Sunday, December 19, 2010

DIY: Replace CV Joint and Swivel Ball Seals on a Range Rover Classic or Discovery I [RRC/D1]

Before and after- look how clean!

Fast Facts
  • Time Involved: four or five hours
  • Approximate Cost excluding tools: $200 if you're replacing the CV joint, $90 for seals only
  • Required Tools: Jack, two jack stands, ratchet, metric sockets (typical sizes), 2 1/16" hub socket, Pitman Arm Puller tool, sturdy Circlip/Snap Ring pliers.
  • Recommended Tools: Torque wrench, breaker bar (the bolts can be very much seized on), 14mm ratcheting wrench.
  • Parts Needed: replacement CV Joint, Rover One-Shot grease (or gear oil), and a swivel ball seal kit. 
  • Shop Supplies:  one can PB Blaster,  one can engine degreaser, a tube of Hylomar sealant, and blue threadlocker.

If you use these directions, please comment back with your experience! 

A common malady for Land Rovers that have swivel ball type CV axle housing is for the seals to wear out on the swivel ball (sometimes referred to as "swivel housing") , resulting in leaking oil or grease. This is a serious issue; if it goes undetected, the CV joint will run dry and eventually fail, which will leave you stranded and could cause an accident if it occurs at high speeds.

Several months ago, my passenger side CV joint failed. I found that there was no grease left in the housing at all,  replaced the CV joint, and filled both housings up with grease. What I didn't realize was that the passenger side housing had a pretty bad leak. Duh- that's why it was empty in the first place! So, six months after replacing the CV joint, I was taking the axle apart again to replace the seals. This time, I took pictures.

If you replace your CV joint, you should replace your swivel housing seals. It's half-ass if you don't. Once you've removed the parts necessary to replace the CV, you're only a few steps from replacing the seals.

Land Rover filled the swivel housings with 90-weight gear oil from the factory, until sometime in 1997, when they switched to a product they call "One-Shot" grease. The grease can only be found at Land Rover dealers or catalogs, and I wouldn't take the risk of filling the housing with another type of grease. Some people prefer to use oil, because it can easily be drained after off-roading. What you choose to do with your balls is your own problem. I personally favor the grease, simply because it's what Land Rover recommends, and I don't find it much more difficult to drain than the oil. It's not cheap, but not astronomically expensive- about $15 per tube, and each housing takes one tube.

One easy way to tell what type of lubricant your truck's housings are filled with is to look for a level plug right below the steering stop bolt on the swivel housing. If you don't have a level plug, your swivel is filled with grease. However, you can still check the level by opening the fill plug on the top of the housing using a 1/2" wrench and sticking a straw down into the hole. Just like when dealing with differential drains, Don't open the drain plug until you have cracked the fill plug loose! That way, you won't be stuck with an empty swivel housing if you can't refill it.

I bought my swivel seal kit from DAP Enterprises in Vermont. The price was great and they shipped them to me amazingly fast. Another good option is British Pacific in California. This is where I bought the CV joint six months earlier. When you're ordering the parts, don't forget to order a 2 1/16" hub socket! I live in a pretty big city and couldn't find anything that would fit the massive nuts on the spindle, and it was too tight to use Channel-Locks. Most Rover parts houses sell the hub socket for around $15.

You'll need basic mechanics tools including a ratchet and a set of metric sockets, including some 12-sided sockets for the swivel housing to axle bolts and the caliper bolts. Tools that you might need to buy or borrow for this job include the 2 1/16" socket mentioned above, a Pitman Arm Puller tool, and a fairly sturdy set of Snap Ring Pliers. The Pitman Arm tool can be found at, Harbor Freight, or NAPA. I bought my snap ring pliers from Sears - make sure you buy a pair with adequate width.

Start with the usual: put the truck up on jack stands, chock rear wheels, remove front wheels, blah blah blah.

You'll notice that the track rod and drag link are both attached to the passenger side housing. The driver side only has the track rod attached. Remove the bolts from the tie rod ends and pop them out with the Pitman Arm Puller tool. This is a perfect time to replace your tie rod ends if they're worn- details here.

Notice the gray grease all around the swivel ball, and the streaks on the chrome. The seal wasn't "wiping" the grease anymore.

This swivel ball isn't new, but it isn't severely scored or pitted. Swivel balls that are scored or have noticeable pitting will never seal correctly; they must be replaced. New units are about $250. An alternative is to powdercoat the swivel ball and reinstall it.

Using your snap ring/circlip pliers, remove the snap ring on the end of the axle. You'll need a fairly sturdy/wide set of pliers. I broke a cheap pair.

Using a breaker bar to stop the hub from turning, loosen and remove the five bolts from the drive member. Slide the drive member off the axle.

You can now see the 2 1/16" nut holding the hub onto the axle. Sometimes, this nut will be loose enough to turn with Channel-Locks or even by hand, but you will probably need to use a hub socket.

I use a big screwdriver to crack the nut loose, then turn the socket by hand.

Before proceeding, the brake caliper must be removed and set aside. Start by removing the brake hose bracket. I believe this is an 8mm bolt.

Land Rover uses 12-sided bolts on the caliper. This helps break the bolt loose if it's seized. You'll need a 12-sided socket for this. I believe the bolts are 14mm, but don't take my word for it.

You don't need to disconnect the brake hoses. Just hang the caliper over the radius arm securely so you don't damage the hoses.

Slide the rotor/hub off the spindle. Be careful, because there are loose bearings. Set the rotor aside where dirt won't get into the hub.

Get a drain pan ready (I like to use a baking sheet for this). If there's grease or oil remaining in the housing, it will flow out of the bottom bolt holes. You may need a breaker bar to remove these bolts, Rover torque spec is 65Nm.

