In the 4-wheeling community, stock Toyota rear axle shafts have a good reputation for strength and have enjoyed an excellent track record for many years. However, with the recent influx of bigger tires, lower crawl ratios, more powerful engines and more difficult terrain, the stock axle shafts aren't always up to the task. To keep up with the strength of larger and heavier domestic axles, All Pro Off Road has developed replacement heavy duty units that work for Toyota trucks and 4Runners made from 1986 to 1995. They work with any Toyota 8" 3rd member and use the stock wheel bearings and studs, however installing new studs is a good idea. These new axles are made from 4140 heat treated chromoly steel and come with a five year unlimited warranty against breakage. For the ultimate in strength and performance from the Toyota rear end, these axle shafts are where it's at.
Installation is relatively straightforward and can be done by virtually any home mechanic. First, start by securing the vehicle so it won't roll while you're working on it. A couple of pieces of wood to block the front wheels will help keep the vehicle secure while you're underneath it. Once the vehicle is secured, it's time to remove the stock axles. Begin by jacking up the rear axle and placing a pair of jack stands beneath it. Once it is safe and secure, remove the rear wheels.
Removing the 4 14mm nuts
1. After removing the tires, the first step is to disconnect the factory emergency brake cables from each backing plate.
2. Disconnect the hard brake lines at each backing plate. Make sure to use a 10mm flare wrench in order not to round off the bolt. Also remember to have a way to plug the line or have some sort of container to drain the brake fluid in to avoid making a mess.
3. Remove the 4 14mm nuts on the back of each backing plate. These nuts secure the axle assembly to the axle housing.
4. (Optional) Take off the brake drums so the axle assembly is easier to slide out without damaging the seal.
5. Remove the axles from the housing. Grab onto the backing plate and pull the axle out of the housing. Once the splines disengage from the 3rd member, they should be very easy to pull out. Pay special attention while sliding the axle shaft out of the housing so the axle shaft doesn't drag or rest on the rubber seal at the edge of the housing. This could damage the seal and cause oil leaks upon re-assembly.
Back from the machine shop
Once the axles have been removed from the vehicle, it's the perfect opportunity to inspect items such as the wheel bearings, axle seals brake linings, and wheel cylinders. If there is excess play in the bearings or the rubber seals are in bad condition they should be replaced. Even if the inner seals appear to be in good condition, strongly consider changing them out for a fresh set since they're cheap and the truck is already apart. At this point, the stock axle retainers and shafts need to be pressed off the backing plate. There are two options. You can do it yourself if you have access to a press or you can take the axles to a machine shop and have them switch them. If you're thinking about installing them yourself, in a nutshell the process involves removing the snap ring that sits against the bearing retainer, cutting off the old bearing retainer, pressing the old shaft out, pressing the new one in, and installing a new retaining ring as well as the snap ring. I chose the easy method and took my axles to a machine shop and had them do the specialized work. I also opted to have them install new wheel studs instead of reusing the old ones. I dropped off my stock axle assemblies along with the All Pro units and picked them up a few hours later and they were ready to be installed.
Installing the axle assembly
Watch the rubber seal
1. Slide each axle assembly into the housing. Once again, pay special attention not to let the axle slide on the inner seal to prevent damage. Make sure the splines engage with the 3rd member, they should slide in gently requiring little force.
2. Install the 8 14mm nuts (4 on each side) and torque to 51 ft. pounds.
3. Re-attach the brake lines. Remember to properly bleed the brakes before driving.
4. Put tires back on and take the vehicle for a test drive.
Total installation time from start to finish took about 6 hours, which included disassembly, waiting for the machine shop, and reassembly. The installation went very well and everything went together smoothly, as actual wrenching time accounted for only about 2 hours of the total time.
To date, the shafts have three wheeling trips on them and have worked flawlessly. I recently drove much of the famous Rubicon trail in 2wd, which really tested thier durability. On many occasions while trying to climb obstacles in 2wd, the truck would start hopping up and down clawing for traction. This puts an incredible strain on the entire drivetrain, but especially on the axles, which bear the entire weight of the vehicle as it comes down on one tire. Just short of blowing up the rear 3rd member to verify the strength of these things, I flogged them over the entire trail without incident. During my post-trip routine maintenence, I pulled them out to check for signs of wear or potential damage and found nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, they looked like new and were in perfect shape. Thus, I can attest to their durability and ability to withstand the demands of big tires, low gears and difficult trails.
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