Dana 35 housing for a trail spare...

D35c Trail Spare



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