Change a CV Axle and Front Wheel Bearing on a 2001 4X4 Dodge Dakota

Four wheel drive trucks have a lot of front wheel drive parts that require occasional maintenance to keep your truck safe and reliable on the road. Here are instructions to help you change your CV (constant velocity) axle and front wheel bearings on a Dodge Dakota.


Deciding if the work is needed

  1. Troubleshoot your front wheel drive system to determine if maintenance is needed. You can do the following steps to decide if the parts are worn enough to need replacing.
  2. Look underneath the truck between the wheels and the front differential to see if any visible damage is evident. Leaking CV joint boots, bent parts, or oil leaks are indicators of problems.
  3. Drive the truck on a smooth surface with the windows down, listening for clicking, grinding, or other unusual noises from the front of your truck. You may have someone walk beside you in an empty parking lot while you drive slowly and steer the vehicle hard to the left and right.
  4. Jack up the front end of your truck and shake the wheels to see if any play is evident. The wheels should be tight so that you are not able to shake them to the left and right or up and down. Use jack stands to be safe during this check.
  5. Rotate the tires while they are off the ground, listening and feeling for anything unusual. They should rotate without noticeable sound or vibrations.
  6. Rock the wheels back and forth and listen for sounds from the CV joints. These may make a knocking or clicking sound if there is slack in them. They may also grind if severely worn parts are present.
  7. Have a mechanic do the inspection if you have any doubts, since the parts needed for this project cost several hundred dollars. His advice may help you prevent unneeded repairs, and he may also be able to point out other parts that need attention.

Buy the needed parts

  1. Make a list of the parts you need to complete the project. Since some parts may not be available off the shelf at your local auto parts supplier, checking availability before starting will save time, or at least prevent having an undriveable truck in the driveway for an extended period.
  2. Write down the information on your truck before going shopping. Having the truck's information will help your auto parts supplier find the right parts for the job. The example here is a Dodge Dakota Sport, 2001 model, with a {{safesubst:#invoke:convert|convert}} V-8 and 5 speed manual transmission. It also has four wheel antilock brakes, which does make a difference in the front wheel bearing hub assembly. You may be able to find all the information for your vehicle by the VIN number if your parts supplier has access to that database.
  3. Choose the quality of the parts you want to use. For severe use, using premium quality parts will be worthwhile, but if you are shopping for economy, selecting a store brand can save over 50%. Make sure the parts are built to OEM specifications, however, so they are safe to use and fit properly.

