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 Old 09-04-2018, 10:32 AM   #1
 
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Default MS6 6th gear vibration issue

Hello all,
Sorry for the long post.
There is a lot of detail in this post, so please read everything before asking questions.



<Into>
I'm writing with regard to the known 6th gear vibration issue that many have experienced in the Mazdaspeed 6 (MS6, Speed6). After searching many, many threads, it's apparent to me that no one has yet to definitively identified the root cause of this vibration. Some say "differential" while others argue "tire pressures, etc", but again, nothing definitive.
Thus, I'm hoping some here can help me to actually get to the bottom of this issue, both for my own car and for the betterment of this community.

<My Car>
2007 Mazda Mazdaspeed6 @ ~140k miles on the odometer.
All stock except for COBB Turbo Inlet Pipe, Cold Air Intake, and Access Port (with COBB's stage 1 basic default tune).

<Symptoms>
- Harsh driveline vibration is felt at highway speeds upon shifting into 6th gear and while driveline is loaded (i.e. while applying A-pedal to either maintain speed or to speed up; not coasting or decel).
- Vibration occurs at all speeds in 6th gear, but peaks around 70-80mph.
- Others gears (including neutral) within the same speed and/or RPM ranges do not cause excessive vibration, so it seems linked only to 6th gear.
- The issue seems related to rear differential coupler (AWD system) lock-up because pulling up on the e-brake handle just enough to trigger the switch (i.e. "brake" dash light turns on, but not actually applying pressure to rear brakes yet) mostly eliminates the vibration. [Workshop manual indicates the e-brake switch fully releases the rear coupler (i.e. 100:0 front-rear bias).]
- Vibration characteristic appears independent of temperature, weather, or driving style.
- The issue started softly about 5k miles ago and has progressively worsened in intensity and volume.
- No whining noise has been observed (...similar threads might mention a whining noise along with these symptoms, but I have not heard such a noise from my particular Speed6).

<Troubleshooting> ~$3,255.15 spent so far!
1) Checked tire pressures, alignment, rotated tires, and confirmed tire balance. Result: No improvement.
2) Replaced all differential mounts with new Mazda OE units <-- after 8 Michigan winters, the rubber was cracked and splitting. Result: Observed 5% vibration damping improvement, but not the root cause.
3) Replaced driveshaft with new $1200 OE shaft! <-- the front CV joint had a slight 'tick' movement. Result: Observed another 5% vibration damping improvement, but not the root cause. In hindsight, I think I wasted money on this one, but the driveshaft seemed a plausible cause at the time.
4) Flushed rear differential and front transfer case fluids. Old fluid appeared clean and free of debris. Replaced both with Amsoil [FGR-QT] 75W-90 Synthetic Gear Lube (GL-5 rated). Result: No improvement.
5) Replaced all four CV axle shafts and the Joint Shaft with brand new OE parts. Even though my CV axles all felt okay (i.e. no obvious clunking or whine), I decided to replace them anyway after reading this thread by @SyntheticAtmosphere;. Result: Rear CVs = 30% vibration damping improvement. Front CVs and Joint Shaft = 30% vibration damping improvement. Root cause of the vibration still remains. Even though these were very expensive and the old ones hadn't completely failed, I'm still glad I replaced them, as the overall ride quality (6th gear vibration aside) was dramatically improved.
At this point, the 6th gear vibration is ~60-80% improved, BUT NOT RESOLVED.

<Remaining Possibilities>
- Front Transfer Unit: Based on the experience of @Thor Hammer; here, it seems this is the most plausible cause. I also noticed some fine shaving build-up on the magnetic drain plug when I drained the transfer unit to install the new Joint Shaft.
- Rear Differential: I've drained the oil, pulled the rear cover, and rummaged around inside for signs of failure, but so far I've found none. It's on this list only because I can't 100% rule it out.
- Rear Limited Slip Unit: Unless it was severely oil starved or over heated, in which case you would see clutch material and other debris while changing oil, there's no reason to suspect this has failed. [Source: @Mazdazilla6;, Link to Thread]
- AWD Coupling Unit: The coupling unit (bolted to the nose of the rear differential) is completely sealed and there's no way to inspect it.

<Questions>
What have been your experiences?
Has anyone else solved their 6th gear vibration issue?
Has anyone else replaced the Front Transfer Unit???

Last edited by driver-wsh; 10-11-2018 at 11:18 AM.
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 Old 09-04-2018, 11:16 AM   #2
 
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I have been down this path and continue to work on it/live with it.

