RCV Axle Shaft Install for Jeep JLU – Full Step by Step Installation and Overview
When it comes to off-roading the durability of your vehicle’s drivetrain is paramount. Weak driveline components can break on the trail, ruining your day and leaving you stranded. One of the weak points in the Jeep JL Rubicon’s drivetrain are the front axle shaft u-joints. Due to their c-clip design and small size, they are prone to breakage – especially when running larger than stock tires and using the front locker. When a front axle u-joint fails it can damage your ball joints and steering knuckles leading to a very costly repair.
Upgrading your axle shafts to Chromoly shafts with larger u-joints is one of the solutions to this problem. There are a few of these options available on the market, but the best upgrade available is the RCV JL axle shaft set.
Unlike u-joints that lose strength as steering angle increases, RCVs use a constant velocity joint that retains 100% of its strength from lock to lock. They are also the only option on the market that can retain the FAD (front axle disconnect) which eliminates vibrations on the highway due to steep front driveshaft angles and improves fuel economy. The JL Dana 44 RCVs use Dana 60 CV joint architecture and are warrantied for up to a 43” tire!
This post will walk you through a step-by-step installation of the RCV JL Dana 44 2-piece Axle Set with FAD. RCV makes axle shafts for the Jeep JK and JL Dana 30 and non-rubicon Dana 44 axles as well.
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Tools & Materials
- 10mm socket
- 13mm socket
- 13mm 12 point socket (⅜” and ½” drive recommended)
- 21mm socket
- 36mm socket
- 5mm allen key
- T30 socket
- Rubber mallet
- Torque wrench
- Impact gun (optional, but recommended)
Step 1. Remove wheel and axle nut
After chocking the rear tires, jack up the front axle of your Jeep and place 2 jack stands under the axle. Remove your front wheels and remove the axle nut using a 36mm socket. The easiest way to do this is using an impact gun. If you do not have one available, start the Jeep and have someone press on the brake pedal while you remove the axle nut using a breaker bar.
Step 2. Remove the brake caliper
Remove the 2 caliper bolts located behind the brake caliper using a 21mm socket. Once the caliper is free, hang it above the axle using a bungee cord, wire, or zip ties. Make sure there is no stress on the rubber brake line.
Step 3. Remove the brake rotor
Remove the rotor retention bolt using a T30 socket, then remove the brake rotor. If the rotor will not come free give it a few light hits with a rubber mallet.
Next, remove the three rotor dust shield bolts using a 10mm socket. Remove the dust shield.
Step 4. Remove the unit bearing
Remove the 3 unit bearing bolts on the backside of the hub using a 13mm 12 point socket. These can be discarded or saved as backups as they will be replaced with bolts supplied by RCV. Use a 5mm allen to remove the ABS sensor. Pull the unit bearing straight out to remove it.
Step 5. Remove the factory axle shaft
Pull the axle shafts straight out of the axle housing. Use a rag with some brake cleaner to clean any dust out of the inside of the axle housing.
Step 6. Remove the FAD coupler and inner axle shaft – passenger side only
The passenger side of the axle has a 2 piece shaft with a coupler in the center. To remove the factory parts, remove the FAD skid (10mm socket), unplug the FAD motor, and remove it using a 13mm socket. Be careful, there may be some differential oil in the FAD housing that will drip out.
Remove the FAD coupler. Spin the inner axle shaft around until you locate the gap in the c-clip on the end of the shaft. Remove it with a set of pliers by pulling on it opposite the gap in the c-clip, straight towards the rear of the vehicle. Slide the inner axle shaft out of the axle housing.
Step 7. Install the new inner axle shaft and FAD coupler
This step only applies to the 2-piece RCV shafts. Slide the new inner axle shaft into the housing. The end without a c-clip ring goes into the differential. Be careful not to damage the seals while installing the axle shaft.
Once the inner shaft is in place, re-install the factory c-clip. Slide the new RCV 300m FAD coupler onto the inner shaft.
Step 8. Prepare the axle shafts for installation
To prepare the RCVs for installation, first, slide the orange rubber CV boot onto the end of the shaft with a small c-clip. Then slide the CV joint onto the shaft. The joint should click into place.
Step 9. Install the axle shafts
Slide the shaft into the axle housing. It may require some force to fit the boot through the housing – a rubber mallet is helpful here.
Once the boot and CV joint are through the knuckle fit the CV boot over the joint. Use a zip tie to break the airlock – this will allow you to slide the boot over the joint without too much effort. If you have trouble, RCV includes a small tool that allows you to use a mallet to hammer the joint into the CV boot.
Step 10. Reinstall the FAD motor
Slide the FAD coupler onto the outer axle shaft (2-piece shafts only). Reinstall the FAD motor, carefully aligning the fork with the FAD coupler. Secure the FAD motor and skid plate with the factory hardware.
Step 11. Reinstall the unit bearing
Place the unit bearing over the splines on the axle shaft. Secure it with the new RCV unit bearing bolts with a 13mm 12 point socket. Torque to spec.
Reinstall the ABS sensor using a 5mm allen.
Step 12. Reinstall the brake assembly
Reinstall the dust shield using a 10mm socket. Be careful not to over-torque these bolts – they are threading into the aluminum knuckle and are prone to being stripped.
Reinstall the rotor, and install the rotor retention bolt using a T30 socket.
Reinstall the caliper using a 21mm socket. Torque to spec.
Step 13. Reinstall the axle nut
Install the axle nut and torque to spec. Having someone else start the engine and step on the brake can be helpful here (make sure both calipers have been reinstalled before doing this).
Reinstall your wheels and tires, lower your Jeep to the ground, and you’re all done! Be sure to double-check the torque on your fasteners after 200 miles and grease your new RCV CV joints using the provided grease every 5000 miles.
The RCV axle shafts provide a massive strength improvement over the factory parts. Now that you’ve replaced the weak factory axle shafts, you can have more confidence in your drivetrain’s durability when running larger tires and using the front locker.
In my experience, RCV parts are very high quality. This installation went smoothly and there were no unexpected surprises or fitment issues. While this install may seem a bit daunting, it really isn’t all that difficult. Just take your time, follow the instructions and make sure to torque all fasteners to spec.