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Kopycinski's Brain - Fixing Leaky Seals

Posted in How To on November 1, 2012
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We recently encountered an issue with an oil leak on a full-floating rear axle where lube was seeping past the oil seal in the back of the wheel hub. Upon disassembly, we discovered the seal surface in the axle spindle was damaged, allowing oil to get past the rubber seal. Repair options for the spindle were not inviting. It could have been welded and resurfaced, or the spindle completely replaced. Each of these solutions was time-consuming and fairly costly.

Instead, we opted to install a repair sleeve. This is a very thin metal sleeve designed to slip over the worn or damaged shaft, and provide a fresh surface for the seal to ride on. Two brands that are commonly available are the Redi-Sleeve and the Speedi-Sleeve that can be purchased from auto supply houses.

With an accurate measurement of the diameter of the shaft you need to repair, you can purchase a sleeve to drive over the damaged area and repair the shaft rather quickly in many cases.

The seal surface on this axle spindle had been damaged. Note the indentations in the metal directly in the path of the seal. Someone probably supported this spindle with a jackstand or set the seal surface on some other metal form, causing the indentations. These occurred on the bottom side of the spindle and allowed slow oil seepage as the vehicle was parked or driven.

Here’s a repair sleeve set. It consists of the sleeve and an installation tool used to tap the sleeve onto the shaft being repaired. To pick a sleeve, you need to accurately measure the shaft diameter in three orientations to determine the sleeve size needed. This one was a nominal 2.75-inch sleeve and the wall thickness was a mere 0.010 inches thick. This thickness provides the new seal surface but the larger diameter is still compatible with the stock seal.

Another instance when seal surfaces may be damaged is when they are allowed to rust, and pits form in the seal surface. We’ve also seen engines that have a groove worn in the sealing surface of a crankshaft or harmonic balancer. Rather than replace those components, it may be possible to restore the seal surface with the use of a repair sleeve.

Here is the sleeve being installed on the spindle. We found this was a cost-effective and easy method to restore the seal surface and only took a few minutes once we gained access to the area we needed to mend. This cured our axle leak quickly.

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