What I can tell you is the rear axles will cause this. They will appear to be ok, feel tight, and not be leaking, however the cv cups get pitted and the balls in there as well. This causes them to vibrate under varying loads. Typically the inner CV's cause this type of vibration. Only way to know is to take them apart and put on new boots when done if they are OK.

What sucks is that your options are either new OEM axles (and based upon my experience with DSS I'd go with those) or Driveshaft Shop Axles. Supposedly built to handle 500HP and made of billet. Guess what? The CV's are made in China and they don't have the OEM rubber vibration dampeners on the shafts. Wish I had just bought OEM when I replaced mine! Anyhow, both are around the same price if you have a dealer that's willing to cut you a deal. Not cheap at all!

The other possibility is yes, the rear diff. You need a competent mechanic to listen to the diff up on the lift. Listening for a bad bearing. My dealer looked at mine and told me it had a bearing going out. So I replaced mine with a 40K mile unit I found on Craigslist. Whats funny is the "new to me" diff had a completely different noise! This car......ugh.

The issue for some has been easy to fix. I had nasty vibes when a bearing in my T-Case was going out. Then it failed completely taking a few pinion gear teeth with it. And yes, while this was going on pulling up one click on the E-brake made the vibes go away.

Can you hear any whining noises at speed?

Its not your coupler causing the problem. FYI.

Others, like myself, still experience the issue. But I just gave up on it and live with it. I honestly believe if I put in a set of OEM rear axles the issue will go away. Just not ready to drop $900 on another set.
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 Old 09-05-2018, 02:04 PM   #3
 
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Thor Hammer,
Thank you for the thoughtful reply.
I have seven follow-up questions below to help my understanding (sorry for so many).

I updated my original post to include "no whining noise" in the symptom section.
Q1, What does that mean to you or why do you ask?

From you post, my understanding is the following:
1) Your front transfer unit had a bad bearing that eventually led to chipping some teeth and toasting the whole unit.
2) You had a bad bearing in your rear differential. Upon replacing the differential, the new unit made a new noise.
3) You replaced the OE CV axle shafts with custom ones from a local driveline/axle shop after you disassembled the inboard CV joints and noticed they had pitting on the balls and races.

Q2, What is the timeline for the above events?
Q3, Did you replace your front transfer unit with a new or used one? Did this improve the vibration, or what do you think caused the bearing to fail in the first place?
Q4, Regarding the bad bearing in your differential, when you replaced the original with the craigslist used one, did the vibration issue improve? Was the new noise the only change? What was the new noise? Did the used differential also come with the matching coupling unit?
Q5, It sounds like replacing the rear CV axles yielded the greatest vibration improvement, is that correct?
Q6, You say with confidence the issue is not related to the rear coupler (which, to clarify for other's, is the AWD clutch unit affixed to the front of the rear differential). How are you certain of this?
Q7, You mentioned you never fully solved your 6th gear vibration issue, but to clarify, you attribute this to using aftermarket replacement CV axle shafts instead of springing for the OE one's. Is this correct?
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 Old 09-05-2018, 02:10 PM   #4
 
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Also, I just noticed I posted this in the MS3 thread folder.
Can one of the Admins / Mods please move this thread to the relevant MS6 folder?
Thank you.
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 Old 09-05-2018, 04:26 PM   #5
 
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Originally Posted by driver-wsh View Post
Thor Hammer,
Thank you for the thoughtful reply.
I have seven follow-up questions below to help my understanding (sorry for so many).

I updated my original post to include "no whining noise" in the symptom section.
Q1, What does that mean to you or why do you ask?

A whining noise indicates a worn bearing.

From you post, my understanding is the following:
1) Your front transfer unit had a bad bearing that eventually led to chipping some teeth and toasting the whole unit.
2) You had a bad bearing in your rear differential. Upon replacing the differential, the new unit made a new noise.
3) You replaced the OE CV axle shafts with custom ones from a local driveline/axle shop after you disassembled the inboard CV joints and noticed they had pitting on the balls and races

Q2, What is the timeline for the above events?

I replaced the rear axles first. No change in vibes. I never took apart the OEM ones. Someone else on this forum did. And what he found was what I described above. He replaced the axles and his vibes went away.

DSS (Driveshaft Shop) axles are a common replacement as they are touted as being stronger than stock. Edge Autosport sells them. Look it up if you are interested. Lots of posts about them.

