Truck Axle Seals Made Easier
Mar 17, 2013
Removing axle seals from truck hubs, or from large drivetrain components on tractors, combines and other large equipment, is annoying. It's a simple concept complicated by the sheer size and weight of the components.
A lot of large axle seals get removed by amateur (and professional) mechanics using a large punch to reach through the hub from the backside to drive out the seal. It takes a long, long punch, it's clumsy due to the size and thickness of the hub, and there's risk that the tip of the punch will mar the hub during the process. I've also used a long pry bar or crowbar to pry seals from hubs---and risked similar damage to the hub.
Improvised tools often lead to collateral damage. I've learned that frustration, impatience and escalating violence often magnify the damage related to the use of improvised tools. There also seems to be a parallel increase in the incidence of busted knuckles, bloody fingers and other bandage-worthy injuries related to the use of improvised tools, but...that's a topic for a future blog.
Fortunately, tool manufacturers make a number of special tools to speed and simplify removal of large seals. Most are designed to hook the seal and pry it out of the hub, reducing the chances of marring the hub where the seal seats. You can do a Google search for the following tools to visualize what I'm talking about. An OTC 4508 seal removal tool works well for most automotive projects, and last week it was adequate for me to remove a large semi-truck seal. Different manufacturers offer that design of tool with various size heads and with handles of different lengths. Depending on size and durability, that sort of seal removal tool sells for $10 to $40.
If I worked in a truck shop and frequently removed big seals from big hubs or housings, I think I'd invest in something like an OTC 5058 seal remover. It's got a big, sturdy head with a 3-foot-long handle to provide lots of leverage. But I'd have to remove a lot of seals to justify its retail price of $110 to $140.
Of course, $140 is considerably less than the cost of a visit to the emergency room for stitches, or the cost of replacing an entire hub because somebody's improvised tool didn't work exactly as hoped for.