You can find instructions on the removal of the front axle in every VW bus workshop manual. Disassembly of the entire front axle seems to be a less described topic. Below you will find some tips and tricks from my personal experience.
First, make sure that the bus is supported either by putting the bus on a trolley or using axle stands underneath the chassis beams.
CAUTION! Verify that you have removed all items mentioned below before lowering the front axle:
- Shock absorbers
- Brake hoses
- Steering arm joint to steering box
- Gear shift rod
- Handbrake cables
Once you’ve reassured yourself all the above has been removed or disassembled, use a jack to support the front axle at the middle. Loosen the eight bolts that attach the font axle to the chassis (both left and right). Next, slowly lower the axle using the jack. Two extra persons at each side of the axle really make this a much easier job.
Start disassembling the front axle working outside in: remove the drum brakes and brake assembly. Note that the nuts on the left axle need to be loosened by turning them counter clockwise; the left axle has reversed thread.
Remove the spindles and arms, use plenty of penetrating oil to loosen the rusted nuts and bolts. If prepared well it should not require too much effort. After you have removed the spindles and arms, you will be able to access the torsion springs plates. Don’t be afraid to pull them out; they don’t require a specific orientation, so no need to mark any of them. Check the needle bearings for wear or damages and replace if required.
Clean the rust from the axle using metal brushes or multi-layer disks. The entire procedure includes:
- Removal of rust and paint
- Application of a rust converter
- Metal primer
- Spray filler to smooth out any pitting
- Several coats of paint
EDIT: Assembly of the front axle is the reverse of disassembly. Replace all seals and grease nipples (total investment of under 5 Euro) as chances are the old ones are clogged or corroded shut. Pump the grease through the grease nipples until plenty of grease has come from between the seals at the joints.
Reinstalling the front axle under your bus can be done by one person, by tying two ropes to each spindle and guiding them over the shock absorber mounting point. This way you will be able to jack the front axle into place whilst keeping it level by adjusting either side with the ropes. It worked for me!