Then my T-Case got worse and worse until I heard metal chunks flying around in there while driving. Put in a good used one from a CX-7. It fits with a few mods. Vibes 90% gone
.

Q3, Did you replace your front transfer unit with a new or used one? Did this improve the vibration, or what do you think caused the bearing to fail in the first place?

See above.

Q4, Regarding the bad bearing in your differential, when you replaced the original with the craigslist used one, did the vibration issue improve? Was the new noise the only change? What was the new noise? Did the used differential also come with the matching coupling unit?

Vibes stayed the same. The new noise is hard to describe but its working just fine.


Q5, It sounds like replacing the rear CV axles yielded the greatest vibration improvement, is that correct?

Not for me. See above.

Q6, You say with confidence the issue is not related to the rear coupler (which, to clarify for other's, is the AWD clutch unit affixed to the front of the rear differential). How are you certain of this?

Its just a clutch pack immersed in oil that is controlled electrically. If your rear wheels turn when all four are up in the air its just fine. Not much to wear out in there.

Q7, You mentioned you never fully solved your 6th gear vibration issue, but to clarify, you attribute this to using aftermarket replacement CV axle shafts instead of springing for the OE one's. Is this correct?
Meh, I have two slightly bent wheels. It could be the issue. They balance out but vibe. Just haven't been able to source stock ones that are not already bent. Seem to be rare. and I have vibes in almost all gears. Not same issue as you.

What RPM are you cruising at in 6th?
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 Old 09-05-2018, 08:58 PM   #6
 
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I noticed a whine, from what I gather to be the rear end, when I upgraded both rear diff mounts. The whine goes with ebrake switch triggered.
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 Old 09-06-2018, 09:24 AM   #7
 
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Originally Posted by Fstrnyou View Post
I noticed a whine, from what I gather to be the rear end, when I upgraded both rear diff mounts. The whine goes with ebrake switch triggered.
When I was first researching my vibration issue, I learned reading many post,s that the whine in the rear diff was a common complaint when this car first came out. Doubt its anything to worry about
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 Old 09-07-2018, 11:37 AM   #8
 
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Great information! Thank you again.

I do not have any bearing whine, so my next step will be to pull/disassemble the rear CV axles (specifically, the inboard CV joints). I will do this next week...


So if one were creating the ultimate 6th gear vibration troubleshoot post, in addition to the troubleshooting steps I listed in my original post, the following should be added:
5) Listen for any bearing whine:
- If any whining noise is observed, then either the rear differential* or front transfer unit* may have a failing bearing (Note: even though the front transfer unit is upstream of the rear coupling unit, there have been documented occurrences where the front transfer unit has failed and pulling the e-brake still reduced the felt vibration. [Source: "Thor Hammer", this thread])
- If no whine, then pull the rear CV axles, disassemble the inboard CV joints, and inspect for pitting/wear. Even if they feel fine externally (i.e. no obvious free play), there has been a documented case where the balls/races failed internally. [Source: "SyntheticAtmosphere", Link to Thread]
6) The coupling unit (bolted to the nose of the rear differential) doesn't have much inside that can fail...unless it was severely oil starved or over heated, in which case you would see clutch material and other debris while changing oil. [Source: "Mazdazilla6", Link to Thread]

*Note: Without bearing whine, oil starvation, or massive, teeth-snapping torque adders, there isn't much to fail with a fixed ring-pinion gear set as found in both the rear differential and front transfer unit.
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 Old 09-20-2018, 08:52 AM   #9
 
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Default MODERATORS: PLEASE RELOCATE THIS THREAD!

Update: The thread is not dead.
I pulled the original CV axle shafts and installed new ones. The old ones don't have any obvious pitting, erosion, or chips as shown in the previously referenced thread. [Source: "SyntheticAtmosphere", Link to Thread] Thus, I'm not optimistic at this time that the new OE CV axles will cause any significant improvment.
I haven't finished putting the everything back together yet, and there may be some delay in reporting the experience from the new OE CV axle shafts, as I may be changing career gears and relocating to San Jose....to be determined!

MODERATORS: PLEASE MOVE THIS THREAD TO THE MS6 DRIVETRAIN FOLDER.
I erroneously posted this in the 3's folder.
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 Old 09-20-2018, 09:43 AM   #10
 
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Thor Hammer,

This forum has some wonky rule where I'm not allowed to PM until I've posted 15 public threads, and apparently this applies even when another member PM's me first.

If you want them, then absolutely, but let me tell you more about them first...

