VW Swing Axle Transaxle Removal

Tech Article – Swing Axle Tranny Removal and Replacement

Parts you might needlink to category Transaxle Parts

Note: You can remove and install the axle tubes and axleshafts with the transaxle installed in the vehicle, but it s not recommended. In order to determine the clearance at the inner end of the axle tube, you need to be able to swing the axle tube around freely. That s hard to do with the transaxle installed on the vehicle. It s also hard to install new gaskets or shims from under the vehicle without damaging them. Lastly, it s really hard to prevent dirt from getting into the differential.

Take out the engine.

Take out the brake drums and brake shoes.

Remove the brake backing plate, the bearing cover, and wheel bearing.

Drain the transaxle lubricant.

Take out the transaxle.

Remove the nuts on the axle tube retainer and slip the axle tube, boot and retainer off the axleshaft.

Remove the plastic packing and the paper gasket on 1961 through 1967 models. Remove the hard paper shims and O-ring on later models. Count the number of shims and write it down.

Remove the large lock-ring (snap-ring), using a pair of snap-ring pliers that locks the axleshaft and side gear into the differential.

Take off the differential side gear thrust washer and pull the axleshaft out.

Remove the differential side gear and the fulcrum plates form the differential housing.

Drive the lock pin out of the housing for the axleshaft bearing at the other end of the shaft.

Now loosen the axle boot clamps.

Have the bearing housing pressed off, if needed, by taking the axle tube to an automotive machine shop.


Using solvent, clean all axleshaft parts and the axle tube retainer seat on the final drive cover.

Look over the axle boot for damage and replace it if needed.

Look over the axleshaft, differential side gear, thrust washer and lock-ring for damage or wear. Replace if you need to.

Axle noise or seizure can happen if the clearance between the flat-bladed inner end of each axle-shaft and the differential side gear is inadequate. Measure the clearance between the rounded portions of the inner end of the axleshaft and the differential side gear. You ll have to replace the axle-shaft and differential side gear as a matched set if the clearance is outside the specified clearance. There are three sets available and they re color coded yellow, pink or blue. The gear set color doe is painted in a recess on the gear; the axleshaft has a painted ring six inches from the end. Make sure that the axleshaft and gear colors match.

Measure the clearance between the flat portions of the shaft and the fulcrum plates. Replace the fulcrum plates if the clearance is excessive. New standard size and oversize fulcrum plates are available.

Have an automotive machine shop check the axle-shafts for run-out. If it s too much, replace them.

The concave inner end of the axle tube pivots up or down on the convex surface of the final drive cover. A plastic packing between the two acts as an extra bearing surface, on earlier models. On later models, the packing is eliminated. Either way, the clearance between the axle tube and the final drive cover must be within a range of zero to 0.008 inch (0.2 mm) clearance. The number and thickness of paper gaskets or hard paper shims between the axle boot retainer and the final drive cover determine how much clearance is available. The swing axle can t move up or down smoothly if the clearance is too small. The axleshaft will have too much endplay if there is too much clearance. The trick is to find how many paper gaskets or hard shims to use with the retainer. There s really no accurate way to measure axleshaft endplay at home. The best way is to use the exact same number and size of paper gaskets and hard shims as you removed, then move the swing axle through every possible angle of motion and make sure that it feels firm but doesn t stick or jam. Substitute a thicker gasket or add another if the swing axle feels hard to move. If it moves too easily, remove a gasket or substitute a thinner one. The thickness of a gasket is indicated by the number of holes punched in it: On hole indicates a 0.004 inch (0.1 mm) thickness; two holes indicate an 0.008 inch (0.2 mm) thickness. Using a vernier caliper or micrometer, measure the thickness of various assortments of gaskets or shims.

Have the bearing housing pressed onto the axle tube at an automotive machine shop after making sure all seating surfaces are clean and lubricated with clean oil.

Install the differential side gear, axleshaft and thrust washer into the differential housing and secure them with the lock-ring.

Put in the plastic packing, if equipped.

Put in the paper gaskets or hard paper shims.

Slide the axle tube, retainer and boot onto the axleshaft. Now put in the retainer nuts and washers and tighten the nuts to the torque. Install the hose clamp for the outer end of the boot but don t tighten it until the transaxle/swing axle assembly is installed. Note: The axle tubes aren t interchangeable. Make sure the notch in each bearing housing faces up and the shock absorber mounting boss faces forward and down, if you removed both axle tubes.

Install the transaxle and swing axle assembly.

Install the wheel bearing, brake backing plate and bearing cover.

Fill the transaxle with clean lubricant.

Install the brake drums and brake shoes.

Now bleed and adjust the brake system.

Put in the engine. Note: Be sure to look over the needle bearing in the flywheel gland nut, the clutch components and the release bearing, before installing the engine.

Author: jcchirco@gmail.com on September 22, 2009
Category: Engine and Trans, How To's
Tags: ,

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