Slide the spindle off over the CV axle. You can now see the CV joint!

Gently slide the CV axle out. It will just pull straight out. 

If your CV joint is damaged, it might be shattered into metal pieces. That's okay, you'll be able to clean it out later. Just get the big pieces out now.

Remove the 8mm bolt holding the shield on, and remove the shield. You'll need to take the nut off the steering stop bolt- I didn't get a picture. It's self-explanatory.

Remove the upper swivel pin bolts. Be careful with the ABS sensor in the middle. It's not cheap.
I had to use a breaker bar on these bolts. They tend to be seized because of their horizontal orientation, and the torque spec is 78Nm.

Now, remove the 7 12-sided bolts that secure the swivel housing to the axle case. There is not room for a socket to fit on these bolts, which makes their removal somewhat unconventional. I broke the bolts loose with a 12-sided wrench, then used an X-Beam Gearwrench to finish. The ratcheting feature made removal much faster than a conventional wrench. Worth every penny (no, I don't own stock in Gearwrench). LR torque spec on these is 72Nm, but during reassembly I went by feeling because you can't fit a torque wrench here. The key is to tighten them down well, and evenly.

Now we're getting places!

Look at how filthy that housing is! Remove the seven bolts that hold the oil seal retainer plate on.

I spent a good half hour cleaning all the parts in the parts washer. Pay special attention to the mounting surfaces for the oil seals.

If you're installing a new CV joint, transfer the new joint to the stub axle now. I don't have pictures of this, but it's not too hard. Wrap the axle in a towel or something to keep it from getting damaged, and put it in a bench vise. Using a mallet or a small sledge hammer, tap the CV joint off the axle. Then, slide the new one on until it clicks. 

Don't have a parts washer? Harbor Freight sells a  at a price that won't make you feel bad if you use it only occasionally.

Re-assembly is a reversal of teardown. Here are some specific points to pay attention to.

On all gasket mating surfaces, I applied a thin smear of Hylomar. When tightening surfaces with gaskets or seals, pay attention to the torque specifications, and tighten the bolts down in a pattern that allows the surfaces to seal evenly. (for example, top, bottom, side, side- or the star pattern that you use on lug nuts)

To avoid damaging your new  swivel seal, don't install the oil seal until the swivel housing is secured to the axle. Let it hang like this, but be careful that you don't slam the housing against the  swivel and crush the seal.

Tighten the oil seal retainer bolts to 11Nm. Don't overtighten them- it'll cause leaks!

Look how clean it all is! Put your brake shield back on.

Slide your CV axle back in, put the gasket on, and slide the spindle on. Tighten the bolts to 65Nm. Don't forget the mud plate! It's frustrating when you have to undo all the bolts you cranked on just to add a stupid shield.

Make sure that the CV axle is pulled as far out as possible. You can do this with your hands, or if it's stuck, you can screw a bolt into the threaded end and pull. If you don't do this, there will not be room to clip the circlip back onto the axle. The first time I did this, I panicked and thought the CV joint was too short.

If your bearings are even remotely worn, now is the perfect time to replace them. Otherwise, just re-pack them with grease.

Slide the hub and rotor back onto the spindle. Tighten the hub nuts, and using a screwdriver and hammer, bend the lock washer around the nut.

Put the drive member and gasket on, tighten bolts to 65Nm, reinstall circlip.

Don't forget to clean your rotor with brake parts cleaner, otherwise you'll contaminate your pads!

Reinstall the ball joints- torque nuts to 40Nm.

Most importantly, don't forget to fill the swivel housing with grease!

That's it, you're done! (Well, after you put the wheel back on.)

This whole process really isn't too complicated, but it does take some time to do it properly. Enjoy your dry swivel balls- and if you replaced your broken CV joint, enjoy your newly-drivable Rover!

If you found this useful, please like my blog on Facebook! It helps it looks slightly less pathetic.



  1. good writeup very detailed. thank you. took me longer than 5 hours but thats probably just me.

  2. The photos are great!

  3. Thanks for the kind words! Now that the weather is finally getting warmer here, I plan on making some more write-ups like this one.

  4. do you know approximately what this should cost for a mechanic shop to do?

  5. I do not know exact figures, but I'd suspect close to $1000 per side, parts and labor.

    A good place to go to estimate repair costs is I have found it to be pretty accurate in the past.

  6. better than the land rover manual. thanks

  7. In US, Harbor Freight has the Pitman Arm puller for 12 bucks. Also, grab complete swivel ball from junkyard - inspect first. (Or call Roverdude in Cali).
    The whole job is then dirt cheap, and you can repeat if you smash it up again. For those of us who have lots of sand etc, its cheaper and easier to just do it again in a couple of years with complete housings.
    Awesome write up, awesome pics!

  8. I appreciate, because I found exactly what I was looking for. Thanks for sharing useful knowledge.

  9. Very good write up indeed! I hope to use my 2 -1/16" hub nut socket from my jeep adventures...although the Rover socket looks much deeper. If you put the "One Shot" grease into the housing before installing the back plate, the job is less awkward. I have been told that John Deere "Cornhead grease" will work in Rover swilvels - it costs about $4 per tube.... but use the correct Rover grease myself
    I've heard there are 'split' swivel seals available. This would make the job very quick when you don't have to take everything apart for just a seal change.

  10. Great write-up. My brake caliper bolts were 13mm, not 14mm.

  11. Swivel Seal & CV Joint

    Very helpful and clearly explained. Thank you.

    Johann Coetzee, Durban, South Africa

  12. Johann Coetzee, Durban, South Africa

    Nicely explained, clearly set out. Thank you.


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