This particular speed6 spent it's first 9 years in Michigan with the winters and salt, so all the exposed metal surfaces have a coat of surface rust and are a bit flakey around where the ABS encoder wheel is located.
Also, the rubber deteriorated on one of the rubber shaft damper weights, which allowed the weight to slide around on the shaft. In desperation, I first tried to duck tape it back in place, but ultimately, I took a grinder to them both and cut them off*.
Finally, upon disassembly for damage inspection, I was so pissed off with this car and the wild goose chase that has been '6th gear vibration' that it's more appropriate to say I tore them apart, and so I have no idea which balls match to which races at this point.

*I should add that removing the damper weights from the OE CV shafts actually shifted the peak 6th gear vibration range from 70mph up to ~80mph, so they definitely have some influence on vibration damping.
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 Old 09-20-2018, 12:46 PM   #11
 
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Just a thought...
But if removing the damper/weight improved the vibration, I'm led to believe the axle was manufactured with the damper/weight in the wrong location/orientation.
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1988 RX-7 TII - Sold (Megasquirt, streetport, filter-on-turbo SRI, custom TBE, 20psi boost creep on OE turbo, OE TMIC on ice, 13.467 @ 105.44) apex seals said buh bye!
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 Old 09-20-2018, 01:00 PM   #12
 
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Originally Posted by Fstrnyou View Post
Just a thought...
But if removing the damper/weight improved the vibration, I'm led to believe the axle was manufactured with the damper/weight in the wrong location/orientation.
Nah, the factory service manual actually has a spec for these (see attached pic), or at least they do for the front shafts.
In my case, I had a rear one wiggle loose, but I was able to come up with the 13.00-13.25 inches spec that *I added to the manual* based on witness marks. I have since verified this measurement with the brand new OE CV axle shafts I just installed, which measure exactly 13.00 inches. Make sense?

Therefore, the CV axle shaft installation location spec is as follows for the Speed6:
Front : 11.45-11.75 inches
Rear : ~13.00-13.25 inches
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 Old 09-20-2018, 03:08 PM   #13
 
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Okay. When you said damper weight, I was thinking a balancing weight like on rims/wheels to balance the assembly. But you're talking about a harmonic damper...not a weight.
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 Old 09-21-2018, 04:45 AM   #14
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If you downshift to 5th gear at the same speed where the vibration occurs; does it go away, change, stay the same?
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Originally Posted by phate View Post
If you downshift to 5th gear at the same speed where the vibration occurs; does it go away, change, stay the same?
From my original post in the "Symptoms" section:
- Others gears (including neutral) within the same speed and/or RPM ranges do not cause excessive vibration, so it seems linked only to 6th gear.
However, I do not at this time believe it is a transmission issue because from my understanding of these gear boxes, 5th and 6th share a separate shaft from 1-4, and so if it were a bad bearing, etc., then I'd expect to also experience the vibes in 5th gear...which I don't.
From my understanding of the AWD logic in these cars and for whatever reason, 6th gear commands a near-full lock-up (~50-50 power distribution) of the coupling unit. However, when the driver engage the parking brake switch, this overrides that command and release the rear wheels (and the vibes go away).

Btw, where in Auburn Hills are you and where do you work? There's a good chance we may have crossed paths if you ever spent any time at Waterford Hills Raceway.
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 Old 09-21-2018, 09:06 AM   #16
 
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Originally Posted by driver-wsh View Post
Thor Hammer,

This forum has some wonky rule where I'm not allowed to PM until I've posted 15 public threads, and apparently this applies even when another member PM's me first.

If you want them, then absolutely, but let me tell you more about them first...

This particular speed6 spent it's first 9 years in Michigan with the winters and salt, so all the exposed metal surfaces have a coat of surface rust and are a bit flakey around where the ABS encoder wheel is located.
Also, the rubber deteriorated on one of the rubber shaft damper weights, which allowed the weight to slide around on the shaft. In desperation, I first tried to duck tape it back in place, but ultimately, I took a grinder to them both and cut them off*.
Finally, upon disassembly for damage inspection, I was so pissed off with this car and the wild goose chase that has been '6th gear vibration' that it's more appropriate to say I tore them apart, and so I have no idea which balls match to which races at this point.

*I should add that removing the damper weights from the OE CV shafts actually shifted the peak 6th gear vibration range from 70mph up to ~80mph, so they definitely have some influence on vibration damping.
No good then. Well, good luck with all of it.

