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2003 Sierra differential


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MarineGrunt
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Apr 4, 2013, 7:35 AM

Post #1 of 143 (2704 views)
2003 Sierra differential Sign In

Hope everyone is doing well. I've been working a lot of hours but finally finished up that job. It's kind of a good thing it ended since my diff finally went.

2003
GMC
Sierra
1/2 ton
ext. cab
4x4
4.8
83,000

I'm not sure if you guys remember, but when I bought the truck, the spider gears had some chips or chunks out of them. At the time I didn't notice any issues so it was recommended to leave it alone. The day before yesterday, as I was pulling out of the local IGA, I notice a clunk. I kind of thought I might've just hit a pothole. Yesterday I really started feeling and hearing a clunk or chatter. It's bad enough to where the truck will move but is not drivable. I pulled the diff cover off and there were a bunch of metal shavings and chunks on the magnet. Looking inside the carrier I can see it's the top and bottom spider gears. They are absolutely toast. Everything else seems to look okay. One thing that confuses me is if you look in the very back of the diff, right about where you fill the gear oil, you can see a washer sitting loose in there! Where the hell did that come from? It's in a spot where you can pull it out because there's no room. The only thing I can think of is it's off the back of the pinion.

I guess my question is what route should I go? I can buy the spider gears. That route seems to be the least expensive. I also found some great tutorials on how to rebuild a diff, set lashing, etc. The tutorials show pictures of every step. After reading through it I'm confident I could do it. I've heard about the Truetrack. I guess you just swap the carrier. Another route is just buying a used rear end.

I'm leaning towards just replacing the spider gears, bearings, and seals. I like diving into stuff and learning.

What do you guys think?


Tom Greenleaf
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Apr 4, 2013, 7:53 AM

Post #2 of 143 (2681 views)
Re: 2003 Sierra differential Sign In

I know you could do it MG but it might be a waste. Check out a whole good used one is my suggestion for now. Make sure it's the exact same with same gear ratio and any features if you do that.

Others may have other ideas or exacting info on it. May need to know more about exactly which one,

T



Hammer Time
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Apr 4, 2013, 8:01 AM

Post #3 of 143 (2673 views)
Re: 2003 Sierra differential Sign In

It sounds like the spider gear broke off some teeth. Now you have to open it up ASAP and pray those loose parts didn't get caught in the ring and pinion and damaged them. Spider gears are no big deal but they can damage a lot of stuff by driving it that way.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We offer help in answering questions, clarifying things or giving advice but we are not a substitute for an on-site inspection by a professional.



Tom Greenleaf
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Apr 4, 2013, 8:32 AM

Post #4 of 143 (2666 views)
Re: 2003 Sierra differential Sign In

Have to admit so few were ever a problem I can only speak for grease seals and outer bearing when possible. GMs used to use the axle as the bearing race. N/A but some Fords used a removable carrier that could eat bearings - not that hard on those.

Just one totally replaced as person backed into something and actually bent the housing! Used one did fine on that one. As HT said if this is really trashed your efforts may be wasted.

I'm lost as I can't even know for sure how to tell without wild work if it's hopeless now or not. Were too cheap used to fuss with as I said if trashed and almost none failed,

T



MarineGrunt
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Apr 4, 2013, 8:51 AM

Post #5 of 143 (2661 views)
Re: 2003 Sierra differential Sign In

Thanks guys. I heard the one clunk at the store and drove the half a mile home. Yesterday I drove maybe 1/2 a mile total. It really started making the noises when I pulled into the driveway. It has been parked since.

From what I can tell it's only the spider gears. I let the truck roll forward so I could inspect the whole thing. I know I won't know for sure until I pull it apart.

My garage isn't very big so I'd like to leave the truck in the drive while doing this. Should I pull the whole rear end and get it into the garage or just do all of the work in the drive? I've heard it's easier to check backlash if the axle is removed just because you have to keep installing and taking it back out until you get it into the correct specs. If it is just the spider gears do I even have to set the backlash again? If not, I guess it would be easier to just do it all under the truck.

