How to remove a rear axle bearing with a slide hammer
Don’t damage your housing. Use this tool instead.
Let's get this out of the way right now. This isn't a step-by-step instructional on how to replace a rear axle bearing, because so many different models use so many different means to hold the axles in place. Many Ford and Jeep axles prior to 1990 have bearings that are pressed onto the axleshafts, requiring a retaining collar to be pressed or cracked off before the bearing and seal can be replaced. Others, like full-floating axleshafts, are housed inside a hub that rides on the axle housing spindle. And others, like the Chrysler 9.25 shown here and many GM half- and light-duty three-quarter-on axles, have bearings that are lightly pressed into bores in the ends of the housing. And it's these we're talking about.
The temptation is there to try to use some cheesy combination of pry bars or seal pullers or some other wrong-tool-for-the-job widget you've already got laying in your tool box. But to quickly and cleanly remove an axle bearing from the rear of a semi-float axle housing, you really need to obtain a simple slide hammer and bearing removal tool. There are several online to purchase, or chances are your local auto parts store will lend or rent you one. For the slide hammer, many have a common 5/8-18 threaded end that will accept a range of screw-on tools. We bought a hammer online for about $40, along with an OEM Tools PN 27127 rear axle bearing puller set that came with three separate tools for use with bearings ranging from 1- to 1-7/8-inch ID for about $65. There are much cheaper rear axle bearing puller sets available out there, but many are made of cast material that may not last that long. The OEM tool is fairly decent quality and should last a good while.
Once you get your axleshafts out and remove the outer oil seal, you simple select the size removal tool that is the same or smaller OD as your axle bearing. Thread the tool onto your slide hammer and then insert the removal tool through the bearing and tighten the nut to secure it.
With the removal tool securely fastened to the bearing, just give the slide hammer a few good whacks, and the bearing will come out of the housing.
When you're installing your new bearing, an affordable bearing/seal installation tool will go a long way in ensuring your bearings are driven into the bores without cocking and your seals go on without getting damaged. We usually apply some high-quality engine assembly lube to the bearings after driving them in to ensure they're not running dry until the gear lube makes its way to the axle ends.
Make sure you drive the bearing all the way into its bore. It's good practice to mentally note where the original bearing lies before removing it to help gauge the depth to which the new bearing should be installed. Either way, make sure you stick your finger through the bore and feel to make sure there's no gap between the bearing shell and the axle housing bore.
If you're buying quality seals like these from National, chances are the seal OD will have rubbery material on the OD of the seal and the inside of the seal lip will have a little grease to prevent the axleshaft from burning it up. If not, apply a little RTV to the OD of the seal and give the inside of the seal rubber a little dollop of grease with your fingertip.
The final step before reassembly is to select the seal driver that most closely matches the OD of your axle seal from your tool, install it on the handle, and gently install the seal, making sure the seal goes into the housing squarely without cocking and bending. Once that's done, give the axleshaft a light coating of gear lube and slide them back in making sure not to nick or severely distort the seal. Then reassemble your diff, reinstall the cover, fill with gear lube, and reassemble your brakes.