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Leaking axle seal

Discussion in '1st Gen. Tacomas (1995-2004)' started by goldentaco03, Oct 25, 2021.

  1. Oct 25, 2021 at 2:52 PM
    #1
    goldentaco03

    goldentaco03 [OP] Well-Known Member

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    Well story time. Old axle rusted through and was leaking. Found new axle from coworker - he advised me it had a leaky seal. Sure enough, few days of driving and there's oil all over my wheel and coming from the drum. So I replaced said seal over the weekend. Idk if I'm stupid or challenged but I couldn't for the life of me get the new seal to install easily or correctly. I tried to buy a seal driver kit from advance auto but the largest one wasn't big enough and I was afraid it would damage the seal. I ruined 2 seals in the process and on the 3rd seal I got it to work. Problem is I couldn't get them to go in square but on the last one I was able to walk the rest of the seal in with a drift. Ending up using a similarly sized oil filter and a socket extension and drift. There were some small nicks in the housing from someone obviously trying to remove the seal before, but no grooves or anything that ran the full length of the race. I put a tiny bit of RTV around the edge before I put the seal in. Put it all back together, drove it a few miles and parked it. Wake up and there's oil dripping out of the drum again. It's possible that I damaged this last seal putting it in, but it looked correct. Any ideas or tips? Seems to be more than a small leak through the metal to metal mating surface. I'm thinking the rubber part of the seal is not aligning or is off.
     
  2. Oct 25, 2021 at 3:12 PM
    #2
    penadam

    penadam Well-Known Member

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    Unfortunately this is more work that it initially appears. There are a few issues at play. First is that the diff oil that leaked out through the seal washed the grease out of the wheel bearing, which will now fail at some point (ruining another seal in the process). It may be already failing, resulting in excessive play, which causes the seal to leak. The other possibility is that the bearing retainer (which is what the seal seals against), isn't located properly, or the seal isn't driven properly. If the seal is in the proper location, the fix is to move the bearing retainer in or out to get it centered with the seal. This is accomplished by greasing up the retainer, reinstalling the axle, spinning it and seeing where the seal is relative to the width of the retainer. You can then adjust this piece to the correction location and try again. The good news is that the bearing retainer has to come off when you replace a wheel bearing, so you'll already be setup to adjust it.

    Also, is cheap and has the size driver you need.
     
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  3. Oct 25, 2021 at 3:14 PM
    #3
    nagorb

    nagorb Should be a dang perma mod

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    Have you checked out Timmy the tool man's video?

    Another suggestion is freezing them first, make it much easier to slide in.
     
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  4. Oct 25, 2021 at 3:16 PM
    #4
    goldentaco03

    goldentaco03 [OP] Well-Known Member

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    Yeah I’m aware the bearings are washed out now. Unfortunately. I’m leaning towards the retainer being in the wrong location because the old seal looked to be in great shape. Also one thing to mention. When reinstalling the axle it doesn’t go in all the way. There’s about a 1/4” gap which closes up once I tighten the nuts but they’re pretty damn hard to tighten. Which is also why I’m leaning towards the retainer being in the wrong location, feels like it’s going in too far or something.
     
  5. Oct 25, 2021 at 3:17 PM
    #5
    goldentaco03

    goldentaco03 [OP] Well-Known Member

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    Yeah I watched his video and yes I froze it first
     
  6. Oct 25, 2021 at 4:38 PM
    #6
    USMILRET

    USMILRET Tacoma Owner

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    When you need to install the bearing you can use a piece of 2'' angle iron at an acceptable length like 24'' or so and let it fit along the shaft. Take a ball peen hammer or a small hand sledge and drive the bearing into place making sure to rotate the angle iron to hit the other side of the bearing. This is doable.
     
  7. Oct 25, 2021 at 11:22 PM
    #7
    turbodb

    turbodb AdventureTaco

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  8. Oct 26, 2021 at 4:12 AM
    #8
    goldentaco03

    goldentaco03 [OP] Well-Known Member

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  9. Oct 26, 2021 at 8:19 AM
    #9
    turbodb

    turbodb AdventureTaco

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    In the original stock configuration, it does face away from the tone ring. But, in 2003, Toyota slightly changed the design of the rear axle seal (essentially the orientation of some of the rubber in the outer metal sleeve) and as such, flipping the orientation of the retainer makes it a bit easier to get aligned in the correct place. You can think of that bevel as "using up" some of the space where the seal could have sit, and so you put the flat "sweet spot" in an easier to reach location by flipping the bevel around.

