From Mechanical Database
Replacing the axles is a relatively quick procedure on any of the Mazda BG chassis cars. The following works on Ford 2nd, 3rd gen Escorts, ZX2, Mazda Protege, MX-3, and etc.
Axles can sometimes be obtained in decent shape at the junkyard. The best way to check (when the suspension is all in tact) is to move the axle back and forth to see how much play it has. There should be little to no play at all. The condition of the rubber boot is also a good indicator. Occasionally a car will make it into the junkyard which just had it's axles replaced, and is obvious by the fresh axle nuts, rubber boots, and the occasional stickers on the axle shaft.
If new axles are being purchased from the store, a commercial discount should be obtained at all possible times. Most brand new CV (constant velocity) axles for FWD (front wheel drive) will generally sell for $ 70-100 for the average consumer. However once a commercial discount is applied at any store such as NAPA or Advance Auto Parts the price will drop down to $ 50.
- Raise the front end of the vehicle up and place it on jack stands.
- Remove the wheels from the vehicle.
- Put a screwdriver into the vents of the rotor to keep the hub from spinning when the screw driver runs into the caliper. Another way is to perform the next step when the wheels are still on the ground as the axle nut can be accessed through the wheel. Or having a second person apply the brakes.
- Put a 32 mm socket on the axle nut and attempt to break it loose with the breaker bar, impact gun, or a heavy duty ratchet. Sometimes some axle nuts will be stuck on a vehicle pretty good, when the forces of driving and rust combine to seize up the thread to the point of breaking breaker bars when attempting to remove it. This is when using an extra tube or pipe may be required to place more leverage on the axle nut. Applying heat to the axle nut can also help in freeing up the thread, as the heat will make the nut expand faster than the colder axle shaft inside it.
- Remove the clip for the brake line in the strut assembly. This step is optional, however freeing up the line helps prevent it from kinking and possible damage in the next step.
- Remove the two 17 mm bolts and nuts that attach the upper part of the hub to the strut assembly. Upon removing the bolts, pull the top of the hub outwards to make room for the axle to come out.
- Tap the axle shaft with a hammer until it starts to slide back. If the axle splines are not seized up it will retract gently. In some cases, with rust, powerful impacts may be required to break it loose. Place a bolt/socket extension/etc on the axle to avoid hitting it with the hammer directly. This prevents the end from mushrooming. While it's ok if it mushrooms a little, it can get to a point where it will prevent the axle from coming out, or the axle nut from going back on during installation.
- Pull the axle out from the back. This can be a very frustrating task depending on many variables such as axle shaft length, angle of the hub, steering position, etc. Eventually you'll figure out a way. The picture below demonstrates the most evident sign and reason behind CV axle failure. The boot becomes weak and cracks over time, introducing debris and contaminating axle grease, while allowing axle grease to come out at the same time. This makes short work of the CV joint, and results in a loud clicking noise when taking turns.
- Remove the two cross members beneath the car. They obstruct access to the CV axles going into the transmission. While it may be possible to remove axles without this step, it makes the procedure much easier. There will be 4 17 mm bolts on the cross member running parallel with the transmission. The second cross member running parallel with the car length will be secured by 2 17 mm nuts on one side, and 2 17mm bolts by the radiator support. There are two mounts bolted to it which are both held by 2 14 mm nuts. Removing these can sometimes be tricky and reinstalling/removing them may require slightly tilting the engine with a jack. This whole step is performed very easily in less than 60 seconds with an impact gun.
- There are multiple ways to pop the axle splines out of the transmission. They are held by a snap ring and can vary on difficulty of removal from car to car. One of the easiest way is to insert a chisel and hammer it in carefully to create pressure between the axle and transmission, effectively separating the two in most cases. Be extra careful to avoid damage to the smooth axle shaft surfaces which are required for sealing, or for the aluminum bell-housing which is capable of chipping. If the space allows, and one can get an angle with the chisel, hammering away from the transmission against a notch (if one is available on the axle) works even better, as can be seen in the second picture below. Another possible tool to use is tie rod separator forks commonly sold in automotive parts stores. Special axle removal forks are also available. However the first two approach works almost every time and requires no extra tools. Transmission fluid or gear oil will leak out upon removal of the axles, prepare to catch it with a pan or rags.
Installation of the new axles is performed in reverse. When inserting the axles, slide the splines into the transmission. They will go in about an inch and then stop. Hold the cup and do not allow it to move, while using the part of the axle that moves in and out to gently tap it in place. If the ring at the end is very tight and this does not work, sometimes compressing the axle all the way and then hammering it in is the only option. Excessive force is not required, and is an indicator of something not lining up right.
The following picture shows two axles next to each other, for a 2nd gen Ford Escort with an automatic transmission. Note how thin the shafts are compared to ones found on 3rd gen Ford Escorts.
- Ford Escort & ZX2 section for the entire index of all Ford Escort and ZX2 related articles.