As a side note, when addressing another member in a thread type it like this in your reply and they will get a notification:
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 Old 09-21-2018, 09:59 AM   #17
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Not likely, but if you turn left or right slightly while at speed, does the sound/vibration change at all?

I wonder, if you removed the driveshaft altogether and drove the car, if the sound would remain. If it goes away, it doesn't tell you anything; but if it remains and then goes away with the ebrake click you've narrowed it down to rear end issues.

I work for FCA and live just a couple miles north of their headquarters. I've not been to Waterford Hills.
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 Old 10-04-2018, 02:50 PM   #18
 
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Default MS6 6th gear vibration issue

Threads merged....

Last edited by driver-wsh; 10-11-2018 at 10:41 AM.
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 Old 10-04-2018, 04:14 PM   #19
 
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Honestly, unless its really uncomfortable, I would just drive it as is. And if/when the PTO fails at least you will then know what the problem is. Instead of spending so much on parts with little improvement.

Mine went out around 110K. I never beat on the car nor did the previous owner. So take that for what its worth. Lots of others have replaced theirs under similar circumstances. but I don't know at what mileage.

Just get a good used CX-7 case and follow the thread on how to do the few mods to make it work. Much less expensive and not hard to do. Just need a press to replace the bearing on the passenger side of the case where the axle goes through if you want to be thorough. I did.

And make damn certain you don't have a bent wheel. The stock wheels on this car bend easily. Ask me how I know. I had to replace two of them. And the other two are bent just a little to some degree. I just cant get myself to shell out $700-1000 for lighter aftermarket wheels. Not when the car is nearing 150K miles.
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 Old 10-04-2018, 04:46 PM   #20
 
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I agree. At this point, I will keep driving it until something fails....the Transfer Unit being most suspect.
Replacing the front CV shafts and Joint Shaft had a noticeable improvement, so the money flushed wasn't all for nothing. Nonetheless, I appreciate your sympathies.
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 Old 10-05-2018, 08:22 AM   #21
 
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Glad you got some improvement from your investment into the car.
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 Old 10-05-2018, 08:48 AM   #22
 
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lol You don't "invest" in a MS6.

More like 'Pour all your money"
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 Old 10-11-2018, 06:50 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by driver-wsh View Post
- Rear AWD Coupling Unit: The coupling unit (bolted to the nose of the rear differential) doesn't have much inside that can fail...unless it was severely oil starved or over heated, in which case you would see clutch material and other debris while changing oil.


What have been your experiences?
Has anyone else solved their 6th gear vibration issue?
Has anyone else replaced the Front Transfer Unit???
The rear diff coupler is a totally sealed unit. Shards and shavings won't be found in the diff oil.


Since it goes away with the 1-click ebrake trick, I'd guess it's internal to that coupler. 1 click doesn't put any appreciable brake pressure on the rear brakes, so it's not changing the workings of the drivetrain because of extra load.

You can pick up rear diffs for not much money, and that coupler can be swapped without pulling the entire rear diff. I've swapped several of these, but because they wear out and the car goes into mostly-fwd mode. I don't really see 6th gear cruising speeds, so I can't say if the vibration was there when this happens.
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 Old 10-11-2018, 09:08 AM   #24
 
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@phate;, thank you for the reply.

So in this thread, reply post #9 , when @Funkster777; showed pictures of debris, this debris is from the LSD and not the coupling unit?

If the coupling unit is fully sealed, does it contain an unchangeable lubricant inside or is it dry?

What inside the coupling unit fails?
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 Old 10-11-2018, 10:03 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by driver-wsh View Post
@phate;, thank you for the reply.

So in this thread, reply post #9 , when @Funkster777; showed pictures of debris, this debris is from the LSD and not the coupling unit?

If the coupling unit is fully sealed, does it contain an unchangeable lubricant inside or is it dry?

What inside the coupling unit fails?
I think you're talking about this post.

Those are the tabs on the differential's clutch plates (as opposed to the awd clutch pack's clutches), seen here. In particular, this picture.



Best I can remember, the awd clutch pack is totally sealed, and is a wet clutch. You have to destroy the casing to get to the internals. There are a couple small holes (~1/8" diameter) on top of the unit, but I don't remember if they are through holes that would allow fluid migration. I might still have a dead awd clutch pack in the garage that I can look at again. [The broken tabs in the above post are too big to fit through those holes.]




For me, the awd clutch packs just wear out, presumably the clutch packs get worn to nothingness. Racecar lyfe, yo.
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