The Dodge Caravan has been a front-wheel drive minivan since its inception. Front-wheel drive vehicles all employ constant velocity (CV) drive axles that bridge the connection from the transmission to the front wheels. The inner and outer bearings of the CV joint axle are packed with lubricating grease and covered with rubber boots to protect the bearings from contaminants -- such as road debris, dirt and grime. Being made of rubber, the boots often fail after time due to exposure. This allows the contaminants to compromise the bearings.
Removing the CV Axle
The replacement of the CV axle is much easier with the vehicle lifted on a suspension lift. With the minivan in neutral and the steering wheel unlocked, removal of the front tire and then caliper assembly will be required. Remove the entire caliper assembly with pads intact to save a step. Be sure to support the caliper assembly to the coil spring so it does not incur damage to the rubber brake hose.
The disconnection of the lower ball joint and outer tie rod end will also be required to allow free movement of the steering knuckle. For Caravans that employ speed sensors, remove the wire harness from the knuckle connection as well.
Remove the cotter pin and castle-headed nut lock from the CV spindle. Next, remove the spring washer and the hub nut. This will require a large socket and breaker bar or a pneumatic gun. To separate the CV axle spindle from the steering knuckle, thread the hub nut back onto the spindle so it's exposing a few threads at the top. Tap on the nut with a large rubber mallet until the splines of the spindle separate from the adjoining knuckle.
At this point, it's wise to place a drain bucket beneath the transaxle side of the CV joint connection to catch trickling transaxle fluid that will leak out once the connection of the axle to transmission is separated.
Because the tie rod end and ball joint connections have been separated, you'll be able to manipulate the knuckle from the CV axle spindle. This requires determination and having an assistant would be helpful.
Once the outer spindle connection of the CV axle is free from the knuckle, you'll need a large pry bar to disengage the inner tri-pot joint out of the transaxle and remove the CV axle from the transmission. This is where some fluid will leak into the drain bucket.
Installing the New CV Axle
To install the new axle, start with the inner connection to the transaxle so that the inner joint circlip seats in the transaxle side gear. An audible click of the circlip should be heard and then test the connection by trying to pull out on the axle by hand. There will be a little free-play in the axle, but if the circlip is seated, you will not be able to disconnect the axle without the aide of the pry bar.
Next, align the splines of the outer CV axle spindle to the grooves in the steering knuckle. Do not force this connection. Rotate the axle by hand until the splines align properly to the groove. Reconnect the remaining components by reversing the procedure.
Be sure to torque the hub nut, outer tie rod end nut and ball joint retaining nut to the proper torque specifications of your specific year Caravan. Since the Caravan has been around for quite a while and has employed different engine sizes, there may be a slight variance in the torque specs. A quality repair manual for the specific year and design of your Caravan will display the correct torque specs.
Last, replace the wheel and then check and adjust the level of the transaxle fluid. Although only a little may have trickled out by the disconnection, the fluid should be topped off to capacity.
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