How to Remove a Drive Shaft for Differential Leak Repair

What You'll Need
Wrench Set
Car Jack
Jack Stands
Electrical Tape

If you need to fix a differential leak, you will need to remove the drive shaft before you can access it. The driveshaft is responsible for transferring power or torque from one portion of the car to another. It is present so it can connect different components of the car that are too far apart to be joined together. It serves as the link between power generating parts such as the transmission and differential.

Step 1: Preparation

Before starting the project, make sure that the car is on level ground, the emergency brake is on and the tires are secured with rocks or something else to keep the car from rolling. These will keep the car as stable as possible while you are trying to remove the drive shaft. Never jack the car when it is seated over grass, dirt or gravel. These surfaces could be very unstable and dangerous.

Step 2: Lift the Car

Jack up the car under the rear differential. The rear differential is the big box-like component at the rear of the car between the two wheels. When you’ve lifted the car high enough, place jack stands on both sides of the frame of the car. These will further protect you while you are working underneath to remove the drive shaft just in case the car jack gives way.

Step 3: Locate the Drive Shaft

Check your car’s manual in order to find out where the drive shaft is located. Once you’ve determined where it is, go underneath your car, locate the drive shaft and look for the U-bolt it is connected to. There are nuts holding the shaft to the U-bolt so get your wrench set and loosen the nuts. Do this also to the other end of the shaft.

Step 4: Detach Drive Shaft from Differential

Remove the bolts that you loosened on the differential end of the drive shaft. Since you’ve already loosened the bolts earlier, you should be able to turn them with one hand while the other supports the shaft. Be careful in doing this and don't allow the shaft to fall on you. Now that the shaft is free on one end, carefully lower it down to the ground and be careful not to move the bearing caps of the U-bolts.

Step 5: Detach Drive Shaft from Transmission

Now that you’ve removed one end of the drive shaft, you have an option to remove it from the other end as well, in order to work more freely on the differential from underneath the car. Place a large can or bowl underneath the portion where the drive shaft connects to the transmission. This will catch any transmission fluid that will come out later. To remove the drive shaft, simply pull it out of the transmission and it will simply slide out. Your drive shaft is now completely free. If you wish to keep the drive shaft on the transmission while working on the differential, proceed to the next step.

Step 6: Finishing

Wrap your electrical tape around the U-bolts at the rear so the bearing caps don’t fall off. With your drive shaft free, you will now be able to access your differential more freely and you can now start working on that leak.