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Replacing the front main seal

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If you have an oil leak from the front of the engine, it may just be the front main seal. You should first rule out items higher on the engine like the valve cover and the timing chain cover, but once you decide it's the front main seal, replacing it is relatively easy. This is a 2-3 hour job depending on whether you have AC or whether the old seals becomes a PITA.

This job can be performed without jacking up the car but you might as well put the car on jack stands or ramps just in case the job goes sideways and you need access from underneath. 90% of the work will be done by putting your hand and tools through the nose of the vehicle.

You will need an impact gun and a 30mm SHORT socket (available at Autozone for $10)

1) Remove front grills

2) Drain and remove radiator

3) If you have air conditioning, disconnect AC lines and remove condenser from nose of vehicle (You should have the system pumped first)

4) Remove the 2 bolts holding the alternator in place so that you can loosen and remove the alternator belt

5) If you have air conditioning, loosen AC compressor and remove the AC belt

6) remove the 4 bolts holding the engine cooling fan in place and remove the cooling fan. (If you need to replace the water pump, do it now)

Now you should have easy access to the crank pulley and the crank pulley nut through the nose of the grill

7) Using an impact gun and 30 mm socket, remove crank pulley nut

8) Using a gear puller, remove the crank pulley.

Now you will see the front crank shaft seal. Removing is can be damn tricky.

9) Drill a small hole into the seal, put a screw into the seal and use a claw head hammer to wedge the old seal out. When drilling into the seal, DO NOT damage the sides of the timing cover! The seal can be really difficult to remove and may take multiple holes and screws to dislodge. There is also a spring on the old seal, make sure that comes out with the old seal!

Be careful using the hammer or any pry tools as the timing cover is aluminum and soft and easy scratched. Scratching the timing cover seal mating surface is a disaster!


image borrowed from pommeree. Showing screw method on a output seal not a front main seal.

Also take note of the position of the seal. There is no lip on the timing cover to stop you from inserting the seal too deep. The seal should be inserted until it is about flush with the outside of the timing cover.

10) Put some motor oil on the new seal and work it into position. It should be a tight fit and should take some real muscle to work into place. At one point you might need to use a large socket to tap it carefully into position. Just remember do not insert it too deep or else it will make contact with the timing chain. Insert it just enough to be flush with the front of the timing cover.

You may want to position the seal 1-2 mm slightly deeper than the old seal so that the seal makes slightly different contact with the pulley as the pulley can get a groove worn into it by the seal.

11) Now put the crank pulley back on taking note of the key that is on the crank shaft. tap it with rubber mallet to make it seat.

12) Put the washer and nut back on the crank shaft. Tighten the nut to fully seat the pulley, then loosen the nut and apply loctite and then retighten the nut using the impact gun.

13) Reattach cooling fan.

14) Reattach alternator and AC belts and tighten alternator and AC compressor putting correct tension on the belts.

15) install radiator, tighten water lines and fill radiator.

16) Start car and burp cooling system.

17) Reinstall front grills.

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