This weekend, I decided to replace the axle on my 1997 Pathfinder SE 4WD. This is actually my second axle replacement. I replaced the first axle a month ago due to a ripped CV boot. Although the other axle was still OK, I decided to keep both sides of the car in balance by replacing the second axle since it had over 180km on it. A new axle is only about $95 at Autopartsway.ca including shipping, so it is really inexpensive. I decided to document all of the steps in case others wanted to attempt this. [more]
The tools you will need are a socket set, a torque wrench, snap-ring pliers, and of course, a jack, stands, and wheel chocks.
I use a Stanley socket set that I purchased from Canadian Tire for $99 on sale similar to this set. It's a fairly complete set with both SAE and metric sockets. Although they call it a "Professional Grade" set, it is strictly consumer grade quality, similar to standard Mastercraft tools. However, the warranty service is excellent. After breaking one of the ratchets, I called Stanley's 1-800 number and they shipped me a replacement ratchet no-charge. The lifetime warranty means that this may be the last set you buy. Of course, almost all tools have lifetime warranties, but replacement service can be difficult with some companies.
Now, on to the repair:
First, remove the wheel cap.
Then, loosen all wheel nuts. You can use the wrench that came with the car (with the cheater bar in the same tool bag), or use a breaker bar with a 21mm socket as shown. You'll also need your locking wheel lug nut for that one funny looking bolt.
Then, put the wheel chocks around at least one of the rear wheels and jack up the vehicle. Be sure to use jack stands. Remove the tire, then remove the 6 bolts holding the axle to the front differential. You can lock the differential by engaging the 4WD if you find it difficult to get enough torque due to the axle spinning, or stick a large screwdriver or vice grip into the brake rotor vents as I did in this picture.
Leave the axle loose until we disconnect it from the hub.
Pry off the dust cap.
You should find a snap ring at this point. Remove it with a pair of snap-ring pliers.
Remove the 6 nuts holding the hub sub-assembly using a 13mm socket.
Then carefully pry off the sub-assembly.
You should find another snap ring at this point. Remove it with the snap ring pliers.
With the snap ring off, the axle should slide freely in the hub assembly. You may have to tap it with a hammer and a block of wood, or rubber mallet to get it started.
Now we need to make enough room for the axle to slide all the way out. The method I used was to remove the 2 bolts from the strut tower. These are the bolts in this picture. One is just out of sight behind the rotor.
Before removing these bolts, remove the ABS sensor and brake caliper as a precaution, so that we don’t stress the brake lines or ABS sensor wire, in case the hub drops more than we want. Just hang them out of the way on the coil spring. Here is a picture of the ABS sensor with the bolt removed. It might be tight, so pry it out carefully.
Turn the steering wheel toward the opposite side that you are working on. Place the jack under the control arm to provide support so that the hub assembly doesn’t fall too far when we remove the strut bolts.
Then remove the 2 bolts on the strut tower. You should use a breaker bar to loosen the nuts as they will be tight. With the nuts off, hammer out the bolts with anything straight, like a ratchet extension.
The hub assembly should pop out, making lots of room to remove the axle.
Before sliding in the new axle, place a dollop of grease around the band at the end of the axle, to re-establish that nice grease seal when we put the axle back in.
Slide the new axle back in and replace the first snap-ring to hold the axle in place. Then, replace the 2 bolts in the strut tower. You will need to use both the jack and the steering wheel to help you get it back into place.
Then attach the axle to the differential. Replace the brake caliper, ABS sensor, hub sub-assembly, and outer snap-ring. The outer snap ring will be a bit tight. You may have to grab the axle and pull on it. You should see the snap ring “snap” into the groove. Then replace the dust cap using a rubber mallet. Put the tire back on and you’re done. Don't forget to torque the wheel to spec (87 to 108 ft-lb or 118 to 147 Nm) with a torque wrench.
Hope you found this useful.