Skip to Content

ATV Drive Shaft Removal (Secret trick)

A noisy CV joint is annoying, but a damaged driveshaft is dangerous and very inconvenient if you’re riding far from the base. Luckily a worn drive shaft gives you lots of warning.

Noisy CV joint, bent drive, torn CV boot, whatever the cause, you’ll need to pull the drive to mend it. Removing them can be difficult, but ‘I’ll show you the trick.

To remove an ATV driveshaft, remove the following components in this order:

  1. Wheel
  2. Drive nut
  3. Steering Arm
  4. Brake caliper
  5. Shock bolt
  6. Upper ball-joint
  7. Lower ball-joint
  8. Pry out shaft

In this post, you’ll learn what components need to be removed and how to remove them. You’ll also learn how to remove a stubborn 1/2 shaft.

ATV drive shaft


Some ATV wheels will allow you to access the drive nut without removing the wheel if you can access your drive nut by removing the center of your wheel cap. Loosening the drive this way is easier as the bike is more stable than on three wheels. The drive nut is pretty tight, and I’ll cover it in more detail below.

If you can’t access the drive nut without removing the wheel, not to worry. Go ahead and remove the wheel.

ATV jacked up

Use a jack and an axle stand. Jacks fail all the time. I never trust them anymore…..young and stupid.

When I remove the lug nuts, I like to thread them back onto the hub. I know where they are, and they protect the threads from damage.

Drive Nut

You’ll likely have a split pin, or you’ll need a hammer and punch to bend the walls of the drive nut from the key-way. You may need to use a cheater bar to loosen the drive nut. Have a helper hold the brake while you loosen the drive. A little WD40 on the threads helps.

Remove the nut & washer and set it aside. A container for loose fasteners helps keep them safe. Fasteners on the ground go missing. I don’t know where they go….they just do, and they won’t show up until after you eventually find a suitable replacement.

Steering Arm

For front-drive removal, you’ll need to remove the steering arm. To do so, go ahead and remove the steering arm nut, a castle nut, and a split pin is the usual setup of a lock nut. A 19mm seems to be the preferred size.

Don’t remove the nut completely. Just run it off, so it’s proud of the threads. Take a 2lb hammer and strike the ball-joint receiver on the knuckle sharply (Not the ball-joint or nut). One or two strikes does the job.

ATV ball joint removal

This is the most efficient way to loosen and remove ball joints. You won’t hurt the knuckle, ball-joint, nuts, or threads.

Yes, there’s a tool for the job, but the cheap tool tears the ball joint boots, and the pro tool is only needed for where a hammer swing isn’t possible. Remove the steering arm from the knuckle, and I like to fit the nut back on. This way, you know you have the correct nuts on the correct ball joints.

Brake Caliper

Remove both brake caliper bolts but not the flexi hose. We’ll use a zip tie or bungee cord to suspend it from the spring. We won’t allow it to hang from the brake line, as this may damage the line or fitting.

Brake caliper removal

If your rotor is now free (some will be), remove it and set it aside.


Remove the shock bolt at the upper A-arm. No need to remove the upper shock bolt. Removing the lower shock bolt gives you a little more wiggle room when removing the ball joints and half shaft.

Upper and Lower Ball-joint

ATV ball joint location

Remove the split pin and loosen the nut, so it’s almost off. We’ll use the same process here as the steering arm ball joint.

Turn the steering knuckle so that you have good access to strike the knuckle right at the joint.

ATV ball joint removal

With the joint loose, remove the nut and remove the upper arm, refit the nut to keep it safe. The process is identical for the lower ball joint.

With that free, you can remove the knuckle by sliding it off the splines of the drive. It should move freely along the splines. If not, use some WD40 and tap the knuckle on alternating sides to slide it from the drive splines.

Remove The Drive

The drive is now free at the wheel side and still attached at the differential end. Most drives won’t have any obvious fasteners to remove in order to release the drive. That’s because they are secured to the differential using an expandable snap ring and groove.

The snap ring is compressible and is positioned around the splines of the driveshaft. When the drive is inserted into the differential, the ring seats in a groove to fasten the shaft in place.

Snap ring

When removing, the snap ring must compress to allow the shaft slide out.

The rings often stick in the recess, which makes removing the drive difficult. However, we have a few tricks to help us get the job done.

Option one – Grabbing the drive by the shaft (not the CV joint end), push all the way in, and then pull sharply towards you. This works for most drives. However, some may need a little more encouragement.

ATV shaft removal
ATV Drive removal

Option two – Using a pry bar, find a location between drive and differential and sharply pry, try one side then the other. The drive is pretty durable, but the diff case isn’t, so pick a location on the diff with enough material.

Note also, the diff houses the shaft seal, and care should be taken not to impact the seal.

Option three – This is reserved for those total pain in the ass type jobs. You’ll need to remove the opposite side drive as per above and push your drive out from the rear using a hammer and flat head punch.

Apply some lithium-based grease when reinstalling, and if your drive was challenging to remove, go ahead and replace the snap ring.

If you need to replace a CV boot, check out this post “Torn ATV CV boot”

You may find the following posts helpful:

How to check ATV ball joints

Does tire width matter?

How often to service an ATV?

ATV hard to steer