DIY : CV Axle Shaft Replacement (Acura RSX)
NOTE: From what I've seen, it looks like the job is the same no matter what specific year or trim of RSX you have, but just in case, this guide is based off of my '02 base automatic.
CV axles on a front-wheel drive car are known to make a grumbling noise when they've worn out, and one way to make diagnosing this easiest is to turn your steering wheel to full lock in either direction and drive in a circle to put maximum stress on the joints. A joint that has really passed it can also be felt by wiggling the shaft with your hand while it's still installed, but it can be hard to tell that way because there's going to be a little bit of natural slop in even a new joint despite being greased well enough within the rubber boots that you don't hear the metal moving around while driving. So if you're getting a grumbling while making sharp turns, it's usually the CV joints.
Tools and Parts Needed:
- New axles (OEM or Raxles are recommended for stock swaps, but they are costly)
- Floor jack
- Jack stands
- Breaker bar or impact wrench
- Needle nose pliers
- Ball joint separator ($19 at Harbor Freight)
- Penetrating fluid (I'm partial to Loctite Freeze & Release I got from Advance Auto)
- Pry bar or sturdy flat head screw driver
- Hammer and small block of wood
- 12, 14, 19, and 32 mm sockets
- Short extension
- Wobble bit may help with half shaft bolts
- Center punch
Step 1: Remove the Axle Nut
How you go about doing this depends on whether you have an impact gun. I got an electric gun from Harbor Freight that has been great for me on many jobs. Penetrating fluid and/or heat may have been needed in some cases, but I have yet to run into something that absolutely required a proper air gun.
If you have an impact gun: with the car on the ground, start by loosening the 19 mm lug nuts. Make sure the handbrake is set, then jack up the front of the car and set the strengthened parts of the pinch welds on jack stands. With the wheel removed, it's as simple as zipping off the 32 mm axle nut with the impact.
If you don't have an impact gun, you need a breaker bar (or a ratchet with a long pipe over the handle for leverage): crack loose the 19 mm lug nuts and then jack up the front of the car just enough to get the wheels off the ground. Take the wheel off, pop out the hub cap, then reinstall the wheel and set it back down on the ground. Here you're using the weight of the car and the friction of the tires to keep the hub still while you use a breaker bar and 32 mm socket with extension to crack the axle nut loose - don't be afraid to stand on the breaker bar, as these can be stubborn. Now you can jack the car back up and set the lift points on jack stands.
Step 2: Disconnect the Ball Joint from the Lower Control Arm
*NOTE: This step is especially specific to an RSX because of its MacPherson Strut front suspension. Depending on your own car's style of suspension, there will be different bolts you can undo to allow the hub to move outward and give you the room to free the axle. Even with the RSX you have two options. One is to undo the two large bolts at the bottom of the shock itself. It's technically the easier option, but that's also where the camber is set on these cars, so you run the risk of upsetting your alignment. The second option with an RSX is to follow along below. However, my old Accord used a double wishbone setup up front and was a lot easier to work with: there is simply one bolt holding the bottom of the strut onto the lower control arm you have to undo. Take some time to look around your suspension to see what's best for your car, as well as checking online to see how the camber and toe are aligned so you don't go messing with that if you can avoid it.
Use needle nose pliers to pull the cotter pin from the castle nut (it's an odd, sprung, style, careful it doesn't go flying), then break the nut loose with a 17 mm socket. Do not completely remove the nut; unscrew it just enough to where the edge of the nut is flush with the end of the ball joint stud. This is to prevent damaging the threads or stud, which is easy enough to do when trying to break the ball joint loose.
Sometimes a solid whack or three with a small sledge hammer on the control arm around the stud will knock it loose. But when that fails, you need a ball joint separator. Penetrating fluid, such as PB Blaster or some type of rust 'freeze and release' helps. Once it's cracked, remove the nut.
So now you've got the bushings in the LCA fighting your springs, keeping the ball joint in place. The easiest way to separate them is to use your floor jack with a block of wood to jack up the hub a bit, then take a hammer (dead blow is best in this case, if you have one) down on the control arm. Be careful, as the spring may throw your jack out from under the car once the stud is free of the control arm.
*In the second image below, you can see the two camber alignment bolts I mentioned earlier as another option; the rubber brake line runs right next to them.
Step 3: Pull Out the CV Axle
Use your hammer (again, dead blow preferred) to knock the threaded end of the axle out of the hub/steering knuckle. If you're having trouble with this, try jacking the hub up again with your block of wood.
The driver side axle should pull from the transmission very easily, if not with a little help from a pry bar or flat head screw driver. The passenger side tends not to be so willing. If the pry bar doesn't release the axle easily (the inboard end is female here), you're going to have to remove the half/intermediate shaft. Don't try and pry hard on it to avoid this extra step, you'll just ruin the half-shaft bearing (which also might be a wise part to replace at this point, if you have other means to get to a shop with a press). First there are three 12 mm bolts securing the heat shield, then three 14 mm bolts holding the shaft mount to the engine block. My photo below is laid out to show you where to locate all of these. Once the six bolts are out, the axle and half shaft slip easily from the transmission as one unit.
Now to separate the CV joint from the half shaft. Here you see I angled a block of wood into the gap, and hammered on that to push the axle away from the shaft. Some people lay a socket in there sideways and hammer on it to wedge the two apart; personally I don't like the risk of damage to the parts or my tools.
From here, press the new passenger side axle onto the half shaft, then slide both axle assemblies into the transmission, and continue to retrace your steps for reassembly. Remember to use your center punch to punch a new dip in the axle nut to keep it from accidentally walking itself out, should for whatever reason it come loose.
Step 4: Torque to Spec
- Axle nut: 134 lb-ft
- Wheel studs: 80 lb-ft