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Old 10-19-2011, 05:45 PM   #1
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Rear Driveshaft/Differential Play

Hello everyone,

I own a 97 TJ, 4.0L, 5spd, Sport Edition. The only changes to my drivetrain from stock would be a small 2" budget boost lift from Quadratec and 31" tires. I bought my Jeep used and it currently has around 138K miles. My mechanic and I have done a lot of work on this rig recently, however we noticed a potential issue. I have fluid coming from my pinion seal on my rear differential. We swapped the seal and fluid but to no avail. Then we realized the driveshaft has a little play in it when in gear with the parking brake off. He said the driveshaft should be solid. He said also that he checked the outer bearing when he swapped the pinion seal and it looked good. His only guess is maybe the inner bearing is no good and we'll have to rip out the guts of the differential to swap this out. Anyone have any experience with this or have any idea of how exactly to fix the problem? The Jeep is currently driving ok now, but I don't want to keep losing fluid. Also does anyone know exactly what rear differential and gears come stock on these 4.0L TJ's in case I can find a used one to swap out? Please help!

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Old 10-19-2011, 06:13 PM   #2
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that's a PITA, check and see if your gear tag is there first off there are several gear sets that came in jeeps also you need to determine if you have a d30 or d44 rear. if there is no gear tag you'll have to remove the cover count gears and do some math to determine your gear ratio ring gear tooth count divided by pinion gear count equals gear ratio should end up with 3.07, 3.55, 3.73, or 4.10 also if your rear gear tag is missing check the front the gearing will be the same front and rear, if not you have bigger problems anyhow.

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Old 10-19-2011, 06:56 PM   #3
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If you are talking about rotational play on the driveshaft and pinion shaft, that is 100% normal. That is due to the normal and required backlash (slop) between the ring & pinion gears.
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Old 10-19-2011, 11:44 PM   #4
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I'll check my tags on the differentials when I have a chance. It's pouring now here in CT. Unfortunately the play in the driveshaft is not rotational. This is a slight up and down play when you push on the shaft going into the rear differential. It seems to be the culprit as to why I'm continuing to leak fluid from the area of my pinion seal even after it was just replaced. As I said before, my mechanic checked the outer bearing when changing the pinion seal and it was ok, but he seems to think the inner bearing could be worn. He also said there is a way to adjust how tight the two bearings are together in the differential. Since he tightened them, the amount of play in the shaft is reduced, but not gone. If anyone with experience on this issue could lend some advice, please let me know! Thanks!
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Old 10-20-2011, 08:34 AM   #5
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I looked up the install/removal for the rear diff assembly and there is a spacer sleeve over the shaft of the pinion gear between the inner and outer bearings. it would appear to me that if this is whopped out that it would give you the up down slop you are talking about.
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Old 10-20-2011, 09:22 AM   #6
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if he tightened things up to get rid of the play, you might have a pinion depth issue now. this is assuming that the pinion nut didn't come loose before he tightened it. if the pinion bearings are worn, then you will hear them howl on acceleration and the noise will go away when you get off the gas. if you have the howl, it's time to replace the pinion bearings. if you're in there for that, you might as well change the carrier bearings too. it's not too tough, just time consuming.
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Old 10-20-2011, 04:40 PM   #7
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He did say the nut was a little loose before he tightened it. I think also unfortunately I do have this howl you spoke of on acceleration. My mechanic assured me that I wouldn't run into an issue with my shaft falling out or anything, but I am losing fluid and I don't want something more serious to go wrong. What type of issue's could I run into in the near future? Money is very tight. Just bought a house, but need to button this up before the winter. I wonder how costly a fix this would be in parts? My mechanic not only works on my Jeep, he's also my father in law, lol! Lots of help on labor costs! Let me know, thanks!
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Old 10-21-2011, 04:11 AM   #8
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I was finally able to find some numbers on my differentials, not sure what they mean. If anyone can help they are as follows:

Rear Differential: 4322 5, 212 6, REV H, 04 18 96 and a tag that had numbers 521147586, 07 5856, there may have been a few additional numbers on the tag, but it was too rusted up to make them out. Also on the base of the differential, near the pinion seal, I saw the numbers 46587 AY.

The Front Differential had numbers: 40869-1, 219-6, REV-S, 110895.

If anyone knows how to identify these numbers to let me know what type and size differentials and gears I may have, I would really appreciate it. Thanks!
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Old 10-23-2011, 01:27 PM   #9
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I snapped a pic of the rear differential. I think it's a Dana 35. Please let me know what you guys think! Thanks!

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Old 12-22-2012, 05:13 AM   #10
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Just in case anyone cared, my rear differential was obviously a Dana 35. Stock in most TJ Wrangler's besides the Rubicon's. The play in my driveshaft that only kept reoccurring every couple hundred miles after tightening everything up was indeed the pinion bearings. They were absolutely shot. The spider gears showed some play in themselves as well. Ended up buying another rear end with a supposed 72K original miles and the same 3.07 gearing. The exterior of the rear end I bought looked terrible compared to mine but the internals were in much better shape. Had my father in-law mechanic swap over all the guts. Came out well. Rear sounds and functions 10 times better. No more play in the shaft! Problem solved, for now! Lol!
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Old 12-22-2012, 07:26 AM   #11
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Glad you found the problem and was able to fix it.

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