DIY, Gear, Install, Maintenance

Propeller Shaft Maintenance: A Quick How-To Guide

Updated 3/3/21 / Read Time: 5 mins

Propeller Shaft Maintenance: A Quick How to Guide

Propeller Shaft Maintenance For the 5th Gen 4Runner: A Quick How-To Guide

Propeller shaft lubrication is a very simple maintenance procedure to do, but it is often avoided because cleaning the grease off between the spider joints can be a bit tedious. Keeping the propeller shafts properly lubed will ensure the longevity of a critical component in your 4Runner.

For the 4X4 5th Gen 4Runner driveline, there are two propeller shafts; for reference, these two shafts will be referred to as FWD (forward) and AFT propeller shafts in this write up. Each prop shaft consists of 2 spider joints and a slip yoke. In total there are six zerk fittings that will require greasing.

Intervals For Lubricating Propeller Shafts

Toyota recommends the following intervals for lubricating the propeller shafts:

  • Normal conditions: 15,000 miles
  • Driving on dirt roads or dusty roads: 5,000 miles
  • Driving while towing, using a car-top carrier, or heavy vehicle loading: 5,000 miles

What You’ll Need

Propeller Shaft Maintenance: A Quick How to Guide

GREASE GUN & LOCKNLUBE COUPLER

Propeller Shaft Maintenance: A Quick How to Guide

A grease gun is required to perform this maintenance procedure and can be bought at almost any auto parts store; they will likely have the grease as well.

Another tool that is not required but will make this job easier in magnitude is the LockNLube Grease Gun Coupler (the one I use is GC81011). This coupler will make attaching and detaching the grease gun to the zerk fitting a breeze. Believe it or not, getting a standard grease gun stuck on a zerk fitting is quite common. I have had to unstick one on my FWD propeller shaft and it was not a pleasant experience.

Grease

Toyota recommends two types of grease for the spider joint and slip yoke:

  • Spider Joint: Lithium base chassis grease, NLGI No. 2
  • Slip Yoke: Molybdenum-disulfide lithium base chassis grease, NLGI No. 2 or Lithium base chassis grease, NLGI No. 2

According to the owner’s manual, it is acceptable to use NLGI No. 2-grade lithium base chassis grease for both spider joints and slip yokes. For the sake of simplicity, I’ve always used a single type of grease: Mobil 1 Synthetic Grease (Red). I choose to go with Mobil 1 because they are an industry leader in automotive lubrication and also the grease is red and easy to see when it seeps out of the spider joints, but that is just my personal preference.

Bottom line: Any NLGI No. 2-grade lithium-based grease should work.

Find it online:

Tools & Materials

  • Grease Gun
  • Lithium base chassis grease, NLGI No. 2
  • Molybdenum-disulfide lithium base chassis grease, NLGI No. 2 (optional)
  • Gloves
  • Shop Towels
  • Small box

Step 1. Lubricate & Clean Spider Joints

Propeller Shaft Maintenance: A Quick How to Guide

Lubricating the spider joint is pretty straightforward.

Clean the zerk fittings to prevent any contaminants from entering the joints during the greasing process. Connect the grease gun coupler to the zerk fitting and pump grease into the spider joint until the new grease seeps out on all four bearings. If the joint hasn’t been lubricated in a while, it could be dry and audible pops can be heard while greasing. Once the new grease has been sufficiently pumped into the joint, grab a roll of shop towels and wipe the excess/old grease away.

Cleaning tips:

  • Roll up a sheet of shop towel and use it to floss between the bearings.
  • Keep a box nearby as a portable trashcan to keep your workspace clean.

Step 2. Lubricate Slip Yoke

Propeller Shaft Maintenance: A Quick How to Guide

Lubricating the slip yoke is pretty simple as well.

Clean the zerk fittings to prevent any contaminants from entering the joints during the greasing process. Connect the grease gun coupler to the slip yoke zerk fitting and pump. I do 4 full pumps for the AFT slip yoke and 2 full pumps for the FWD slip yoke. Since the slip yoke slides in and out of the propeller shaft, if it is over-packed with grease, it could cause the shaft to not extend/contract properly.

