Dodge Caravan axle replacement

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This is a step by step approach to replacing the fwd axles (half shafts, CV joints) in 1st and 2nd generation (1984-1995) Dodge Caravan, Chrysler Town & Country, and Plymouth Voyager vans. This article was written for an 89 Dodge Caravan, however this should apply to all K based Dodge cars without equal length axles. The equal length cars have a shrot shaft on the right side between the trans output and the axle to reduce torque steer in high performance applications. Most fwd mopars are unequal length axles, as are the minivans discussed here. This procedure should consume 1-2 hours, and is simple enough to even do on the side of the road.

Tools needed:

  • Jack stands, Jack.
  • Pry bar
  • 4 nuts and bolts, 13 mm head size, metric 8 mm x 1.25 mm thread, 35 mm long (for sway bar mount). Some models used larger, 15mm head size, sway bar bolts with lock tight. Hard to turn)
  • 2 quarts of Mopar 7176 Trans fluid.
  • 13 mm deep socket.
  • 13 mm wrench.
  • 15 mm deep socket, shallow socket, wrench.
  • 18 mm socket, wrench.
  • 32 mm socket for axle retaining nut.
  • Screw drivers, pliers, pry bars, hammers, normal stuff.

Procedure

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  1. Set parking brake.
  2. Loosen the lug nuts (one turn) on BOTH wheels.
  3. Jack up the front of the car and put on jack stands, making sure you are able to remove both front wheels.
  4. Remove both front wheels. (This is to gain access to the opposite side sway bar bolts) Note, you can get to the opposite side sway bar bolts without pulling the tire, you just have better access with both tires out of the way.
  5. Have some one press on the brakes to keep the front rotors from turning, or insert a screw driver into the rotors cooling passages. Remove the cotter pin, nut locking cover, and spring washer. Remove the large 32 mm axle nut. It is TIGHT. Remove the thick washer behind the nut. This nut can also be removed while tires are still on the ground, however some wheels may have a center cap that prevents this.
  6. Remove 4 bolts that hold the sway bar attached to the lower A frames on both sides of the car. The bolts (2 each) secure a plate which compresses a rubber insulator which goes around the end of the sway bar (see picture to the right) These bolts pass all the way through the A frame with 13 mm nuts on top. They have 13 mm heads on the bolt and 13 mm nuts. They are about 1.5 inches long. Be prepared to break them off (they are mentioned in the list of tools required above) as they will rust badly, and should be replace with new ones anyway.
  7. The sway bar will still be attached to the "K Frame". Just push down (may need a pry bar or pipe, if it keeps springing back up) on the end of the bar, swiveling it down. It will spin in the rubber bushings, it just may be stuck.
  8. On the side of the car with the broken axle, locate the lower ball joint. It may have a grease fitting in it (see picture to the right). The ball joint has a vertical "pin" sticking out the top of it which is attached to the steering knuckle. It sticks in a hole in the bottom of the knuckle and is clamped in place by a single horizontal bolt. This bolt has a 15 mm head, and 18 mm nut. Remove this bolt. It might have to be tapped out if it is stuck. If so, leave the nut on the very end of the bolt so you don't damage the bolt threads when you hit it.
  9. Using a hammer, pry bar, crow bar, or whatever, and pry down on the lower A frame slipping the ball joint out of the steering knuckle. It should just slide out with a little force.
  10. Now the strut and steering knuckle are free of the lower A frame. Swing the Steering knuckle out pulling the axle out of the hub in the steering knuckle.
  11. Pull the axle out of the transmission. Some older models have snap rings which hold the axles in, which I think require you to pry out the axle from the transmission. I have not done this. Some Trans fluid will leak out of the transaxle when the axle is removed.
  12. Put the new axle in the transmission making sure it is fully seated in the transmission.
  13. Put a heavy coating of Grease on the area where the face of the axle contacts the steering knukle. This is called the wear ring and wheel bearing seal, and must be full of grease!
  14. Swing the steering knuckle out and slip the axle splines back into it. (May need some help here)
  15. Put back on the thick washer and 32 mm nut hand tight.
  16. Push, pull, and swing the knuckle so that the ball joint pin slips back up into the bottom. Put the bolt back in. If the bolt wont go in, look down through the hole, and adjust the ball joint pin position with a screw driver or center punch. (a 3/8 inch ratchet extension seems to be perfect for aligning the hole!)
  17. Swing the sway bar back up and bolt the mount plates on each end back to the Lower A frames on both sides of the car. You may need to use a jack to raise and hold it up.
  18. Have someone press on the brakes or insert a screw driver into the rotor cooling passeges, and tighten the 32 mm nut to 200 ft pounds. (If the wrench handle is one foot long, you need to put 200 pounds of force on it, if it 2 feet long, the 100 pounds, etc.) In other words, damn tight.
  19. Put the spring washer on the axle nut, and the nut locking cover. Turn this nut cover until the holes line up with the axle, and put the cotter pin in. bend the ends of the pin over to keep it from falling out.
  20. Put the tires back on, with the lug nuts hand tight. Lower the car back to the ground and tighten the lug nuts tight. Drive it a few miles and recheck the lug nuts and all other bolts you took off. Check and replace any lost Trans fluid

If the right (passenger side) axle is to be replaced, the speedometer gear should be removed. It is held in place by a 10 mm bolt. The gear is located on the right axle support housing. Older cars will have the Speedometer cable attached to it. Remove the bolt, and pull out the gear. It is held with a O ring, so it might be tight. This is done before the axle is pulled out so the gear is not damaged during removal or when the axle is pushed back in the housing. Note, I have pulled my axles several times with the speedometer gear still in place, being CAREFUL, and did not hurt the gear.

One last note: A friend of mine who regularly breaks axles has a neat trick, but it sounds like you must be careful. He jacks up the car and sets it down on jack stands. Then He has a special turn buckle that attaches to the bottom of the jack stand up to the ball joint area of the a frame. When this turn buckle is tightened, it pulls down on the A frame, pulling the ball joint free, allowing the axle to be pulled with out disconnecting the sway bar!

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This article originally written by Paul E. Smith, was reproduced with permission from turbovan.net.