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GM 14 bolt full floater Axle repair and buildup.

 What we have is a 1983 heavy half ton van. It has the half ton designation because of the diesel engine.

 This van came stock with a 6.2 liter diesel engine, a 700r4 transmission and a GM 10 bolt rear axle. This van ran this configuration stock for over 200,000 miles.  Very few repairs were done or needed over this time. However when it was passed down to the next owner it was determined that it needed a bit more. The chronicles of those upgrades are for another article.

The current configuration is just a wee bit different. Now it has a built 300 hp 6.5 turbo charged diesel in front of a built 4L80E with the 3.08 ratio 10 bolt rear axle. This van does some towing and weighs in right around 7,000 lbs.

With its current configuration its main weak point is the rear axle. The GM 10 bolt axle is a less then impressive axle that inspires all kinds of bad emotions.  It is cheap engineering at its finest and GM should be ashamed to even have their name even associated with it. Having the full weight of your vehicle slowly wearing a groove in your axle is so NOT a good idea. bearing wear causes the axle to shift position which causes the seal to leak and puts your brakes out of position and accelerates spline wear on the axle and side gears.

The heavy duty 14 bolt full floater is just the opposite. This large axle assembly was used in 3/4 and 1 ton pickups suburbans and vans. It was also used in other delivery trucks and the like.
It utilizes 2 large bearings for each hub. Just one of these bearings is bigger then any bearing found in the 10 bolt rear axle. The hubs are made to take the full load including any side thrust from cornering in the vehicle. The 10 has a very small C-clip at the end of the axle to handle cornering thrust. If one breaks your wheel and axle take off in a different direction then your vehicle, making for a bad day.

The first part of this project had to do with finding an axle that would work in this van. Van axles are different then pickup or suburban axles. For one the spring perches are 50 inches center to center compared to the 47 1/2  inches found on my suburbans.
We finally found one on craigslist and were assured by Nick that it came off a low mileage van that had been used for a carpet cleaning business. It was in good shape and was a full float 14 bolt. It had been owned by his buddy who he trusts explicitly. For 50 bucks he agreed to deliver it, which he did late one evening.
I take it apart a few days later to find that there are bearings in the bottom of the diff housing. Further investigation shows the axle to suffer from very high miles and very poor maintenance. It also suffers from a very bad rebuild attempt. Someone, we wont say who, tried to replace bearings and seals and brakes and drums. The brake job actually doesn't look too bad but the hammering on the bearings broke and destroyed the cage and ruined bearings on both sides. One seal had been put in backwards causing it to rub on the bearing, thus it leaked pretty bad. The brakes were so saturated with heavy oil that they didn't even wear the drum at all. The other side shows some normal drum wear.

These problems were brought to Nicks attention and he asked for pictures and assured me he would make it right. I sent the pictures, some of which I will post here. However I am not holding my breath, and I will be paying attention next time I need to buy parts off craigslist.

This axle came apart similar to some big truck axles I had worked on as a kid, employed by *John Nesbitt in Hood River OR. "Real" trucks (as compared to toy trucks with 4 wheels) have studs that hold the axle on with little round wedge devices that hold the axle hub on. They are the dickens to get off. The procedure as I remember it is to remove the nuts and hit the end of the axle with a 5 or 10lb sledge hammer.  The idea is it pops the wedges loose and the axle pops out a few inches and everybody is happy. However if your aim is not so good you could nick a stud and then the boss might teach you a few new words and will understandably not be very happy. The 14 bolt full floater is much easier as there are no studs to attract the 3 lb sledge hammer. One hit and the first side pops off. My 11 yr old son did the other side. Other then lots of rtv both axles look pretty good.

Next we take notice there neither side has any preload on it at all. On the leaking side I was able to take the hub lock nut off with my fingers as it was loose possibly because the lock ring hadn't had the tab bent over into it. The rest of the leaking side came loose without any tools as the whole hub was somewhat loose. The other side was more snug however that side had a bearing cage that was bent so bad it was rubbing on the outer bearing race. Cleaned up and dried that bearing wont even turn without screeching and squealing. I suspect that the want to be "mechanic" tried to remove the bearing but didn't know how. His attempts beat the crap out of the race edges and damaged the cage. Finally he gave up and just put it back together in worse shape then it had been to start with. There was a good reason to replace the bearings. They were original and totally shot. Take note of the pictures.

Finally all the hubs are cleaned and bearing races punched out. Now we need some new parts. We do have a small budget, but the owner will need to get a loan to get this baby put back together.

We need a master repair kit.
We need a new Ring and Pinion.
We need new hub bearings and seals.
We need oil and general cleaning supplies. Brake cleaner will do the cleaning job.
We need sealant as well. we will be using oil resistant RTV, where applicable.

We found most of our parts at Randy's Ring and Pinion. Unfortunately the budget we had available was not conducive to all new parts. We took a chance and opted for a good used 3.73 ring and pinion off EBay(shudder). Our rebuild kit we got from Randy's Ring and Pinion. Some notes on Randy's Ring and Pinion. Their phone system has to be one of the worst we have ever encountered. If they are closed the phone system will send you in loops as you try different options just to get to a person. If they are open the phone will still send you in loops. Many times you choose a forward sounding option only to get sent back to the beginning. The good news is if you punch enough buttons on that phone eventually you will be rewarded in a big way. In our case we finally got Keith Sims on the phone. We felt like the rat in the maze who finally found the cheese. Keith was great. He knows his product. He gave great advice and he got us all set up and straightened out in no time. Not only that great service but we had our parts the very next day. It helps that we are both in WA. I suppose but still it was greatly appreciated.

If you need any type of axle parts i suggest you call Keith at 1800-347-1188 ext 5524. Rumor is if you type the extension right after their computer system answers the phone you will get right to him. I haven't tried it yet but I will one of these days.

Now to put it all back together. We will be replacing the ring carrier with a heavier duty unit. The spiders and side gears in the old one are just too worn to make us comfortable and we do not want to work on this axle again for a very long time. 

Work in progress.







*If you are in or near Hood River and need some first class heavy duty welding or weld cutting done, give John a call. He does first class work whether its logging bunks or custom work. Not many shops have such heavy duty welding equipment as he does. I don't know if he still does it or not but he also did fine engine rebuilding on Semi-Trucks. If I could just remember half of what he taught I could more then double the stories of my experiences working there. It was memorable and Ill never forget it.  



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