How to Take Apart a Rear End

by Russell Wood

The rear end of a rear-wheel drive vehicle is a key part of the drivetrain. If it's broken or worn out, it can cause drive problems, and the vehicle won't move. Taking it apart isn't difficult, it just takes some time, a little bit of patience, and some air tools. In this case, we'll be disassembling a rear axle from a Chevrolet truck.

Lift the rear end onto the jack stands. Support both sides of the axle, as well as the front yoke -- the area that connects to the driveline.

Remove the rear differential cover using the 3/8-inch ratchet and socket set. Depending on the rear end, there can be any number of bolts, and in the case of most GM rear ends, it's a 10- or 12-bolt system.

Drain the fluid from the differential into the drain pan. You may need to tilt the yoke to get all of the fluid out.

Unbolt the main caps. These two caps are held in place with four bolts. This is easiest to do with the impact wrench, but can be done with the 3/8-inch ratchet as well.

Unbolt the drum brakes or the disc brakes from the sides of the axle using the 3/8-inch ratchet and socket set. This involves unbolting the calipers and placing everything to the side.

Push the axle stubs -- the items with the lugs that a wheel bolts to -- into the rear end and rotate it. There are C-clips on the inside of the axle, and they will drop out of place once the axle is turned. Listen for the sound of the clips dropping into the housing.

Pull out the axle shafts. Be careful not to be too aggressive, because you may damage the axle seals.

Remove the spider gears from the inside of the axle. These are loose at this point, and are small gears that connect the axle shafts to the differential.

Move to the front of the yoke and unbolt the differential from the housing using the 1/2-inch impact wrench.

Remove the differential from the axle housing using your hands. It will be heavy, so be careful. Now the axle is completely disassembled.

Items you will need

About the Author

Russell Wood is a writer and photographer who attended Arizona State University. He has been building custom cars and trucks since 1994, including several cover vehicles. In 2000 Wood started a career as a writer, and since then he has dedicated his business to writing and photographing cars and trucks, as well as helping people learn more about how vehicles work.