Drive Axle And Bearing Noise
There is a persistent thumping, clunking, or groaning that comes from the drive train while driving and/or turning.
It is often difficult to narrow down the source of these sounds. This page assumes that you know the problem is the CV joints on the drive axle, or the axle bearings. Please use the Mopar Troubleshooter to help you properly diagnose the problem. The repair procedure below applies to both the axle and the bearing. You should be able to figure out which is the problem during disassembly.
- Inspect all four CV joint boots, looking for grease around the boot and tears in the boot. Any torn boot must be replaced and it is likely that that CV joint is the one making the noise. Jack up the car on this side. If the boots look OK, then jack up the side of the car that the noise appears to come from. Use the procedure on the Easy Axle and Speed Sensor Removal page to keep from dumping all the trans fluid on the floor when the axle come out (though this may be a good time for a fluid change).
- Remove the wheel, brake calipers, and rotor from the hub. Remove the cotter pin and end cap from the center of the hub. Put a lug nut or two back on the hub and use a large pry bar, a pipe, or any long object to lock the hub by inserting it between the lug nuts and the center of the hub and propping it against the floor. Use a large socket with a breaker bar or an impact wrench to remove the center nut on the hub. Remove the lower bolt and nut from the lower ball joint and use a small jack or a ball joint tool to pry the lower control arm from the strut. Watch your fingers!
- With the strut free, pull it outward and push the axle through the center. Turning the steering wheel all the way towards the side you are working on can be helpful here. Rotate the hub with your hand and listen/feel for any noise or roughness. It should rotate smoothly with no slop. If it seems worn, then it is probably the source of the noise and should be replaced. You can have the bearings replaced by removing the entire knuckle from the strut (be sure to score the outline of the position of the knuckle on the strut to help with realignment) and taking it to your local auto parts store. Most have a press and tools to do this properly, though you will likely need a front-end alignment when you are done. Otherwise, you can try to remove the entire spindle yourself and replace it as a unit. Removing it can be very difficult since it is hard to get at the bolts behind the hub and press the spindle out. Some of the pre-1987 spindles do not have a punch-out in the spindle plate to allow the bolt to be removed. You can pound-out the hub with a small sledge hammer, but be careful not to damage the grease seal, etc (or remove it and purchase a new one). The new spindles are much easier to install, but DO NOT use a hammer to get them in. Doing so will ruin the bearings in the spindle. Instead, use a small vise or pair of large C-clamps to press the spindle in. It usually doesn't take much force to "walk" the spindle back into the knuckle.
- If this is the passenger side axle with the equal length half shaft setup, then remove the two bolts on the half shaft bearing plate and remove the entire axle assembly. The driver side should pull right out of the transmission. Be careful not to damage the seal and you remove the axle.
- Find the bad joint in the axle by swinging the end around to feel for roughness. Check for slop by mounting the axle in a vice and rotate the CV joint ends by hand. They should feel solid. Usually, it is the outer joints that are bad and it is generally cheaper to replace the entire axle then to buy a new shaft end.
- If the joints are OK but a boot was damaged, you can by a replacement boot kit that comes with a new boot and a packet or grease. You must carefully disassemble the old joint, clean out all the old, contaminated grease and repack it with the new grease. This grease is nasty stuff, so you might want to wear gloves.
- Follow the reverse procedure above to reassemble the axle.
Copyright © 1996-2003 Russ W. Knize.