If you hear a clunking sound when you put your car or truck into gear this is an indication that you may have a worn pinion gear bearing. Worn or damaged pinion bearings are sometimes misdiagnosed as universal joint or driveshaft issues. This is understandable because these components work together to accomplish a common goal. A worn or damaged pinion bearing on a rear wheel drive vehicle will create a variation that varies at different speeds. A worn or damaged pinion bearing on a front wheel drive car will actually shake the whole front end of the vehicle at certain speeds. These situations affect the ability to properly control an automobile while you're driving down the road and results into a safety issue. If you attempt to shake the drive shaft and observe movement where the pinion yoke enters the deferential or transaxle the bearing requires replacement. Additional stress is applied to the other drive train components and may cause premature failure. When drive shafts and universal joints fail they can come apart and cause extensive damage to the vehicle. Bearings are essential to drive train operation and must be replaced immediately to avoid damage to other drive train components.
The pinion bearing is a steel bearing assembly that is pressed onto the pinion gear shaft that retain the position of the shaft while allowing it to rotate. They work similar to a wheel bearing that is designed specifically to facilitate deferential and transaxle operation. Some bearings are a solid construction and are normally used for the transaxle application on front wheel drive vehicles. Most rear deferential pinion gear bearings consist of a bearing and a race assembly. Pinion bearings play an essential role in the proper operation of the drive train because they allow the required movement as well as secure pinion gear.
The difficulty level of replacing a pinion gear bearing varies depending on the automobile you are working on. This project normally requires some special tools and the appropriate technical data to be accomplished successfully. On a rear wheel drive, you will be required to place the vehicle on jack stands under to axle and then remove the drive shaft assembly. The differential cover will have to be removed to access the pinion gear. Consult your technical data for pinion gear removal procedures and proceed appropriately to remove the pinion gear. Remove and replace the bearing using a puller and press or other appropriate methods. On a front wheel drive you will be required to remove the front tire and half shaft assembly to allow access to the pinion gear bearing. Consult your technical data for specific instructions to properly remove and replace the pinion bearing. Make sure you service the transaxle or differential with fluid or gear oil after the reassembly process is completed.
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