DIY Toyota Camry: CV Axle Shaft & Seal Replacement
This article provides detailed steps involved in removing and replacing the driver’s side CV Axle and its axle shaft seal. The axle's inner or outer boots may have split, the internal bearings may be worn (making noise during turns) or ATF fluid may be leaking from the axle shaft seal(s) (seated in the transmission differential). This article does not address re-booting a CV axle shaft's boots. From personal experience, it is not worth the cost, mess and time consuming effort. New boots from your local parts supplier (if they have the boots available) usually run $20. Rebuilt as well as new shafts with a warranty cost around $70. If re-booting is the goal, might as well re-boot both the inner and outer boots…which now brings the cost to over $40. This translates to only a $30 cost savings to perform at least an 1.5 hour effort to re-boot combined with a big grease mess and a lot paper towels for cleanup.
Regardless of whether the axle shaft is being replaced or not, the inner shaft (or differential) seal should be replaced. Older, high mileage cars may have seals leakage due to dry rot, hardening with age or slight damage to a shaft removal or installation job. The cost of a new seal usually runs less than $10.
The outer part of the axle shaft can be separated from steering knuckle by disconnecting the lower ball joint from the lower control arm. On the Camry and some other models, it requires less time and effort to detach the suspension strut from the steering knuckle. Although most prefer the ball joint removal method, detaching the 2 bolts securing the suspension strut to the knuckle is easier.
The Camry inner CV axle is recessed into the differential allowing no room to position a pry bar to ‘pop’ the axle out. However, the inner CV bearing housing has 3 prongs or ‘ears’ that allows a pry tool to push against those ears. To gain adequate pry bar leverage against an ear to ‘pop’ the axle shaft, the pry bar was position from the top of the engine compartment. This method was successfully used on several occasions while other methods resulted in a lot of wasted time.
Axle Shaft Removal Precedure
Remove the Axle Shaft Nut
- If a high torque impact driver is not available, the nut tension can be relieved with a 32mm socket attached to a breaker bar. The axle can be prevented from moving by having the front wheel resting on the ground (i.e. don’t jack up the wheel).
- Remove the axle shaft cotter pin with pliers.
- Remove the axle shaft nut cotter pin alignment cover.
- Remove the axle shaft nut.
Drain the Transmission Fluid
Draining the fluid before removing the shaft will avoid transmission fluid gushing out the differential after the shaft has been pulled out.
- The Drain Plug can be removed with a Hex socket.
- Approximately 2.75 quarts of ATF should drain out. The oil can be saved and reused if the no dirt or grim drops into the drain pan.
- Screw back in the drain plug and tighten. Do it now or you might forget.
Detach the Strut Assembly from the Steering Knuckle
- Remove the two bolts and two nuts that securs the strut to the steering knuckle.
- Remove the Brake Line Bracket bolt.
- Jar the Axle Shaft from the Wheel Hub.
The Axle Shaft splines may be stuck to the Wheel Hub. If a few light taps with a hammer does not push the shaft in, partially thread back on the Axle Shaft Nut on to the Axle Shaft. This will allow harder hammer impacts on the shaft without damaging the shaft threads.
Pull the Outer Axle Shaft away from the Steering Knuckle.
- Wiggle and twist the Steering Knuckle free from the strut. When the two have separated, the axle shaft should have slid partially out. Pull the shaft out with your hands.
Remove the Inner CV Axle Shaft Shield and the Air Intake Hose
- Removal of this shield will allow pry bar access to the ears (pry bar leverage points) of the Axle’s Inner Bearing Cup.
- A clear path to the Axle Shaft can be made by removing the Air Filter to Throttle Body Intake Hose. Removal of the hose should not take more than 5 minutes. *Note: before putting the hose back on, clean the Throttle Body Plate with some Carburetor Cleaner Solvent.
Remove the Axle Shaft from the Transmission Differential
- Rotate the Axle Shaft until one of the lips or ears on the CV Bearing Cup is pointing up. The transmission must be in neutral to rotate the shaft. After positioning the Bearing Cup, place the transmission back into Park to prevent the shaft from moving.
- From inside the engine compartment, position the tip end of a long Pry Bar up against the Bearing Cup Ear. The Pry Bar leverage point will be the transmission housing.
- Begin applying force to the Pry Bar … like your body weight. The pulling force being applied to the CV Bearing Cup must be enough to compress an internal Snap Ring that prevents the shaft from pulling out and through the differential’s splines. If that does not work, a few sharp hammer blows on the Pry Bar should provide enough shock force to compress the ring and get the Bearing Cup moving. Toyota CV Snap Rings tend to be stronger than snap rings found in other cars (i.e. Honda, Nissan, etc. – Subaru uses compression pins to hold their Inner CV axles but that’s another story).
Remove the Inner CV Axle Shaft Seal
Seal Replacement is highly recommended
- A lot of seal replacement jobs could have been avoided if the installer of the new axle bothered to replace the oil seal with a new one. The part is around $10 and only adds a few minutes to the job. Either a small Pry Bar or Seal Removal Tool will work.
Install the New Inner CV Axle Shaft Seal
- Clean all surfaces and apply a light coat of grease on the Transmission Seal Seat. Position the new seal square in the seat hole. Use a large socket (around 34mm) to press the new seal in place. Apply gentle taps on the socket to press the seal and observe the progress. The seal should be flush with the Transmission Differential Housing. Do not allow the seal to recess beyond the housing. If it does, pry it out with your fingers. To prevent damage to the new seal, do not use any sharp tools.
Install the Axle Shaft
- Position the inner portion of the CV Axle through the Transmission Differential Axle Shaft Hole. Rotate the shaft until the splines from the shaft catch the splines inside the hole. The shaft should move in approximately ½ “.
- With an extra pair of hands (need a 2nd body) align the axle (including the Outer CV Bearing Cup) positioned straight towards the transmission. Push the shaft towards the transmission (which should compress the inner and out CV boots) and have your buddy strike the end of the axle shaft gently to get the CV Snap Rings to compress and move through the Transmission’s Differential Spline. Insure that the CV Nut is on the shaft to prevent damage to the threads. The internal CV bearing must be seating against the CV Bearing Cup before striking the shaft. If not, the CV boots will be absorbing the hammer blows and the Snap Ring will not be compressed.
Putting it all back together
Reverse the above steps to get things back together. A brief overview:
- Bolt on the Inner CV Bearing Cup Shield
- Reconnect the Air Tube / Hose
- Insert the Outer CV Axle Shaft into the Steering Knuckle. Rotate the shaft back and forth until it aligns with the splines. Then spin on the shaft nut enough to prevent the shaft from sliding out.
- Bolt on the Suspension Strut to the Steering Knuckle along with the Brake Hose Bracket Bolt.
- Install the wheel and remove your jack and jack stands.
- Torque the Axle Shaft Nut to around 150 lbs. Applying your body weight to the breaker bar should put you close to that torque.
- Fill your transmission with ATF. Double check the fluid level after the engine is warm.