Doing the work

  1. Jack up the truck and set it on jack stands, making sure the wheels are blocked to prevent it from rolling.
  2. Remove the wheel from the side you are working one. You may want to loosen the lug nuts before jacking the truck if you don't have an impact wrench for the lug nuts.
  3. Remove the cotter pin from the axle shaft at the center of the hub. Next, loosen the axle nut a half turn so it can be removed later. You may need a helper to hold the front brake while loosening the axle nut.
  4. Remove the brake caliper. There are two studs behind the caliper, these can be removed with an Allen wrench, either {{safesubst:#invoke:convert|convert}}. Back the studs out, and remove the tension spring from the front of the caliper, then pry the pads back slightly from the brake rotor. Now the caliper can be slid off and tied back out of the way.
  5. Remove the brake rotor. Make sure you do not get grease or oil on its friction surfaces.
  6. Remove the axle nut. Most are a {{safesubst:#invoke:convert|convert}} nut, and a socket is needed to remove it. If the nut will not turn without spinning the axle, use a long pry bar between two lug studs to keep it stationary.
  7. Remove the hub bearing assembly. There are three bolts that secure it to the knuckle, they can be removed with a 14 mm (9/16 inch) wrench, but they are very tight, so a cheater pipe may be needed to break them loose. If the hub has an anti lock brake sensor, either disconnect the plug and remove the clips that secure the cable, or if you are replacing the hub, just cut the wire for the time being. If the hub is stuck tight, bump it and pry it out with a large screwdriver or pry bar.
  8. Remove the upper ball joint from the knuckle or unbolt it from the upper control (A) arm. This will allow the knuckle to be dropped out of the way for removal of the CV axle. Be aware the three bolts that secure the ball joint to the upper control arm have self locking nuts so the threads may be damaged if they are removed. Since these ball joints are critical to the safety of the vehicle, you should seriously consider replacing them, especially considering the relatively low cost of these parts.
  9. Pull the CV axle off of the differential side shaft. The axle should slide off easily if the splines are not damaged, if it doesn't, you may have to use a slide hammer to persuade it. If a slide hammer is needed, be sure to carefully inspect the side shaft at the differential and replace it if needed.
  10. Remove the oil seal at the side shaft if you are replacing it. You can use a seal removal tool, or a flat blade screwdriver to pry it out.
  11. Install the new oil seal at the side shaft. Put a dab of gasket adhesive around the outer ring of the seal, and a small dab of grease or gear oil on the inner ring to prevent damage and leaks.
  12. Slide the new CV axle over the side shaft on the differential. A little bit of gear oil on the splines will allow it to slide on easily.
  13. Guide the outer end of the axle through the center hole in the knuckle. You may want to wrap the splines with a rag or paper towel to protect them from damage while positioning it.
  14. Install the new hub bearing assembly. You will need to carefully center the CV axle splines through the hub assembly. Reinstall the three bolts that secure the assembly to the knuckle. These bolts must be torqued to the correct specifications, usually {{safesubst:#invoke:convert|convert}} pounds. Do not use an impact wrench to install these bolts.
  15. Reinstall (or install a new) the upper ball joint. If you reinstall the original upper ball joint, check the bolts to make sure there is no damage to the threads, if there is, you will need to use new bolts the same size and strength, with locking nuts. You may find you need a helper to position the upper control arm so the bolts in the ball joint line up. Tighten these bolts securely.
  16. Replace the brake rotor. Make sure you check the surfaces to be sure they are not warped, pitted, or damaged in any way. They should be smooth and shiny, with not discoloration that would indicate heat damage.
  17. Reinstall the brake caliper. Be sure the mounting studs are threaded correctly, as they have very fine threads that can be cross threaded if care is not taken. Install the brake spring on the outside of the caliper being sure it is centered so it will not run the rotor.
  18. Install the antilock sensor cable, anchoring it to the brake fluid line and frame in the same locations the previous cable was anchored, if you have replaced the wheel bearing hub assembly and your vehicle is equipped with four wheel antilock brakes.
  19. Install the CV axle nut and tighten it securely. You can check the vehicle's specifications for this nut, but at least make sure it is tightened securely. Replace the cotter pin in the end of the axle when the nut is tight.
  20. Put your tire back on the truck and tighten the lug nuts. Remove the jack stands and lower the vehicle to the ground. You can now retighten any bolts or lug nuts that turned while the wheel was off the ground.
  21. Test drive the vehicle, making sure the steering feels tight, and there are no unusual sounds from the new parts which could indicate improper installation or other damaged parts.
  22. Return any parts which had a core charge to the retailer you purchased them from, for a refund of the core charge. If you bought new parts, there may not be a core charge applied, so the old parts can be recycled or discarded.
== Tips ==
  • Check the drive train including the front drive shaft, differential, and transfer case while the vehicle is jacked up to determine if these parts need attention.
  • Use air wrenches where possible to make this task easier.
  • Do this work on a concrete floor, or place plywood or another material underneath the vehicle to keep the working conditions cleaner and to avoid losing parts.
  • Use quality replacement parts for the best service and safety.


  • If in doubt, consult or have a trained mechanic do this work, since it involves both steering and braking components of your vehicle.
  • Never work underneath a vehicle unless it is properly supported.
  • Replace all worn and defective parts to make your driving safer and more enjoyable.

Things You'll Need

  • Wrenches to fit fasteners described in the article.
  • New parts that match the parts being replaced.
  • Lubricants and gasket adhesives described in the the steps.
  • Jack and jack stands to lift and support the vehicle.

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