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D44 Axle Overhaul
Bearing and Seal Replacement
 

While I was working on the 2nd build up of Lady, I acquired a pair of D44 rear axle shafts quite unexpectedly.  I had bought some used 35" MT/Rs from a Tucson Jeeper and he had brought them up to the Phoenix area while visiting a friend.  I had gone across town to pick up the tires and was loading them into the back of the TJ when his friend asked me if I was running a D44 on the rear.  I told him I was and he told me to not to leave until he got back.  A few minutes later, he reappeared with a pair of D44 axle shafts and put them in with the tires.  No charge....he had nothing to use them in and didn't want to toss them out.  Lucky me! 

It has been a few months since I got those shafts and thought it was time to make them trail worthy.  Having them sitting in the garage was doing little for ensuring an easy trail repair should I experience a problem climbing over the rocks.    About 10 minutes with a wire brush got the surface rust off of the shafts and looking pretty good.  The bearings were visibly bad and the seal would need replacing just because it was the smart thing to do.

I picked up a new set of Timken bearings and seals at the local 4x4 shop.  I thumbed through the factory manual and read up on the procedure.  It looked easy enough.  Drill the a hole in the bearing retainer and then cut it with a cold chisel.  Put the shaft on a hydraulic press and remove the bearing.  Slip the seal off the shaft.  That all there is to it  Piece of cake.  

My buddy Alan, who you might remember from the transfer case episode, has a 25 ton press in his garage.  Unfortunately, after we talked about doing this work, we realized that his press would work fine for installing the new bearing and retainer.  However, it would not be able to press the bearing off since it doesn't have enough distance between the ram and the platform where the v-blocks hold the bearing separator.  So....using it for the install was a go but we needed another game plan for removing the bearings.

Since I had no need for the parts coming off the axle shafts, it made little difference if they were destroyed while being removed.  With that in mind, I gathered up my Dremel tool (with a supply of cut off discs), the axles and the new parts, and headed over to Alan's.

Before I get started here...let me stress that you must use good eye protection.  The Dremel cutting discs are very easy to break.  The rotational speed of the cutting wheel will send broken pieces flying through the air so fast that you'll never know what hit you!

 

So....do yourself, your family, and your friends a BIG favor by wearing safety glasses while doing your shop work.  

The first step was easy enough.  A drill bit, just slightly smaller in diameter than the width of the bearing retainer, was selected and chucked into the drill press.  Alan steadied the end of the shaft while I drilled a hole into the retainer.  I took it easy as I didn't want to punch through the retainer and drill the axle shaft.  

 

Here is a picture of the retainer ring with a freshly drilled hole drilled squarely into it.  At this point, the factory manual says to take a cold chisel and place it across the hole and strike it so as to crack the retainer ring.  

 

I cheated just a bit.  I grabbed the Dremel tool and put a couple of cuts right across the hole.  As I was cutting, there was a snap as the retaining ring split apart.  The tension it was under from being pressed onto the axle shaft was obviously very great.  You can see the crack in the above picture.

I took the chisel at this point and hit it a couple of good whacks.  The retainer spread just enough so I could slide it (and the chisel that was stuck in the ring) down the axle shaft.

 

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