Ural Maintenance…harder and easier than I thought

A couple Saturdays ago I woke up with nothing at all planned. No honey-dos. No riding (too cold and cruddy). No work. No movies. No beers with the guys. No kid stuff to do. I literally had the day at my disposal. For a while I laid in bed and thought about doing nothing at all. I felt a little guilty about that, though, and came up with a better idea: lubing the splines on the Ural’s final drive. This is a bit of maintenance that–if neglected–can result in the need to rebuild your final drive when the splines eventually wear down and the drive shaft spins freely. Not good. Not a cheap fix either. So, with a new sense of purpose, I got up, got dressed and headed out to the shop.

Most of the Ural is super simple to work on so I launched into the project. Step one was getting the bike up on its center stand–which took a hydraulic jack as it’s just too heavy to tug up there without help.

Next step was rear wheel removal. I was stuck at this step for nearly two hours. No matter how much turning and tugging I did on the axle, I couldn’t get it free. I finally started tapping the pin that slides through the axle hole with a hammer and–after a lot of worrying that I was doing it wrong but having no choice–the axle popped out. After inspecting the axle it became obvious why it had been so hard to remove–the axle was dry and crusty. I cleaned it up and set it aside. My friend Peter later asked if I’d used steel wool to clean the gunk off, but WD40 and a rag did a good enough job that I didn’t feel the need.

Got the rear wheel off. Cleaned things up a bit, then went to lunch.
Got the rear wheel off. Cleaned things up a bit, then went to lunch.


After getting the rear wheel off, I went to grab a bite to eat and, while finishing my lunch, I pulled up the Ural video on lubing the splines. Watching that video provided two crucial bits of information: tapping the axle out with a hammer is the recommended method of removing the axle–and there’s a lot more to lubing the splines on the final drive than pulling the rear wheel.

With this new knowledge I headed back out to the shop, got my ratchet set, took a deep breath and started pulling bolts out of the final drive itself. Since the Patrol is 2WD, there’s twice the number of drive shafts to deal with as on a 1WD Ural and I was suddenly thinking maybe 2WD isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

In the end, getting the final drive off was actually pretty easy–much easier than pulling the axle–or the work to come when I needed to put it back together. I even had the good sense to shoot photos of the U-joint positions before removing it so I could put it back together correctly.

It’s hard to see in the photos, but the splines on both drive shafts were dirty and very very DRY. I spent some time cleaning the final drive up and then turned my attention to the area where the wheel and final drive had been. After a good 30 minutes of knocking dirt and mud away and cleaning splines, I was ready to hit everything with grease and put it back together.

Up to this point, I’d been using rubber gloves to keep from getting my hands too nasty. Eventually, though, the grease and work got the better of the gloves and they started shredding. I tried for a while to use my winter work gloves and I finally gave up on the gloves completely. Nothing a little soap and warm water won’t clean off, right? Although it turns out the grease tends to really hold the cold–which resulted in some numb fingers.

After lubing the splines up good and reviewing the photos of the U-joints, I got the drive situated and started trying to get it back in place. Then I tried some more. And tried some more. The final drive must weigh 20-30 pounds (thought it feels more like 100 pounds) so trying to line up splines in two directions while holding the final drive in the right spot is an exercise…in getting exercise. You can’t get right under where you need to be so you’re stuck holding everything out in front of you with one arm while you try and line up everything and put it back together.

I tried using wood blocks to prop the drive up. I tried a jack. I even used my knees. In the end it came down to arm strength, though. I spent so much time getting it right, though, that I was as sore the next day as I’d have been if I spent the time working out in the gym.

Eventually I figured out the best way to get everything together was to line up the main drive first and then the sidecar drive. Or was it the other way around? Ah…a quick check of that YouTube video reveals it IS the main drive shaft first. After a bit more cursing I got it together and before tightening it all back down, I checked my photos to see how the U-joints were lined up. I breathed a deep sigh, muttered the word “why” to myself and pulled it back apart and tried again. And again. Until finally I got it right and even the photos looked the same. I wanted to jump for joy. I wanted a beer. Instead I took a breather to regroup and started putting everything back together.

As you can imagine, with the everything clean and the axle lubed, it all went back together fairly quickly and easily. I was done well before dinner and felt pretty satisfied, knowing I’d completed work that actually needed to be done. I took the bike out the following day for a shakedown ride. Also got the rear brake readjusted (since you have to pull it apart to get the final drive off). Everything went good on the ride and when I got back home I gave all the bolts a quick check. Done and done.

Next up: valve clearance check/adjust.