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Old 09-22-2008, 06:35 PM   #1
waveoff
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Default HOW TO: Front Axle Seal Replacement on a Stock 02-03 WRX

I recently bought a used '03 WRX sedan but found out hours after bringing it home that it had a pretty decent transmission fluid leak coming from somewhere. Upon closer inspection, I found that it was coming from the passenger side axle seal. I consulted NASIOC for answers but after a couple of weeks of searching and not finding the answers I needed I decided to bite the bullet and just change the seal and find the answers myself. I took a few pictures to help explain the steps involved. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to do this but it helps if you've done some work on a car before. It really wasn't that hard and I would encourage everyone to give it a try if your front axle seal is leaking. Whatever you do, DO NOT follow the directions HERE. Those directions are for a totally different setup.

The car: 2003 WRX sedan, 5MT, 47,000 miles.

What you'll need:

- A new oil seal to replace the leaking one. Part numbers 806730042 (right) and 806730041 (left). The right and left ones are different part numbers so make sure you get the correct one. The inside of the seal that encircles the axle stub has a directional pattern on it that looks like directional treads on a tire.

- A new o-ring that goes around the outside of the differential side retainer. It's not mandatory but it's highly recommended. FWIW, I fogot to order one and mine was in good shape so I re-used mine. I don't have the part number for that o-ring...sorry.

- Your tool set which should have various sized sockets, wrenches, allen keys, punches, a hammer, channel locks and something big enough to fit around the recessed part of the new oil seal to tap it into the differential side retainer.


The steps:

1. Chock your wheels, put your car in neutral, jack up your car, put it on jackstands and remove the wheel on the side with the leaking axle seal.

2. Get under your car and rotate the axle so that you're looking at the spring pin that holds the axle to the axle stub. You might have to wipe some dirt and grime away to find the spring pin. Once you find it, look at both sides of the hole that the spring pin sits in. You'll notice that one side is chamfered and the other side is not. Rotate the axle so that the non-chamfered side is facing you (see picture). Drive the spring pin out with the appropiate sized punch.



3. Now you want to undo the suspension to allow enough free play for the axle to be removed from the stub. First undo the castle nut holding the tie rod end to the knuckle and give it a good whack so it falls from the knuckle. Then unbolt the sway bar from the sway bar end link. You'll need the appropiate sized allen key to hold the bolt while you undo the nut. Disregard all of the other unbolted stuff in the picture....I was doing something else. Now go up to the engine bay and undo the nuts on the strut tower. Careful with that last nut, the coilover assembly could fall when it's completely unthreaded. It won't damage anything but it'll surprise you if you're not ready for it.





4. You should now have enough play in the suspension to pull the big green CV joint off of the axle stub. You might have to fight with it a bit but not too much. Just work the suspension around while pulling on the big green CV joint by the axle stub. Once you get the CV joint off of the axle stub don't turn the axle! It'll save you trouble later on when you go to put the CV joint back on the axle stub. It'll kind of be in your way while you're working so you'll want to hold it out of the way. You'll see in the picture above part of a coat hanger. I used that coat hanger to hold it out of the way.

5. Wipe down the differential side retainer area so that there isn't any dirt in your work area. Once it's nice and clean, mark one of the "rays" on the differential side retainer and mark the transmission case with a marker. I even filed down the tip of the ray a bit with a file just in case I lost my mark and used a scribe to mark the tranny case. Transmission fluid will make even permanent marker marks disappear! Unbolt the retainer plate that keeps the differential side retainer from turning.





6. Now tap one of the rays on the differential side retainer with a screwdriver and hammer to start unscrewing the differential side retainer. Tap it so that it starts to turn counter clockwise. Once you get it started, you can grab it with your channel locks and start unscrewing it. BE SURE TO COUNT HOW MANY TURNS THE DIFFERENTIAL SIDE RETAINER MAKES BEFORE IT IS NO LONGER THREADED INTO THE SIDE OF THE DIFFERENTIAL. Mine went about 5 1/4 turns before the threads disengaged and I could slide the differential side retainer off of the axle stub.



7. Now that you have the differential side retainer off you'll see why the differential side retainer must be removed from the differential to change the oil seal. The seal is pressed in from the inside out. Remove the big o-ring from the outside of the differential side retainer and clean it and the retainer up.



