Dana 44 Hub and U-Joint Replacement
(Check manual for types, amounts and applicability)
1-11/16" Socket (corrected)
14mm 12pt Socket or Box Wrench
Torque Wrench Capable of 125lb-ft and 175 lb-ft
U-joint press or socket set and hammer
Needle Nose Pliers
Replacement Cotter Pins
I had to replace passenger side front Dana 44 axle hub (unit bearing) and the axle u-joints after 100,000 miles on my non-ABS 97 Dodge Ram 1500. To check for hub failure prior to the wheel falling off, you can jack up the wheel, grab the top and bottom and try to figgle it . If it moves, then you ned hubs or ball joints. Watch the ball joints for movement. If they stay put, then the hubs are bad. Although they can be pricey, I recommend replacing both driver and passenger side hubs at the same time.
To start, block the rear wheel and jack the front end up. Support with jack stands. Remove the wheels. Remove the cotter pin from the hub nut.
In order to remove the hub nut, you will need to either have someone apply the brakes or do as I did and jam a socket extension into the rotor vents and let it jam against the caliper frame to keep the axle from turning while you remove the hub nut. This 1-11/16" (corrected) nut is torqued on at 175 lb-ft so it will take a bit to get it off. I had to buy a 3/4" drive socket set ($42 from Harbor Frieght... hey I only need it a few times) in order to remove it.
Remove the caliper and hang it from the frame with some wire or bungee cord. Do NOT let it hang from the brake line. Remove the rotor.
Remove the three 14mm 12pt bolts from the back of the steering knuckle. You will need to turn the knuckle all the way both left and right in order to get all three bolts out. These are torqued at 125 lb-ft so they will be a bit difficult as well to break loose. (BTW, like my custom tie rod?)
Now you will need to work the outer hub bearing race out of the knuckle. I had to tab on the hub mounting flange with a hammer back and forth to get the outer race to break loose from the rust and start turning. Tap parallel to the knuckle face near the hub bolt holes. You may also need to pry a bit with a crowbar. Another method is to get some spare bolts that fit the hub and thread those into the hub (replace the knuckle bolts) and use a hammer to tap on them from behind to force the hub out of the knuckle. Remove the bolts and pull the hub/bearing out. Take note of how the two sheetmetal peices go on. In order to prevent damage to the axle shaft seals, remove the hub and leave the axle shaft in place (push the stub shaft back through the hub). Then remove the axle shaft. Be sure to keep the shaft centered in the axle tube to avoid damaging the seal. During the hub removal, be sure to check for ABS connections if you have any.
Here is the driver side hub-axle assembly.
Here is a comparison of both side assemblies. Note the larger splined end of the passenger outer shaft.
This the is the stub shaft and outer axle shaft for my non-ABS truck. An ABS equipped truck will have a tone ring fitted to the stub shaft between the flange and the u-joint.
Here is a comparison of both side assemblies. Note the larger splined end of the passenger outer shaft (CAD end). You can also see the necked down area of the inner shafts that is the weak point of the factory setup.
In order to replace the axle u-joints, you need to remove the c-clips from the underside of the caps using a screwdriver. They should come off easily.
Using a u-joint press (or sockets and a hammer or vise) remove the caps from the u-joint and remove the cross.
I replaced the stock/standard Spicer 5-297x u-joints with the new Spicer 5-760x joints. They are supposedly 20% stronger than the old style. The main body is thicker with even thicker sections near the cross shafts. Also the cross shafts have more metal inthem (notice the smaller hole)
Here is the new hub I picked up from Napa. It has Timken bearings and is made by Chicago Rawhide. It comes with new wheel studs already pressed in. You can see the splined area where the stub shaft fits and turns the wheels.
This is the back side of the new hub. Notice the bearings and hub flange setup. When I reassembled the hub, I tried to force as much bearing grease into the back o fthe bearing as possible since I drive through mud and water a lot and I am hoping to minimize thespace it can get into. The new units I bought came prelubed.
Reassembly is the reverse of removal. I recommend that you try to clean out any dirt/mud built up in the axle tube as to minimze the oil contamination and damage to seals. I used a carpenters framing square since it is fairly rigid and fits the tube and let me scrape out 90% of the gunk. Also, when reinstalling the axle shaft, try to keep the splined end from touching the remaining dirt in the tube and go slowly. You do not want to damage the seals by nicking them. When reinstalling the hubs, put some anti-seize on the outer bearing race that fits into knuckle. This will make it easier to reassemble as well as disassemble if needed later. Once the hub is back in place and bolted up, be sure to get the bake cooling plate and space back on in the correct way. The spacer should go on first, then the big airflow plate. The plate should be open in the rear and the "bent" portion should be forward and to the inside of the truck (so the air is pushed in from the front and directed towards the caliper/rotor). Torque the hub-to-knuckle bolts to 125 lb-ft. Install the hub nut. Assemble the rotor and caliper. In order to tighten the hub nut, have someone apply the brakes or use a socket extension to jam into the rotor vents. Torque to 175 lb-ft. and secure with a new cotter pin. Reinstall wheels and lower vehicle. Test drive and check for axle seal leaks and recheck bolts/nuts.