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How-to: Rebooting a Tacoma CV Axle

March 21, 2019.

If you own a Toyota Tacoma - and especially if you drive it off-road or with any kind of lift - you're likely to have a CV axle boot crack or split at some point, flinging grease everywhere and making a royal mess.

I was lucky enough to have it happen on the first day of a two week trip to Anza-Borrego. Winning!

Once this happens, you essentially have three options:

  1. Do nothing. This is the route a lot of people take, sometimes because they don't even notice the problem. For me of course, it wasn't an option.
  2. Buy an entirely new CV axle and replace the one with the torn boot. This can be a reasonable option if you're willing to install an aftermarket axle - they can be had with lifetime warranties from places like Napa. I wasn't though - I want to go OEM (43430-04020) with a part like this, and that meant a new axle would run me on the order of $400-$500. Ouch.
  3. Buy the parts to reboot your existing CV axle. At something around $50, this reboot kit is a more economical option - assuming you have the tools available to do the job.

It's probably obvious from my descriptions that I decided to go with option 3. Having never rebooted a CV before, I figured this could be a good learning experience - and if worse came to worse, I could always fall back to another option in order to get the truck buttoned up for the next trip.

The first step - as usual - was to assemble all the necessary parts and tools to do the job. I nearly succeeded at this, but as seems to be the case more often than not, there was one issue I'd run into as I progressed through the project.

Parts

The parts were simple - Toyota makes a reboot kit (04438-04021) for these CV axles, and that kit has nearly everything you need: an inner boot, and outer boot, several boot clamps, some new snap rings, and the appropriate grease.

The one thing about this kit that I discovered is that the large inner boot clamp is different than the other three clamps included in the kit. It's the earless variety, which meant that it required a different tool, and was much harder to install then the other three clamps. Ultimately, I found it much easier - and more secure - to order a Moog 3401 CV Boot Crimp Clamp Kit, which installed in the same fashion as the others and allowed me to get the job completed simply and easily (and have plenty of clamps to spare for the future)!

Tools

Besides parts, there were a couple new tools I had to buy for this project. In all honesty, they are probably tools I should have had in my kit already, but this was a good excuse to add them:

And then, there were tools that I already had around:

  • 35mm socket - for the axle nut.
  • Wire cutters - for cutting the old boots and clamps.
  • Impact wrench (or large breaker bar) - for the axle nut.
  • 14mm socket - to separate the lower ball joint (LBJ) from the spindle.
  • Torque wrench - to re-torque the LBJ bolts, as well as axle nut.
  • Some brake cleaner, to clean up the CV joints and prepare them for new grease.
  • A bunch of shop towels to mop up all the axle grease.

Rebooting a Tacoma CV Axle

Parts and tools acquired, it was time to get started. The process is reasonably straight forward once you've done it once - or maybe even before you've done it once, depending on your comfort level - I was planning to do both axles, and had allotted a day to do it, just in case anything went south.

I got started - as one does - by removing the skid plate. I recommend admitting to yourself that it's heavy and using a floor jack for this. Just don't take a photo - then you can can tell everyone else you muscled it off with one hand while you loosened bolts with the other.

Next, get the front of the truck up on jack stands and remove the wheel, followed by the axle nut cover. This is my least favorite part of the process - it's always harder to pry this cover off than I expect, and I always feel like I'm marring it up in the process. I've found that a narrow screwdriver and a traditional hammer (not a dead-blow or mallet) works best to pop it off.

With access to the axle nut, remove the cotter pin and capture washer so that you can pull out your uuga-ugga wrench - I recommend a Milwaukee Fuel Mid-Torque Impact Wrench, but you could also use a long breaker bar - to zip of the nut and release the CV axle from the hub.

Now it's time to get the hub assembly out of the way in order to pull the CV out of the front differential. There are several ways to do this, but I've found that the easiest by far is to unbolt the four, 14mm LBJ bolts from the spindle, and then swing the spindle and hub out of the way, exposing the CV axle and giving it a path to exit the vehicle.

To separate the CV from the front differential, use a pry bar between the mating surfaces and give it a little tap - the CV will pop right out, and you can snake it out past your front suspension. Then - as best you can - clean up some of that grease that was keeping your suspension from rusting - and get the axle to a surface that will be easy to clean all the grease off of, because things are about to get messy!

The first step in the reboot process is to remove the small snap-ring that indexes the axle into the front diff. New snap rings are included in the reboot kit, so I found that it easiest to just pry off the existing ring with a flat-head screwdriver.

Next, it's time to cut off the inner CV boot - for me, the one that had failed. Before you do this however, it's important to mark - with a punch or sharpie or both - the cup and the axle. This is so that they can be reunited - like long lost lovers - in the same orientation during re-assembly.

Then, start by cutting the large and small boot clamps with some cutters, before using those same cutters to slice the entire boot. This will allow you to remove the boot and cup, likely covering yourself in grease in the process.

