Front Diff -- how to disconnect? - Ranger-Forums - The Ultimate Ford Ranger Resource


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Old 05-20-2009
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Front Diff -- how to disconnect?

2003 Ranger 4x4, 4.0L, Manual Transmission, 170,000 miles

I have a loud "growling" noise with a vibration that is worse 45-60mph.

It goes away with a decent, high speed right turn (like highway on ramp when I can be doing 45 and turning).

I thought it was the right wheel bearing, since I replaced the left in December, so I replaced that bearing. I thought the noise went away, maybe I was just optimistic...within a week (I don't drive a lot these days) it was definitely back. I think it may have just been quieter but still there.

I've had the diff be low on fluid in the past, and it has whined during hot weather the last couple years...so it being shot wouldn't be unexpected to me. Actually, same day I changed the wheel bearing I topped the fluid. When the noise came back, I checked and the fluid was low again and I pumped in a lot of 80w90 but the noise didn't go away.

Noise is road speed related, not engine speed. I have rotated tires and played with the pressure (no change).

So I'm thinking it's the front differential.

Can I disconnect it somehow so I can at least road test to verify it's the diff? Anyone have a link to a procedure how I do this? I've never taken u-joints apart before, although I'm pretty good turning a wrench with directions (I've done brakes, bearing hub assemblies, tie rod ends, timing belt on my Volvo, etc).

For that matter, could I leave it disconnected for a few months to let my bank account recover and just have a 4x2?
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Old 05-20-2009
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Unfortunately you can't disconnect the front diff since your year of Ranger has no hubs. You can't take the CV axles out because the wheel bearings will fall apart without the stubs in.

The best thing to do is raise the vehicle on jackstands or a lift and run it in 4wd to see where the noise is coming from.
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Old 05-20-2009
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Could he not just remove the CV's from the axel itself and run the stubs still in?
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Old 05-20-2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chainfire View Post
Could he not just remove the CV's from the axel itself and run the stubs still in?
Yes but it is a big pain to get those back together unless you know what you are doing. He could find junk CVs and pull them apart.
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Old 05-21-2009
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What's the process of removing the CVs?

Budget, and possibly time, is kind of limited unless I borrow a vehicle -- so I honestly don't mind dropping back to 4x2 and locking out the transfer case for now.

I may get a call today or tomorrow to start Tuesday working a contract job for the summer that'll boost my miles travelled from 20 miles a week to 150 miles a day...but it will also rebuild my completely depleted bank account. So I'd like to try and do something over the weekend. At the end of the summer I'll have the money to replace parts as needed.

So I'm in the no time, no money, and not certain what I'm doing job wise long term -- if I get a permanent position commuting again I'll buy a small, used commuter car. But I need to get through the next few months.
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Old 05-21-2009
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replace the left side hub bearing again and see if it goes away. could be a warranty issue if it was bad. ive had that happen
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Old 05-21-2009
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Left or right hub bearing with the symptom that the sound goes away turning to the right?

Both hubs should be under warranty still, I'd just hate to tell NAPA one is bad and swap it out to find I was wrong.
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Old 05-21-2009
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I know of other people who also replaced a wheel bearing and found out it was the wrong one. I would replace the other side and see what happens too.
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Old 05-22-2009
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Ok, I'll pick up another bearing today and let them know I think it's the one I put in two weeks ago is defective because the sound went away and came back.

And then I'll try it on both sides if necessary to see if the noise abates. Sounds like less work then pulling apart the CV to try and isolate the problem.
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Old 05-24-2009
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If replacing the bearings does not solve your problem, removing the half shafts is fairly easy and can be done in less than a half an hour per side. You will want to have a sacrificial set of axle half shafts that can be pulled apart so that you can run the stub shafts through the hub and into the front differential on either side. I am currently running this setup while I wait for a new set pf axle shafts. I have not had any problems. Just make sure that you tighten the axle nut to factory spec or you may blow up your hub.
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Old 05-24-2009
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Here's the final report:

Bad LEFT wheel bearing, that had been replaced in December, despite the noise going away when turning right.

I replaced the right, no change.

So on to the left.

Although there was no in-out play jiggling the tire and I didn't detect anything bad on the left spinning the tire, once I pulled the brake caliper off and spun the hub you could feel the grinding.

I'm certainly not the most experienced, but it felt like the grinding was coming from the inner side of the bearing. In doing some more Googling I saw one guy who said he had been fooled once by a inner left bearing being shot because it became quiet turning right like a shot right bearing usually does.

I put the bearing I had just pulled off the right side (month old) and put it on the left, no noise on the road test :D

I can't explain why the noise seemed to go away when I initially changed the right -- I'm guessing it was a combination of me jiggling the left tire while I had the truck jacked up shifted something plus being optimistic when the noise was much less I thought I had fixed it. The truck is definitely much quieter now...no optimism needed.

SKF hub, Lifetime warranty at NAPA so I'll return that on Tuesday.

I think in the future I'll still start assuming the bearing is bad on the side it's quiet when turning...but if it doesn't feel bad after the caliper is off, I'll pull the caliper off the other side and spin that before I commit to changing the bearing.

Thanks guys!
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Old 05-24-2009
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Glad to hear it's fixed!
It seems common that people replace the wrong wheel bearing based on noise. Next time you know to start on the opposite side! lol
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Old 05-24-2009
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glad its fixed
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