So, I guess right now I need to know if I should pull the rear end or just pull out the internals to inspect. I guess I could always drop the axle later if need be.


This might be a stupid question but I want to double check. Am I okay to support the truck with jack stands on the rear axle when removing the diff components? I know I'd probably be better off supporting it using the frame but the truck sits up pretty high. I have some railroad ties I could cut up as blocks for under the jack stands if need be.


(This post was edited by MarineGrunt on Apr 4, 2013, 9:22 AM)


Hammer Time
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Apr 4, 2013, 9:22 AM

Post #6 of 143 (2646 views)
Re: 2003 Sierra differential Sign In

Drop the back cover and go in with a magnet and see what it picks up. If there are a lot of shavings, you'll be doing the whole thing and it requires some special tools to set up the pinion depth.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We offer help in answering questions, clarifying things or giving advice but we are not a substitute for an on-site inspection by a professional.



Tom Greenleaf
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Apr 4, 2013, 9:34 AM

Post #7 of 143 (2642 views)
Re: 2003 Sierra differential Sign In

Limited space that would be a good trick if you can wrestle the thing into your garage. I know you are good at finding parts so price out stuff.

That may help you make up your mind on the approach as you already know spider is cooked. Why the heck that happened by surprise eludes me as it's not all hydraulic stuff going on and what the heck that washer is remains a mystery?? Not thrilled about finding shavings right now,

Tom



MarineGrunt
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Apr 4, 2013, 10:13 AM

Post #8 of 143 (2637 views)
Re: 2003 Sierra differential Sign In

There are a decent amount of small shavings. From what I can tell everything looks good except the top and bottom spider gears.

I think I'll be okay just replacing the spider gears, bearings, and seals. I guess I'll know more once I get the carrier out. If the whole thing does need redone I think I pretty much have everything I need except for gear marking compound and an inch pound dial indicator torque wrench. I don't have a press but could make one out of my bottle jack or I do have access to one at my stepdads or the hall. I didn't have any brass drifts but did order some yesterday and they will be here tomorrow.

If I only have to replace the spider gears are there sort of adjustments that need to be made?

Tom....I've heard that it's a pretty common problem in these gm rear ends. I guess what gets them is if the tires are kind of spinning on gravel or ice and then all of a sudden it grabs. They say that's what usually chips the teeth. When I bought the truck, and changed the gear oil, the teeth already had some chips.

I think I may just do it all under the truck. It's going to be kind of a pain supporting it since it's a bit high. The weather is great right now. We're in the 50's and suppose to be in the upper 60's next week.

Thanks for all of the help. I always appreciate it and couldn't do half the stuff I do without your help.


Tom Greenleaf
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Apr 4, 2013, 10:39 AM

Post #9 of 143 (2631 views)
Re: 2003 Sierra differential Sign In

Generic pic............


IMO - everything (gears) that touches the bad gear should go. That kind of hardenened metal will take defect and harm anything touching it. NO - I did not know of this being a common problem but if so there should be tons of info that I don't have for you.
Hey - hope the better weather lasts. 55F right now after mid 20's last night - wild!

Again this stuff if not just a bearing or seal would not be my thing. Just watch the bucks spent as already said, -- Tom


MarineGrunt
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Apr 4, 2013, 11:38 AM

Post #10 of 143 (2613 views)
Re: 2003 Sierra differential Sign In

I've heard that replacing the carrier with a Detroit Truetrak is the way to go. I don't want to throw a bunch of money at it right now. The dentist recommended braces for our daughter and insurance will only cover $750 of it. Probably be around $8000. Her teeth look perfect but guess there's a small overbite or something. I don't like financing anything so that's why I want to go for a cheaper fix if possible. If not, oh well. I can get the spider gears for about $150. If I go with the truetrak I'm looking at $500 for plus you have to buy a special bearing kit for $150. Not to mention seals and whatever else I'll need. We'll probably see how just new spider gears workout for now. If not, I'll be eating that $150 for them. I hate half @$$ing anything and rarely do but I think we'll be okay on this one. Before making a final decision I'll have to see how everything looks when I get it apart.

