1966 Chevy El Camino Rear Axle - CHP Step By Step Swappin' Sticks
Superior Axle Gets Us Rollin'
From the February, 2009 issue of Chevy High Performance
By Sean Haggai
Photography by Sean Haggai
When it came time to upgrade the brakes on our project '66 El Camino, we hit a stumbling block. During a quick test fit with the 15-inch Vintage Wheelworks rollers after rotating the tires, we learned they weren't rotating true, which ultimately showed us that the axles were bent and needed to be replaced. Rather than a one-off or custom piece, we wanted something that would simply swap into place, and Superior Axle in Rancho Cucamonga, California, had the answer to our needs.
All we had to do was supply them with the year, body style, and rearend type, and from there they recommended a set of axles for our particular application. However, we didn't realize that the original rearend had been replaced with a later style 10-bolt, making the first set of axles we got a tad too short. We learned from our mistake, measured the old ones, and made sure we got the correct length the second time around.
How was the install? It's no joke: We literally swapped the axles in a couple of hours and quite honestly, it's almost criminal how easy the swap was. It only required minimal handtools and since we didn't have a bearing/sealer puller/installer, we rented that from our local parts store. Follow along as we show just how easy it is to remove the bent axles and slide in the new ones.
What We DidExchanged our bent axles
A couple hours will have you driving straight and you don't even need a lift
$240 for axles; $14 for Royal Purple gear oil
We started our swap by getting...
We started our swap by getting the rearend up on jackstands, then removed the rear tires and chocked the front tires. Next we took a 1/2-inch socket and removed the 10 bolts from the rear differential cover. We did leave one bolt in, loose, so the cover wouldn't fall off while we pried it away and, with a drip pan, drained all the old fluid.
Next, we located the set bolt...
Next, we located the set bolt by rotating the tires, which spun the gears. We then used a 1/2-inch box wrench to loosen the bolt. It's this bolt that keeps the pin from dropping out of the spider gears and gives you access to the axle clips.
It's important to know that...
It's important to know that once the pin was removed, we couldn't spin the axles or the gears. If we had, the spider gears would have fallen out. With that in mind, we carefully removed the pin and made sure not to turn the gears. Once the pin is out, we had access to the C-clips.
The C-clips were the last...
The C-clips were the last line of defense preventing us from being able to remove the axles. They are located in a notch toward the end of the axle. Using needle-nose pliers, we pulled both of them out and set them aside.
With both C-clips removed,...
With both C-clips removed, the axles will slide right out with a quick jerk from the hub. If the axle's seals have been replaced recently, take care not to slide the axle splines over the seals, as the seals could rip or tear, causing them to leak fluids.
In our case, however, the...
In our case, however, the seals were junk and we needed to replace them with a fresh set. To do so, we guided in our puller, and removed the old set of bearings and seals.
In its stock configuration,...
In its stock configuration, our new axles from Superior were 301/8-inches long. While they are stock replacements, these are 30 percent stronger than the factory counterparts and feature a 31-spline configuration with the C-clip notch. They also come with your choice of press-in studs or thread-in lug nut studs.
With our rented tools, we...
With our rented tools, we set in our new bearings and seals. The inside of the axlehousing is "stepped" and the bearing will only go that far. Then, we pressed in our seal.
Before we slid the new axles...
Before we slid the new axles in, we gave them a quick cleaning to brush off any surface dirt from shipping. We used Brake Kleen in aerosol form to rinse them off and then blew them dry with an air hose. As we began to slide the axles in, we were careful not to slam the splines in through the spider gears. The splines must line up, so we took our time and nudged them in gently, all the while being careful not to turn the gearset.
With the axles in, we could...
With the axles in, we could reinstall the C-clips for each axle. Next, we slid the pin back in through the spider gears and locked it down with the set bolt using our 1/2-inch box wrench.
To complete our build, we...
To complete our build, we threw on a new gasket, bolted the cover back on, and topped off the rearend with 75W90 Royal Purple gear fluid.