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Last edited by waveoff; 09-23-2008 at 11:31 AM.
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Old 09-22-2008, 06:36 PM   #2
waveoff
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8. Make sure to put a little grease or tranny fluid on the outside of the oil seal before pressing it in so that it goes in a little easier. Take a big socket or something to gently tap it into the differential side retainer until it's fully seated. Put the big o-ring back on the outside of the differential side retainer and lube it with some grease. Lube the inside of the seal (the part with the directional pattern) with some grease or tranny fluid before replacing the differential side retainer into the side of the differential...it'll make it slide over the axle stub easier.







9. Now that your new oil seal is in place, take the differential side retainer and slide it over the axle stub. Seat it into the side of the differential and thread it back in however many turns it took to remove it. Even if you by chance lost your marks, the differential side retainer will still only screw in so far. I noticed mine wouldn't tighten anymore when my marks were lined back up.

10. Take the big green CV joint and slide it back onto the axle stub. Re-tighten the shock tower nuts, sway bar end link and tie rod end back up. Put the spring pin back into the axle stub/CV joint connection from the chamfered end first. I can't remember but I'm pretty sure the spring pin has a beveled end on it. Put the beveled end in first and then drive it in.



11. Put your wheel back on, remove your jackstands, lower your car, top off the tranny fluid and take it for a drive! Hopefully your leak is now gone.

I found what was causing my leak. On the inside of the oil seal, there's a round spring that keeps tension on the directional part of the oil seal. Part of it had slipped off of the rubber and wasn't making the oil seal hold tension on the axle stub which caused tranny fluid to leak past the seal.


Last edited by waveoff; 09-22-2008 at 11:31 PM.
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Old 09-30-2008, 08:38 PM   #3
scurry
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Default Thanks!

Waveoff,

Great write up! I was in the process of changing the left front axel on the wife's 02 outback and damaged the oil seal in the process (axel wouldn't come out of the hub). I was having a he** of a time removing the seal then realized the outer cap was holding it in. I wasn't sure if it was pushed in or screwed in so decided to research before I tore something else up.
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Old 10-01-2008, 01:34 PM   #4
waveoff
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I'm glad this writeup helped you out!
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Old 10-01-2008, 01:55 PM   #5
hybrid gti 2
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Isn't one side the adjustment for the depth on the front diff?
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Old 10-03-2008, 02:08 PM   #6
waveoff
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Hmmm...I think so. I thought I read something in the manual about the differential side retainers being used to adjust backlash. I don't have my manual with me at the moment so I can't say for certain.
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Old 01-12-2009, 01:59 AM   #7
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nice write up!!
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Old 01-12-2009, 01:01 PM   #8
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in case anyone want to know that "o-ring" part number: 806975010

same for both sides and it's about $2.30 from subaru

Price: Subaru of Annapolis MD charges 230 per side not including parts
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Old 01-12-2009, 03:43 PM   #9
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Awesome! Thanks for adding the part number.
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Old 01-12-2009, 06:07 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by waveoff View Post
Hmmm...I think so. I thought I read something in the manual about the differential side retainers being used to adjust backlash. I don't have my manual with me at the moment so I can't say for certain.
Can anyone confirm this? I noticed a slight vibration under acceleration after changing out the drivers side drive axel and axel seal. I don't remember this being there prior to the repair but then again it's my wife's car and I don't drive it much. I found a little play on the drivers side of the rack and pinion and had attributed it to that. No I'm starting to rethink my vibration issue.
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Old 01-21-2009, 12:04 PM   #11
full of dents
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what was the cost of the Part numbers 806730042 (right) and 806730041 (left) at the dealer ship?
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Old 01-21-2009, 11:50 PM   #12
Tim Sanderson
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scurry View Post
Can anyone confirm this? I noticed a slight vibration under acceleration after changing out the drivers side drive axel and axel seal. I don't remember this being there prior to the repair but then again it's my wife's car and I don't drive it much. I found a little play on the drivers side of the rack and pinion and had attributed it to that. No I'm starting to rethink my vibration issue.
Yes, those are the front diff side retainers. If you get it wrong you will experience problems. It's a decent write up but you should drain the fluid and check the backlash before and after removing the retainer. IT makes sense that if you put it back on exactly the way it was it should be the same though.
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Old 01-31-2009, 03:14 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by full of dents View Post
what was the cost of the Part numbers 806730042 (right) and 806730041 (left) at the dealer ship?
I paid $4.38 out the door for one seal.
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Old 01-31-2009, 09:17 PM   #14
full of dents
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sweet.