Always wild weather this time of year. About 10 days ago we had mid 40's one day. The next day we got 10 inches of snow and a place an hour away got 17 inches. It melted in two days though. We got married on April 8th of 2000. The night before our wedding we had 8 inches of snow. I almost bolted out of the church thinking is was a sign from the Man upstairs!


Tom Greenleaf
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Apr 4, 2013, 12:06 PM

Post #11 of 143 (2610 views)
Re: 2003 Sierra differential Sign In

Tough choices! IDK - perhaps do the gears and seals are cheap usually and if it blows up you are only out that much. Keep your motor club active so you can get towed home if it doesn't work out properly and know you want it perfect.

I CERTAINLY can't advise on how you spend your funds! Rock and hard place now never mind the truck, -- Tom


Hammer Time
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Apr 4, 2013, 12:25 PM

Post #12 of 143 (2603 views)
Re: 2003 Sierra differential Sign In

If the ring and pinion didn't get damaged and you had no whining noises, bearings and spiders will do it.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We offer help in answering questions, clarifying things or giving advice but we are not a substitute for an on-site inspection by a professional.



MarineGrunt
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Apr 4, 2013, 1:08 PM

Post #13 of 143 (2597 views)
Re: 2003 Sierra differential Sign In

I got it apart and the ring and pinion look fine. The pinion is still in but looks fine. I need to get it out so I can get the so called "washer" out. I know what it is. It is the c clip for the left axle! When it came off it had to have slid down the top of the diff, since the opening is bigger, and landed on the bottom. How and the heck did that happen? I wonder how long it has been like that? Isn't that what keeps the axle from sliding out?

The pinion shaft doesn't want to budge. I'm using a drift and hammer so I don't damage the threads. Is there any kind of trick to get it out? I removed the nut but does the yoke and seal have to be removed first?


Tom Greenleaf
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Apr 4, 2013, 1:42 PM

Post #14 of 143 (2588 views)
Re: 2003 Sierra differential Sign In

"C" clip fell out! Yikes. If like any I ever knew of they would or should be trapped in place if installed properly. Yes - those keep axle from sliding out.

I'll just watch this for a while as something went real wrong IMO for that to happen, -- Tom



nickwarner
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Apr 4, 2013, 1:49 PM

Post #15 of 143 (2585 views)
Re: 2003 Sierra differential Sign In

You have to get the yoke off. If its seized on there you can make a puller for it. Get a piece of thick steel plate and drill it to match the bolt holes your yoke straps go into. In the dead center of that drill and tap it to a larger fine thread, maybe 1/2-28 or so. Make a grade 8 forcing screw, you'll need a fully threaded bolt and put a taper on the very end to pilot it into the dimple on the end of the pinion shaft. That should get it off. Then pop the seal and get the outer bearing off. Shaft will come off for you at that point.

Sucks to get hit up with the dental bill. But on the upside she'll have nice teeth and you to thank for it. Truetrac is definitely the way to go but for now the spiders will work as long as there is no other damage. That $150 kit that you need to put a Truetrac in is just the average reman kit for any carrier. Has the bearings, seals and shims. Maybe look at it in the future once the dentist gets paid off.

The c-clip is indeed what keeps the axle from sliding out. The cross shaft that holds the carrier spiders keeps the shafts from moving in far enough to toss the clip. If it came out intact, you need to find out why that through shaft moved and check close for other damage.


MarineGrunt
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Apr 4, 2013, 2:00 PM

Post #16 of 143 (2581 views)
Re: 2003 Sierra differential Sign In

Thanks Nick. Hope things have been going well for you.

