For the most the later Sprinter Crafter axle swap procedure is covered in the earlier posting on axle/final drive removal/exchange (older Sprinter) here.
There are however a few ‘extra’ tips that may benefit you should you be contemplating the removal or exchange of your later Sprinter or Crafter (2006 on).
Sourcing an axle can be a taxing time, trying to get one of the correct ratio, from a similar van and of course trying to keep costs as low as possible are the main trouble factors. After a great deal of searching, we came buy a rather sorry looking axle from a low milage 311 LWB panel van, perfect for our LWB VW Crafter CR35 as they are identical fitment. Because of the state of the back plates that support the handbrake mechanism, or in fact ‘lack of them’ due to severe corrosion gave us great bargaining power with the seller as it needed obvious work before you could fit. The axle came to us in the end for £200 which was somewhat of a bargain! Generally if the axle appears dry of oil leaks and exhibits virtually no ‘in and out play’ on the input flange (pinion) then it will be a servicable part. You can see here below the large amount of play in the faulty axle that was removed.
The steel backplates that support the hand brake mechanism and offer some protection to inboard side of the brake disc were badly damaged and rotton with corrosion. These had to be replaced. New original OEM brake back plates can be obtained as cheaply as £11.00 each if you scour EBay, and pretty soon they were delivered along with the axle for fitting.
Drain the replacement axle as best you can in preparation for remedial work prior to fitting on the vehicle.
You will probably want if possible to recover your ABS sensors from the original axle as it would be added cost to replace these if not totally nessesary. I have yet to find a sensor that will just pull out. Corrosion of the casting where the sensors sit is quite bad as they are located on the top of the carrier where moisture and muck always collects. Undoing the single reverse torx pin is usually not enough to simply pull out the sensor – you will need to be clever! Spraying the area with penetrant may help but the use of any tool to pry or grip the sensor usually ends in tears, you will have to tap it out from the inside. Follow the instructions below if you have a stubborn sensor that you want to recover without damage. Once the drive shaft is removed a soft nylon drift or wooden dowel, tapped with a hammer will make easy work of removal. Its not such a huge deal to remove the shafts from the diff you are removing as it makes the thing lighter to drop and saves you about £100 in damaged sensors! Dont forget to file the sensor hole clean on the recieving axle to ease refinement before replacing the drive shaft/carrier.
Stripping off the old hubs and corroded shoes didnt take too long as they fell apart quite easily! Once access could be found to the four reverse torx bearing cap bolts, located behind the hub carrier on the end of the axle tube, a little blow-torch heat was applied. This enabled them to be undone quite easily with a breaker bar. Unscrew them all, exposing about 10mm of thread and tap the heads with a copper hammer. The bearing cap will start to move forward and a small gap will open up where the backplate is sandwiched.
Undoing the retaining pins fully, carefully tap the flange out of the axle tube and withdraw the bearing, bearing carrier, hub and drive shaft from the axle tube. Be prepared for a little oil, and try and pull the complete assembly out as parallel as possible with reference the axle tube to avoid damaging the seal on the bearing carriers mating face. Once the shaft is removed, recover the old back plate and note the position/orientation of it. Recover the ABS sensor if required (See note above). Install the new backplates with the ‘cut-out’ next to the brake caliper mounting holes, slide in the driveshaft and locate its splines into the differential internal gear. Guide the hub and carrier back into position, making sure to align the hole in the brass coloured internal end cap with the ABS sensor hole in the carrier (only one hole, make sure it aligns correctly with sensor hole). Refit the four retaining pins and re-tighten them. The backplates are now now installed. You can either choose to build up the parking brake now or leave things until it is fitted to the vehicle. Often if your used axle comes with usable rear handbrake cables, its easier to build everything up first and then just simply reconnect the cables at the compensator – the choice is yours.
If you are interchanging axles between Mercedes and VW you may find the anti-roll bar to axle bushes are different types. This does not effect the position of the upper eye bushes for connection to the drop links, only the type of bush used. Mercedes prefer to use a D bush and VW use a round tubular bush for the bar to axle connection, obviously the support bracketry is slightly different to accommodate either, worthy of note if pre-ordering spares.
Fitment of the axle is covered in the earlier post here, apart from the connection of the ABS wheel speed sensors and brake pad wear sensors it is identical. Be sure to reconnect the handbrake cables before adjusting the parking brake shoes, as if you dont they are likley to be too tight once the cables are connected, make this your last job.
Prize out the rubber fill level bung on the rear of the axle and refill with your chosen hypoid oil, though MB specify a synthetic grade oil for this differential there is a multitude of oils that can be used in this application without detrimental effect. Consult a manufacturer application chart to help you choose.
These few notes in conjunction with the earlier article will hopefully assist you in carrying out this task, it should also help you to select a replacement used axle that is right for your budget, not being put off by some damage to the backplates and using it to leverage your deal.