can i use this guide to replace an axle as well? i mean, im taking it all apart to do a seal, would it be a bad thing to slip in a new axle at the same time?
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Old 01-31-2009, 09:50 PM   #15
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nice thread! i just put an 06 5spd in my bugeye and i have an axle seal leaking scotty's cocktail all over my driveway got the bushing today, putting it in tomorrow. the 06's are a little different, but this is still helpful. good stuff!
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Old 01-31-2009, 10:44 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by full of dents View Post
sweet.

can i use this guide to replace an axle as well? i mean, im taking it all apart to do a seal, would it be a bad thing to slip in a new axle at the same time?
I suppose you could. I think '04+ WRX's are stubless though...i.e. the axle and stub are all one piece. In order to remove the axle on the transmission side you'll have to pry on it until it pops out. Just to be sure that it's a stubless axle setup, rotate the axle around to see if those spring pins are there. If there's no spring pins then you'll have to pry the axle out of the tranny.
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Old 02-01-2009, 10:59 AM   #17
full of dents
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dammit.
the axle i bought came with a new roll pin, so maybe i will get lucky

see i have a bad cv joint on the driver side and i have a bad seal on the passenger side
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Old 02-07-2009, 11:28 AM   #18
full of dents
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i would imagine i need an alignment after this right?
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Old 02-07-2009, 06:27 PM   #19
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Default bad oil seal????

first at all nice write up, i have a big question, my passenger side is leaking like a small dark grase from the boot, im not sure if i got a bad oil seal o bad cv-joint. When i turn left or rigth doesnt make any weird noise, but when my car is not moving and turn the wheel to the rigth or left, make a little noise (since today). i would like to be sure what the problem is....
thanks ind advance

wrx 04 73000 miles
stock struts, tein springs
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Old 02-07-2009, 07:25 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by full of dents View Post
i would imagine i need an alignment after this right?
No alignment needed if you do it the way I did it. None of the alignment "points" are loosened to do this.
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Old 02-07-2009, 07:37 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mywRx04 View Post
first at all nice write up, i have a big question, my passenger side is leaking like a small dark grase from the boot, im not sure if i got a bad oil seal o bad cv-joint. When i turn left or rigth doesnt make any weird noise, but when my car is not moving and turn the wheel to the rigth or left, make a little noise (since today). i would like to be sure what the problem is....
thanks ind advance

wrx 04 73000 miles
stock struts, tein springs
Definitely sounds like CV joint grease. It could just be a loose CV boot band (the metal clamp that holds the grease in). If the boot isn't torn you might be able to salvage it. A new CV boot band, grease and boot banding tool should run you around $10. Carefully cut off the old boot band, squirt some grease into the boot to replace the grease you've lost, then put your new boot band on. If the leak stops and the noise goes away you're good to go! If not, you're going to have to pull the axle.
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Old 02-07-2009, 07:49 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by waveoff View Post
Definitely sounds like CV joint grease. It could just be a loose CV boot band (the metal clamp that holds the grease in). If the boot isn't torn you might be able to salvage it. A new CV boot band, grease and boot banding tool should run you around $10. Carefully cut off the old boot band, squirt some grease into the boot to replace the grease you've lost, then put your new boot band on. If the leak stops and the noise goes away you're good to go! If not, you're going to have to pull the axle.
ok, so im going to do this ASAP, i hope that only got a loose cv boot band, thanks for the info waveoff....
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Old 02-07-2009, 08:30 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mywRx04 View Post
ok, so im going to do this ASAP, i hope that only got a loose cv boot band, thanks for the info waveoff....
No problem.
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Old 02-08-2009, 11:02 PM   #24
full of dents
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just did my driver side axle swap today on my 04. followed the guide aboce till about step 4, then i went off on my own. But, i will say the guide helped out a TON! im doing my seal next weekend on the passanger side of the car. for that i will be following the guide to a T

ps. my 04 does have the stubs on the transfer case. EASY
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Old 02-11-2009, 08:59 PM   #25
waveoff
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Cool...glad to hear things went well.
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