That cross shaft, if I'm thinking of the same thing, is held in with a bolt. There's no way it moved. When I bought the truck the kid knew about the chewed up teeth. Makes me wonder if he screwed around with it. Then again, would that axle have stayed in place for the 6000 miles I put on it since August? I know that shaft didn't move so I don't see anything that could've cause the clip to come off. Is there anything else that could've caused it? I'm looking at the carrier now, and besides the spider gears, it all looks okay to me. Then again, this is the first one I've ever messed with.


MarineGrunt
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Apr 4, 2013, 2:44 PM

Post #17 of 143 (2577 views)
Re: 2003 Sierra differential Sign In

Got the yoke off with a puller and removed the seal. How in the heck do you get the bearing out with the pinion shaft being in the way? There's no way a slide hammer will fit anywhere. Shouldn't the pinion come out if the bearing is holding it in place? What's the difference of pulling the bearing off first or just smacking the pinion through the bearing? It should work okay that way, right? You'd then have room to knock the bearing out from the inside. I'm not questioning you I just don't see how I can get that bearing out. Maybe I'm just missing something.


Hammer Time
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Apr 4, 2013, 3:14 PM

Post #18 of 143 (2571 views)
Re: 2003 Sierra differential Sign In

You might be able to rock it back and forth and walk the bearing out but you still have to remove the pinion to drive the race out. There is a collabsable spacer in between the bearing that gets crushed to a specific torque to get you the correct preload on the bearings.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We offer help in answering questions, clarifying things or giving advice but we are not a substitute for an on-site inspection by a professional.



nickwarner
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Apr 4, 2013, 3:15 PM

Post #19 of 143 (2568 views)
Re: 2003 Sierra differential Sign In

You can drive it through with the drift and hammer. If the C-clip broke or the little end on the axleshaft did that would cause this. C-clip failures are known to happen, thats why off-roaders and racers install either full-floating axles or put c-clip eliminator kits on their semi-floating ones.


MarineGrunt
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Apr 4, 2013, 3:20 PM

Post #20 of 143 (2564 views)
Re: 2003 Sierra differential Sign In

Thanks Nick....am I okay to beat the hell out of the drift? It seems to be in there pretty tight. Is that normal? I just want to make sure there's not some clip or something that's holding me back before I really start whaling on it. If it wasn't for the c clip being where it's at I wouldn't even remove the pinion. I guess it would be a good idea to replace the seals and bearing though.

Hey, would a air hammer help loosen it up?


(This post was edited by MarineGrunt on Apr 4, 2013, 3:21 PM)


MarineGrunt
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Apr 4, 2013, 3:28 PM

Post #21 of 143 (2560 views)
Re: 2003 Sierra differential Sign In

I got it. Just needed to keep whacking on it. Normally I'm a pretty good whacker due to my years of experience.


Hammer Time
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Apr 4, 2013, 3:31 PM

Post #22 of 143 (2557 views)
Re: 2003 Sierra differential Sign In

I assume you have already removed the ring gear and guts before you are pounding on that pinion.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We offer help in answering questions, clarifying things or giving advice but we are not a substitute for an on-site inspection by a professional.



Discretesignals
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Apr 4, 2013, 3:35 PM

Post #23 of 143 (2552 views)
Re: 2003 Sierra differential Sign In

Don't get the carrier shims and caps mixed up.





Since we volunteer our time and knowledge, we ask for you to please follow up when a problem is resolved.


Discretesignals
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Apr 4, 2013, 3:38 PM

Post #24 of 143 (2547 views)
Re: 2003 Sierra differential Sign In

Just curious, but why not put another rear end in it. One that has a locker?





Since we volunteer our time and knowledge, we ask for you to please follow up when a problem is resolved.


MarineGrunt
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Apr 4, 2013, 3:51 PM

Post #25 of 143 (2544 views)
Re: 2003 Sierra differential Sign In

HT...Yes, everything was out except the pinion.

DS....I've got the paint stick and baggies ready to go. Getting ready to drop $8000 on braces for my daughter. Since only the spider gears are stripped I figure it'll be cheaper to just do them for now. I thought about putting in a Truetrak but going to hold off for now. Plus, it's always more fun tearing deeper into stuff.






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