Rear Axle Bearing Replacement—Pulling Broken Axle (1930-1932)

By Stephen Kassis

Breaking an axle in early Chevrolets is not an uncommon problem. Whether you have a broken axle or not, there are times when replacing a rear axle bearing is necessary. There are special tools and procedures that are required to replace these wheel bearings.

1930-1932 passenger cars & ½ ton models require a special puller to remove the rear axle hub from the taper on the axle. A 3-arm puller that fits over three of the six wheel studs is the best to use for this job, although a 2-arm puller will also work. Jack up the car and place the rear axle on good quality 4-point jack stands. Remove the tire & wheel. The axle shaft has a large nut and cotter key holding the hub in place on the shaft. Remove the cotter key and nut. NOTE: 1932 passenger cars & ½ ton trucks had two different size axle shafts. The early 1932 axles were 1.275″ OD at the outer end of the axle shaft. The late 1932 axles were 1.375″ OD at the outer end. The small axle used a 3/4″ nut while the large axle used a 13/16″ nut. The bearings on both axles are the same (New Departure # ND 1208) but the hubs are different and must be matched to either the large or small taper of the axle.

Be sure that the parking and service brakes are not on and the wheel turns easily. Install the puller over three, evenly spaced wheel studs and install lug nuts to hold them. Tighten down the puller against the end of the axle shaft. Sometimes the hub will be stuck on the taper of the axle. A few well placed blows with a hammer on the end of the puller shaft will help break it loose. After the brake drum and hub are off, remove the tool.

There is a 10-bolt bearing retainer & felt seal that holds the axle in place. Remove all of the bolts. Remove the axle key from the axle shaft and remove the bearing retainer. Slide the brake drum carefully back onto the axle shaft, keeping it from going all the way back in place. Reinstall the axle nut finger tight. Use the brake drum and hub as a slide hammer to bring the axle and bearing out of the axle housing.

If you have a broken axle shaft, there will still be a short part of the shaft left in the housing. Use an old coat hanger or similar wire and fashion a loop at the end. Make the loop just large enough to fit over the broken part of the axle shaft. Bend the loop at a 60-90 degree angle to the wire. Slide the loop as far down the axle shaft as possible then pull upward and out. Try to snag the shaft with the wire. It may take a few tries but this method usually works to get the old piece out.

If you have to replace the axle bearing on the replacement axle, take it to a vise and lock it in place. The bearing retainer is a round nut and it must be removed to allow the bearing to be pressed off the axle shaft. There should be a lock plate in place that would be dimpled in on either or both sides. This must be opened up to allow the nut to back off. Use a small screwdriver or center punch and pound it into the opening to get the dimple out on both sides. With the dimples removed, take a punch and pound counterclockwise on the slot in the nut to remove the nut and lock plate. Press the old bearing off the axle shaft with a hydraulic press. Pack the new bearing with grease. Install a new lock plate and press on the new bearing. Be sure the surface on the axle shaft and inside of the bearing are clean & dry. The new bearing must be tight on the axle shaft. If it is loose, the axle shaft is worn and should be replaced. Tighten the round retaining nut with a hammer & punch. Dimple in the lock plate to prevent the nut from backing out.

Prior to installing the axle, consideration should be given to the replacement of axle seals, both inner and outer. The seals in 1930-1932 were leather and felt. Original seals would have long ago lost the ability to retain gear oil. New neoprene replacement seals are available and will do a much better job of keeping gear oil inside of the differential and away from the brakes.

Complete inner & outer seal kits are available for the rear axles on 1916-1932 passenger cars & ½ ton trucks. Be sure to place the seal into the housing so that when it is installed, the working surface of the seal (inner lip side) is facing inward toward the gear oil. Tap the new inner seal housing into the axle housing. There is a machined lip inside the main housing for the seal to seat against. Lubricate the lip of the seal with grease and install the axle in the housing.

The outer seal is felt. This can be changed to a neoprene replacement seal installed into the original housing. The 10 bolt metal housing is a heavy metal stamping. The old felt seal can be knocked out easily with a hammer & punch. Clean the housing with solvent and test fit the new seal. It is sometimes necessary to grind down the original punch marks in the seal housing to allow the new seal to install without being damaged. Once the seal fits the housing properly, use silicone on the edge to install it. Be sure to keep the working surface of the seal (inner lip side) facing inward toward the gear oil. Let the silicone set up overnight. Grease the inner lip of the seal and install a new gasket and the outer retainer and seal housing. Note: 1932 outer seals will sometimes need to be installed in reverse of normal if it causes too much pressure on the axle shaft when installed. The axle shaft is ready to install by reversing the removal procedure.