Camry Transaxle Repair

This was more of a replacement than repair of a 1995 LE.

Parts were obtained on-line from a wholesale parts vendor.

The drivers side was done first.

Remove the axle nut that holds the wheel hub to the wheel side of the old transaxle. This nut is visible after the hub cap is removed. This nut has a skirt and a cotterpin through the axle shaft. Remove the cotter pin and skirt.

I used a 30mm impact socket I had purchased at a NAPA store some years ago. This half inch drive socket was used with a half inch drive breaker bar to remove the nut. The nut and axle was treated with WD-40 and penetrating oil the day before attempting to remove the nut. After standing on the end of the breaker bar handle, using the car fender for ballance, and jumping up and down on the handle a dozen times, the nut finally came loose.

The passenger side was just even more difficult. It took a 10 foot section of pipe acting as a cheater bar on the breaker bar to loosen the nut.

If you decide to do this job youself, attempt to remove the axel nuts before you order parts. If you can’t get the axle nuts off, you will need to have the work done at an automotive shop.

CAUTION: Do not attempt to remove the axle nuts if the wheel has been removed. Trying to do that will severely damage the transmission. You need the friction of the tire against pavement and the weight of the car on the tire to act against the pull of the wrench.

Yes, you can save about $250 per axle if you do it yourself but that assumes you can complete the job. Parts cost about $170 for both driver and passenger side axles. Replacement of both sides at an automotive shop will run around $500. If you buy the parts and then find you can’t do the work, it may cost you $670.

Jack up the car as though changing the front tire. Raise it up a little higher than normal so you can put a jack stand under the car at the point where you used the jack. Take the stress off the lifting jack but leave it in place.

Next you have to remove the wheel. Place the wheel under the front end of the car so that if it should slip off jack stand and jack, the tire will cushion its fall.

You might get by with leaving the disk brake caliper in place but to be on the safe side I removed it. It is held on by two bolts. Use wire to support the caliper out of the way. Don’t stress the hydraulic hose and don’t disconnect the hydraulic hose.

This would be an excellent time to replace disk brake pads.

Remove the two nuts and bolt holding the lower ball joint bracket to the frame support. Use a jack to raise the wheel bearing hub against the strut so you can let the ball joint bracket studs clear their mounting holes. Then swing the wheel hub assembly out and away from the ball bearing frame support.

The axle shaft is splined and fits into splines in the wheel hub assembly. These parts may be stuck due to rust or corrosioin. Re-install the wheel nut backwards on the shaft and try to disloge the shaft with a mallet. The nut protects the shaft. The shafts might be rebuildable. The nut is not reusable. If this does not work, you will need to use a wheel puller to remove the shaft from the hub.

If you have not yet done so, drain the transmission of oil. If the car is old enough to do this repair, it is also old enough to have a transmission fluid change. Dexron-II Otherwise you may have the fluid leak out when you pull the axles.

Remember we are working on the driver side of the car for now. On this side the transaxle shaft is held into the tranmission with a C-ring mounted into a groove in the transmission end of the shaft assembly. Removal is done by leveraging the shaft hub against the transmission case with a screwdriver or crowbar and giving it a yank.

It did not come out, did it? There is not enough room to work under the car and there is not enough area on the axle hub to get a good hold. Besides, you don’t want to bring the car down on your head.

I ended up buying a 5 lb slide hammer to help the situation. Turns out it was close to worthless in the removal but made installation easy.

I ended up making a tool out of angle iron. I used a grinder to profile the angle iron to fit the curvature of the axle hub. The axle hub has grooves that act as stops for a clamp made from the angle iron. I used all thread stock and appropriate nuts to fit the all thread to make fasteners for each side of the angle iron clamps so that I could securely clamp the tool around the hub. Then I used a crowbar brought in from the front of the car, placed it between the transmission case housing and the angle iron tool and removed the axle with one snap. When you have two solid surfaces to brace against, you don’t need much room to accomplish this task.

Getting the new axle installed was just as much fun. Supposedly you can just slam the transmission end of the axle home and it will seat. My axle just kept bouncing back out of the mounting.

I finally ended up using my homemade clamping tool again. I cut a groove into the end of a one inch pipe. This grooved end was fitted into the center of the angle iron tool. The 5 lb slide hammer was placed at the far end of the pipe. Several good smacks later and the shaft had seated. I am pretty sure it was seated because I could not pull it out.