For goodness sake, clean up a little bit at this point. Use a rag and clean off the roller head of the CV axle, so that the next steps aren't quite so messy. It doesn't need to be perfect - we'll get to that in the future - but anything you can do here to not have grease dripping everywhere will be beneficial.

With some of the grease mopped up, the next step is to slide the snap ring that is below the roller head down the CV shaft a little way. This is important because it will allow you to slide the roller head down the CV shaft, exposing a second snap ring that captures it under normal operation.

Remove that snap ring - again, replacements are included in the reboot kit, so no need to be overly careful here - and then just like you marked the cup and axle, also mark the roller head orientation on the axle - I made a mark on it that aligned with the other two marks. Then, you can remove the roller heads and lower snap ring from the axle completely.

Don't forget to key the roller head orientation on the axle!

Half of the axle now disassembled, there's really only a bit more to do before we start reassembly. The outer joint of the axle simply needs it's boot removed, since unlike the inner joint, it remains assembled through the process.

Start by cutting the boot clamps. I'm sure that stronger folks could use some cutters here, but I resorted to my angle grinder - it made quick work of the clamps and made me smile in the process. Then, cut the boot and clean up as much grease as you can. Again.

We're doing great! Everything's now apart and it's time for a bit more clean-up and then reassembly. Start by cleaning the roller heads and CV cup well - a bit of brake cleaner can work wonders here - and lay out all the parts you'll need to rebuild your axle.

Rebuilding is essentially the reverse of the deconstruction process, so start by wraping some tape around the spines of the axle - protecting the rubber of the CV boots from getting chewed up as they are slid over.

We'll start with the outer-most boot. Grab the boot that's made of harder rubber/plastic and the large, eared CV boot clamp (Note: it's got to get on now, or you won't be able to fit it over later - tape it up out of the way if it keeps falling down onto the boot), and slide them over the splines and onto the CV, making sure you've got the right orientation. Click the small end into place - there's a groove it will click into - but don't secure the small clamp quite yet.

Then, flip the axle over so that you have access to the wide side of the boot, and fill it with all of the dark colored grease included in the kit. When you're done, it should be nearly full.

Now it's time to secure the boot clamps. Using the boot clamp tool, secure the small clamp first by pinching the ear as tight as you can. Then, do the same with the larger clamp. Once you have, you can manually rotate the joint a bit in order to distribute the new, clean grease across all the surfaces.

With the outside of the joint done, it's time to tackle the inside.

Start by sliding on the small boot clamp (again, you won't be able to get it on later) and the "softer rubber" CV boot - small side toward the center of the axle.

With the boot pushed as far down as you can (likely, the small end will "key in"), use the snap ring pliers to place the new snap ring low enough on the splines to allow the roller head to slide down the splines.

Replace the roller head - remembering to align the marks you made earlier - and then install the smaller snap ring on the end of the splines. Once this is done, you can slide the roller heads up and over the smaller snap ring, and then use pliers to secure the lower snap ring into it's designated slot.

At this point, you can ensure that the small end of the boot is seated in its groove and you can squeeze all of the light colored grease included in the kit into the boot and over the roller heads.

Looks like caramel, mmmm.

Then, reinstall the cup.

The last step of the rebuild is to install the CV boot clamps on this end of the joint. The small clamp is easy - assuming you remembered to slide it onto the shaft, since it installs just like the clamps on the outer end of the axle.

For the larger clamp, I recommend using these Moog clamps so that it too is installed with the same boot clamp tool.

In fact, I wasn't actually able to get the supplied ear-less clamp installed - it was too tight, and was ruined by the cheap set of pliers I purchased at my local auto store. Of course, in a pinch, some really tight zip ties will work for a short time, until the Moog clamps can show up at your door.

At this point, you've completed the rebuild of your CV. With the right tools, it's not all that hard - just messy. And now it's time to get it reinstalled in the truck.

That's reasonably straight forward as well - just the reverse of removal - so I'll only highlight what I think are the key bits.

First, when re-inserting the CV Axle into the front diff, it can be frustrating to get it fully inserted. I've found that orienting the snap ring so that the opening is on the bottom makes it easiest to push the splines into the diff.

Second (and I suppose third), don't forget a bit of blue loctite on the LBJ bolts when you reinstall and torque them to 59 ft-lbs. This is critical on our trucks, given the less-than-ideal design of this part.

Lastly, the axle nut needs to be torqued to 174 ft-lbs. That's a lot. You can do it single-handedly - if there's no one around to press on the brakes to keep the hub from spinning - by inserting a screw driver into one of the blades of the brake rotor, and against the caliper. Those two parts are plenty strong to keep the hub from rotating while you tighten up the axle nut.

Oh, and of course - don't forget the axle nut lock washer and cotter pin, and your lug nuts should be torqued to 89 ft-lbs!

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