Tips:

  • If the slip yoke is over-packed with grease, use a pick and depress the zerk-fitting nipple. Grease should flow out and relieve the pressure. Alternatively, use an extended 7mm socket to remove the slip yoke zerk fitting. Hop on the back of the 4Runner a few times to articulate the AFT shaft. Remove grease and reinstall the zerk fitting.

Step 3. Position 4Runner To Ensure Access to AFT Shaft Zerk Fittings & Chock Wheels

Propeller Shaft Maintenance: A Quick How to Guide

Park the vehicle and check the AFT propeller shaft slide yoke and spider joint positions. Make sure the grease gun coupler can be attached to the three zerk fittings on the AFT propeller shaft. Chock the wheels as a safety precaution.

Propeller Shaft Maintenance: A Quick How to Guide

When working on the AFT propeller shaft, place a jack and a piece of 4×4 under the tow hitch and jack up the rear end. And when working on the FWD propeller shaft, place a jack under the front jack point and jack up the front end.

Note: This is optional and not intended to lift the vehicle off the ground, but to provide additional workspace while under the vehicle, use your best judgment to observe and practice all safety precautions.

Step 4. AFT Propeller Shaft

Propeller Shaft Maintenance For the 5th Gen 4Runner: A Quick How-To Guide

Lubricating the AFT propeller shaft is straightforward. Connect grease gun coupler to the spider joints and slide yoke zerk fittings and follow instructions laid out in Steps 1 and 2.

AFT Propeller Shaft Tips: Working from the passenger side will provide better access.

Step 5. FWD Propeller Shaft

Propeller Shaft Maintenance For the 5th Gen 4Runner: A Quick How-To Guide

The FWD propeller shaft is by far the more difficult one of the two, due to the slide yoke and spider joint being in between the exhaust pipe and transfer case. However, the FWD propeller shaft can be rotated by hand to allow easier positioning of the zerk fittings.

I find it easiest to gain access to the slide yoke and spider joint from the driver’s side near the heat shield (mounted to the cab). Once the shaft is in position connect the grease gun coupler to the spider joints and slide yoke zerk fittings and follow instructions laid out in Steps 1 and 2.

FWD Propeller Shaft Tips: There is a shield between the shaft and exhaust pipe that can be removed (12mm) for more access, but it is not necessary.

Final Thoughts

This process should take about 30-45 minutes with the majority of the time spent cleaning the grease off of the four spider joints. By taking the time and doing this maintenance per Toyota’s recommended interval it’ll provide peace of mind for miles to come.

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Max Sheehan
Editor
Rambler
13 days ago

This is an awesome overview, great work Jensen! One thing I would add is if you’re an ambitious DIYer you can remove one drive shaft at a time to grease that slip yoke if it looks really dry, or hasn’t been properly maintained in the past, you can remove the driveshaft and pull the slip yoke out (after marking both sides for balance) to clean and regrease it. Then you can just use the zerk to maintain the grease level afterwards.

Don Love
Don Love
1 month ago

if I may make a suggestion, I learned that if you position the AFT slip yoke zirk at the 6 o’clock position pointing straight down, it gives more room to access the spider zirks. Kinda a pain to look under and move the 4Runner to line it up, but makes much easier straight access to the spider zirks.

David
David
1 month ago

Great write up! Totally takes the mysteriousness out of the task if one hasn’t done it before.

I just do it every oil change since it’s easier to do it instead of wonder: was I driving on enough dirt roads for it to matter this time?

RayC
RayC
1 month ago

Good stuff, thank you. I grease these at every oil change, very easy. Toyota also recommends checking the torque of the driveshaft bolts. Anyone know what the correct torque value should be?

Matt - @matt.mo1
Newb
1 month ago

Great write-up Jensen Thanks!

John
John
1 month ago

Agreed, great write-up! I have been putting this off for a while and this article makes it much clearer how to do the job. Thank you Jensen!

Jeff
Jeff
1 month ago

Awesome write up! Thanks

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