Now you thread the wheel end of the shaft through the wheel hub and manhandle the assembly back into place so you can re-install the bolt and nuts holding the lower ball joint.

Almost done now with this side. Reinstall the brake caliper and wheel. Torque the nut to spec. Install the nut retainer and cotter pin. Go do the passenger side.

The wheel end of the passenger side axle is the same as the driver side. The transmission side is completely different. This side uses an intermediate bearing, bolt and retaining ring to keep the shaft in place at the transmission. This bearing may freeze into its housing, complicating service. The bracket holding this bearing may need to be removed if this should happen. Not sure how complicated bracket removal might be. It looks like the same bracket holds the engine to the frame.

In my case the bearing came out easily after the retaining ring was removed. My car used a retaining ring that was formed from a section of square wire. It had one inch ears at its ends. It was very easy to compress the ring by using pliers to squeese the ears together and allow the ring to dislodge.

The replacement shaft was equipped with a standard C-clip that had been pressed out of sheet steel. These conventional clips have ears that have holes to accomodate C-ring pliers. That works great in cases where you can get c-ring pliers to compress and hold the ring for removal and installation. This is NOT one of those situations. There is not enough room between the bearing housing and the CV bearing case to use snap-ring pliers.

I discarded the newly provided snap-ring and reused the old snap-ring.

Installation is a matter of inserting the shaft into the transmission, seating the intermediate bearing, and installing the retaining ring. The bearing housing also has a screw extending below it. This screw should be torqued to 24 foot-lbs but it is not sufficient to retain the shaft. Without the retaining ring, the shaft will pull out of the transmission.

The easiest way to install the retaining ring is to compress the ears with locking pliers. Grasp the very ends of the ears and compress them until they are closed tightly against eachother. This is with the ring in place around the shaft. Now carefully pass the transmission end of the shaft through the bearing mount and into the transmission. Push the shaft in firmly, rotate back and forth to make sure it is seated and engaged. Now very carefully move the compressed ring with the locking pliers in place to the milled out area on the upper left side of the bearing mount. Ensure that ring is flush against the bearing all the way around and release the locking pliers to let the ring expand and seat in the groove provided in the mount.

Reinstall the lower ball joint mount. It is not as easy as it sounds, is it? Before you put the ball joint mount back you have to thread the wheel side of the axle through the axle hub. Depending on how much ‘bounce’ is left in your strut this can be a little tricky. You need to jack up the bottom of the ball joint and when you try that the ball joint/wheel hub/strut assembly will have a tendancy to move away from its destination.

I finally had to use my trusty come-a-long. One end fixed to the car frame on the drivers side and the other end hooked to the brake caliper mounting hole. Now the ball joint mount could be jacked without risking damage to the drive shaft.

I did not have as much trouble with the drivers side axle replacement. Perhaps the strut on that side was weaker.

Once the ball joint mount was installed the brake caliper needed to be reinstalled. Turns out the brake shoe was worn down to the point where it would not seat properly in the caliper. New shoes were bought and installed on both sides. If you have more than 10k miles on your brake shoes, plan on replacing them as a matter of fact.

Everything was put back together, fluid levels topped off, and the car test driven. The only problem was a leak at the drivers side transaxle where the axle enters the transmission. I suspect that I need to remove the drivers side axle again, pull the old seal, install a new seal, and reinstall the axle with a new retainer ring.

That probably will not happen this week or even next week.

So, moral of this mess is that if you decide to replace the transaxles, plan on doing the brakes, and replacing the transaxle seals at the same time. Might as well throw in an oil change too. You are going to get dirty rolling around on the concrete beneath the car, might as well get as much use out of the inconvenience as possible.

So, did we save $250 per axle? Perhaps only half that since we still have to fix the oil leak on the drivers side but we also saved $70 bucks on a brake job (front discs only) and $20 bucks on an oil change.

Hint: Don’t go to a car parts place to buy oil, go to Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart has decent prices on gasoline too.

Explore posts in the same categories: Cars, Fuel, and Money

One Comment on “Camry Transaxle Repair”

  1. admin Says:

    The day following this repair the car was driven to Austin and back. The day after its return from Austin it was checked for leaks. No leaks were found. Miraculous? No, just overly pessimistic and faulty diagnosis.


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