    Of course, the flat spot doesn't actually change size in either orientation, so you can install it either way - it just affects how far you push the retainer onto the shaft in order to get the retainer centered on the seal.

    And that's the key - marking the retainer and bolting everything up to make sure it's centered, before buttoning up the project altogether.

    HTH! :thumbups:
     
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  10. Oct 26, 2021 at 8:26 AM
    #10
    Toyoda213

    Toyoda213 Well-Known Member

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    i did the seals and bearings on my truck about a month ago. Had to reposition the retainers once thankfully. If you have the right tool no biggy. Good luck
     
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  11. Oct 26, 2021 at 10:32 AM
    #11
    goldentaco03

    goldentaco03 [OP] Well-Known Member

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    Got it, I thought I remembered hearing that in Timmy's video but I wasn't sure
     
  12. Oct 31, 2021 at 9:42 AM
    #12
    nrpage

    nrpage New Member

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    Hello. newb question here; I have not done any rear axle seal work myself, but I own a 1999 ABS locking rig (99 Tacoma 5spd TRD) that has been in the shop three times now for leaking axle seals and I am getting really sick of dealing with it. This has occurred over several years, with each "fix" lasting at least a year in between problems (just long enough that the work guarantee is up). Is this normal? Shouldn't this be a one and done kind of fix? Do you think that the garage I'm using just isn't up to the task or do you think there might be something wrong with my axle, like a groove running the length of the seal...? Honestly, this is the one reason I'm feeling ready to be done with this truck. It has otherwise been great. Thanks in advance.
     
  13. Oct 31, 2021 at 9:52 AM
    #13
    nrpage

    nrpage New Member

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    Follow up question: How common is this problem? Is blown real axle seals considered a right of passage problem for 1st gen Tacomas? Thnx.
     
  14. Oct 31, 2021 at 10:12 AM
    #14
    turbodb

    turbodb AdventureTaco

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    Replacing rear axle seals certainly shouldn't be an ~annual procedure. I've done the job twice - once on my Tacoma and once on my 4Runner, and both times, the problem was solved for an extended period of time (as in, I haven't had a problem in several years).

    I'd suggest that one of three things is happening:
    1. The simpliest answer could be that your rear diff breather is plugged. This can cause pressure build-up in the housing, and the only way to release the pressure is for the oil to escape through the seals. Have you (a) relocated your breather or (b) verified that it is not plugged? I'd highly recommend relocating it (which is easy - here are the parts needed, and how to do it: Rear Diff Breather Mod – Why didn’t I do this sooner?)
    2. As you've suggested, there could be an issue with one of your parts (the race for the seal, perhaps a bent axle shaft, that kind of thing). If this is the case, you'd hope that the shop would notice it (and tell you the cost to fix it) rather than just keep using the part at issue.
    3. The shop could be "doing it wrong." The most likely cause of "wrong" would be not getting the seal aligned with the retainer - as I showed in the photo above.

    So, my suggestion is to make sure you've done #1, and then hopefully that fixes your problem. If you do have to go back in for the axle seal job again, I'd consider a different shop, or ask the shop you're going to if - maybe for an extra $50 or something - you could get another year of warranty on the work, since you've had to come back to them so many times.

    HTH
     
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  15. Oct 31, 2021 at 10:22 AM
    #15
    nrpage

    nrpage New Member

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    Cool! Thanks for the response. your rear diff breather mod is brilliant. I will definitely check into that first.
     
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  16. Oct 31, 2021 at 11:41 AM
    #16
    goldentaco03

    goldentaco03 [OP] Well-Known Member

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    So after these first few drops I noticed about a week ago I haven’t seen any more leaks. Fingers crossed. Guessing the gear oil I saw was just the last bit sitting in the hub and outer oil seal area. Anyways, still gonna have to do the rear wheel bearing but it’ll buy me some time to find a press to use and start buying the parts.
     
  17. Oct 31, 2021 at 11:44 AM
    #17
    goldentaco03

    goldentaco03 [OP] Well-Known Member

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    I think they’re notorious for being hard to fix properly because of the alignment issue with the retainer mentioned by others. Could also be the shop using shitty parts.
     
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