July 25, 2012

New Axles

A few weeks ago the car donated another perfectly good part to keep downtime with the daily to a minimum.

On a drive home from Portland, ME (about 35 minutes north of my home in Wells) the passenger side front of the SW started exhibiting a vibration at speed, with a distinct clunk every time the clutch was engaged or depressed - a bad CV joint loading and unloading. I was short on time with a looming alignment appointment, so I jacked the SL2 up and swiped the passenger side axle to get the daily squared away. I turned this into an excuse to purchase a new set of axles for the SL2. Given the mileage on the SW I'd gamble the drivers side axle may not be far behind its counterpart, so a fresh pair on the SL will leave me with a good axle left over (hopefully I won't need it anytime soon). Replacement axles for these cars have always been hit or miss as a lot of the reproduction units have inconsistencies. In a lot of instances the CV boots are larger than stock, making them prone to rubbing on various areas of the drivetrain or chassis. I did my homework to narrow the field down to axles others have been successful with, and ended up purchasing a set of EMPI axles through Rock Auto.

I was very impressed when I opened the box. In fact, they may be a touch beefier than stock. Some measuring revealed that the shaft is about 3/16" larger in diameter in between the CV joints, although these areas bottleneck back to the stock diameter right before the boot. Installation verified that the boots did indeed clear. Smooth sailing, except for the drives side axle seal. I wasn't careful enough when removing the drivers  side axle, which calls for prying against the transaxle, and crushed the old seal. What was supposed to be a simple pull out/press in somehow turned into two afternoons/evenings, uncounted hours, a useless Autozone tool rental, a lot of sweat and some blood, but I got it! Lesson learned - next time I do an axle seal I hope the transaxle is apart and on the floor.

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