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Fixing A Broken Axleshaft - What Now?

Posted in How To: Transmission Drivetrain on April 1, 2013
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Photographers: JP Staff

Bam! So you are out on the trail in your Jeep having a great day and then things suddenly go sideways. Whether it’s a broken U-joint, busted steering linkage, wasted driveshaft, water in your ignition, or any number of other maladies that may befall you, there’s usually a way to cobble your Jeep back together so you can make it back to civilization. Welcome to a new series in which we’ll detail various scenes of trail breakage, offer tips on assessing and diagnosing the problem, and highlight some solutions to get you rolling again. In this issue, it’s the all-too-common busted front axleshaft.

If you try the obstacle again and one of your front axle U-joints is broken, the two axleshafts will push past one another and pop the ball joints out of the inner knuckle. If this happens your wheel will fall off and you will need a new U-joint, new axleshafts, new upper and lower ball joints, possibly a new knuckle, and probably even a new brake line. Guess what? Putting new ball joints in requires a special tool that even the most prepared wheelers usually don’t carry on the trail.

You just got bigger tires and a locker when you lay a little bit too far into the throttle and something popped. Oops! That didn’t sound good. Now what to do? Well we have all been there. We all had to start this Jeep addiction…er, hobby somewhere. And while we all might take it to different levels, occasional failures will occur. But if you’re prepared for it, breaking on the trail doesn’t have to be frightening or cause for ruining your day. So if you hear that pop, clank, grind coming from your front axle, here’s what to do.

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If You Have Unitbearings

If you wheel a late-model unitbearing-equipped Jeep without locking hubs, if you break a U-joint, inner or outer (stub) shaft, or your differential or ring-and-pinion are broken you are more likely to pop ball joints out of the knuckle while moving your Jeep to a good spot to work on it. If an axle U-joint is broken you’ll have to pull parts out to get off the trail. Here’s what to do. Start by pulling your centercap of the wheel (if you run ’em), put the wheel back on with at least a few lug nuts, and remove the cotter pin and lock ring. Now grab a 34mm socket and a big breaker bar. Once this nut is loose you can remove the wheel.
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If You Have Locking Hubs

PhotosView Slideshow

What To Do If Part of the Inner Shaft Is Stuck in the Differential
If the inner shaft broke you may have a hard time getting the remainder of the axle out of the housing. You can use a magnet on a stick, or if you must, you can sometimes get it out with several welding sticks stuck together, stick it down the axletube, and tack weld it to the bit of axle hidden in there (assuming you have a welder).

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