10 Safe Steps to Removing a Drive Shaft

There could be several reasons to have to remove a drive shaft. It is recommended if the vehicle is going to be towed for a long distance to remove the drive shaft. If there is a mechanical failure of parts, such as the universal joint, then the drive shaft should be removed. If the transmission or transfer case needs removal then the drive shaft must be removed. The vehicles transmission must be in neutral to be able to turn the drive shaft to access the retainer nuts. There are also several different styles of drive shafts. Some are one piece, some are two piece, some are short, some are long, and some connect to transfer cases or power takeoff units. The mechanical aspect for applications is varied.


Park on Level Ground

Parking on solid level ground is essential in maintaining safety. The vehicle is less likely to move around and the solid ground helps the jack and stands to stay in place.


Disconnect the Battery

The next step is to disconnect the battery. The primary reason for doing this is to insure the safety of the auto repair mechanic. With the battery disconnected the vehicle can not be started accidentally.


Assemble the Tools

For a successful drive shaft removal you should have a set of open end wrenches. The vehicle model will determine whether these should be standard or metric. You should also have a pair of safety glasses, a jack, jack stands, and a roll of electrical tape. You might also want a tarp to lay on while under the vehicle and a set of rollers to get the drive shaft out from under the vehicle. A crayon or pencil to mark the shaft. (marking the shaft makes realignment easier on re-installment). A drain pan to catch any fluid that might leak from the transmission is also beneficial.


Jack and Block the Vehicle

Raise the rear of the vehicle with the jack and place the jack stands under either the frame or the axle housing. Make sure that the jack is weight-rated to support the weight of the vehicle. Also chock the front tires to help insure stability of the vehicle. Check for stability by shaking the vehicle slightly. It should feel stable.


Locate Rear Bolts

Crawl under the vehicle and locate the drive shaft. There is a U-joint retainer at the rear of the drive shaft. This is where the shaft connects to the pinion yoke in the differential. Loosen the nuts with the wrench. There should be four of these. In some applications it is a flat flange with four bolts.


Pull Back Apart

Since the nuts are now loosened carefully pull the shaft away from the differential. Sometimes a little prying may be necessary. Lower this end of the shaft to the ground or onto a set of caster rollers. Tape the universal caps with electrical tape to keep them from falling off as they are full of needle bearings inside.


Locate and Remove Carrier Bearing

This step only applies if you have a two piece drive shaft. The carrier bearing is in the middle of the drive shaft between the transmission and the differential. It is usually found on extremely long drive shafts and is designed to help reduce vibration. It has universal joints and is encased in a rubber housing mounted to a cross member. Take the entire unit loose. It should only be two bolts. If it is a one piece drive shaft disregard this step as it does not apply.


Move to the Front

The front of the drive shaft is located at the rear of the transmission. It can consist of a flange with four bolts in it or a slip style yoke. If it is a slip style yoke now is the time to mark it with a crayon for easy realignment. In the case of the flange style loosen the bolts and gently pry it back releasing it from the transmission. If it is slip style simply pull back gently and lower it down to the ground or onto the roller. Slide the drive shaft assembly to the side.


Place the Drain Pan

Place the drain pan under the exposed end of the transmission. This should catch any fluid that may come out of the transmission and save having to clean up a mess.


Slide the Drive Shaft Out

Now that the drive shaft is down and on the caster rollers or on the ground it just needs to be slid out from under the vehicle. Once it is clear of the vehicle it can be inspected for worn parts that may need to be replaced or stored if it was taken down for other mechanical failure. It is recommended to inspect and replace parts such as universal joints, carrier bearings, and grease as necessary before re-installment.

The mechanical aspect of a drive shaft removal is fairly simple and does not require any special tools. Most do it yourself auto repair hobbyists and shade tree mechanics can do a drive shaft removal with ease if they follow some simple safety rules. These are just common sense rules so a massive amount of metal does not fall on top of someone. Organization and a little pre-planning will make this job simple and safe. For the re-install reverse the directions.