ATV Drive Shaft Removal (Secret trick)

A noisy CV joint is annoying but a damaged drive shaft is dangerous and very inconvenient if your riding far from base. Luckily a worn drive shaft gives you lots of advance 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.


Some ATV wheels will allow you access the drive nut without removing the wheel. If you can access your drive nut by removing your wheels centre cap.

Loosening the drive this way is a little easier as the bike is more stable than on 3 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, 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 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

Remove the steering arm nut, a castle nut and split pin is the usual set up 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.

This is the most efficient way to loosen and remove ball-joints, you won’t hurt the knuckle, ball-joint, nut or threads. Yes there’s a tool for the job, but the cheep tool tears the ball-joints and the pro tool is only needed for where hammer swing isn’t available.

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 can damage the line or fitting.

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


Remove the shock bolt at the upper A arm, this gives you a little more wiggle room when removing the ball-joint and half shaft.

Upper Ball-joint

Remove 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.

With the joint loose, remove the nut and remove the upper arm, refit the nut to keep it safe.

Lower Ball-joint

The process is identical for the lower ball-joint, and 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 WD 40 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 C clip and groove.

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

When removing, the C clip must compress and allow the shaft to slide out.

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

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

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, 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 lube when reinstalling and if your drive was challenging to remove, go ahead and replace the C clip.

John Cunningham

John Cunningham is an certified mechanic and writer on I’ve been a mechanic for over twenty years, I use my knowledge and experience to write articles that help fellow gear-heads with all aspects of ATV ownership, from maintenance, repair to troubleshooting.

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