Off-roading is tough on your truck. To accommodate for this, you spend time and money modifying your truck with better tires, a more durable suspension, and steel bumpers, all of which provide different protection. Have you ever thought about protecting your axles, though? Your axles may be the most abused parts on your off-roading truck. Use these helpful tips to protect your axles and prevent failures that could literally leave you stuck in the mud.
Upgrade Your Axle Shafts
The first thing you can do to protect your truck and make it more durable is to upgrade your factory axle shafts to stronger aftermarket ones. Axles are made from a variety of metals and components. Choose shafts made from alloys like chromium, nickel, and molybdenum that have a higher carbon content to increase strength while retaining flexibility. Instead of hobbed or smaller diameter splines, choose shafts made with hardened, rolled splines with thicker diameters; they are stronger and less likely to fail.
Reinforce the Axle Housings
A common source of axle damage to hardworking off-road trucks is leakage from the axle housings, usually due to overloading. To prevent oil leaks from the plug welds and the cast center section, weld-on axle housing trusses can be helpful. These trusses reinforce the axle tubes at the center section to prevent leakage that can lead to axle failure.
Replace the U-Joints
A high wear part of your front axle that is prone to failure is the steering u-joint. This happens when factory u-joints become filled with rust and debris, or the lubricant leaks out over time. Today, there are many options available in heavy duty and non-greasable replacement u-joints that will last longer under more extreme use.
Check Your Seals and Bearings Frequently
There are many different components on your axles that contain oil or grease to provide essential lubrication. Once a leak is present, or bearings become contaminated with dirt or start leaking lubrication, greater damage isn’t far behind. To stay one step ahead of things, inspect your axle seals, tube seals, and differential seal frequently looking for evidence of leaking. Check your CV boots for damage and replace if they are leaking. Replace and repair seals as needed to prevent leaking.
Listen for Strange Noises
Besides looking for signs of damage on your off-road truck, listen to what your axles are telling you. Abnormal noises coming from the axles indicate there are problems that need attention before greater damage is caused. Worn or improperly loaded pinion bearings will emit a higher pitched whir when they need attention, while carrier bearings produce a deeper, lower sound. Clunking and banging noises suggest either of these bearings are not properly installed and should be corrected immediately to prevent an axle lockup.
Overall, the two best things you can do to increase the durability of your axles is to upgrade what you can, then take good care of the rest. Leaks, contamination with dirt, and improper installation are the main offenders that will cause your axles to give out prematurely. Add upgrading to heavier duty axles to your list of eventual modifications along with your suspension and aftermarket bumpers; replace seals as needed.
If you take good preventive care of the axles on your outfitted off-road truck and make repairs as soon as something seems wrong, those axles will continue to take care of you while out on the trail enjoying amazing off-road adventures!