I thought an axle was bad, but the harsh clunking noises and grinding is apparently coming from the transaxle. Thee manual shows how to pull it apart one piece at a time, but can I remove the entire front end as one assembly?
I have a spare car I can use for parts and wonder if it would be easier to do a complete swap or just bite the bullet and pull both cars apart in smaller pieces.
I suppose you could do it that way, but if everything else on the one you want to fix works, why introduce all the unknown new variables: motor, suspension, brakes, steering rack condition, bleeding the brakes, alignment, etc…
Only takes about an hour to pull and reinstall a diff, times two in this case. To me it seems like all the crap you would have to do if you swap front clips is just making more work for yourself.
I appreciate that advice and that’s probably I’ll wind up doing.
Most of the front-end parts on the donor car are better than on the car I’m fixing, so I was hoping for an easier swap.
The donor car has 6500 miles with no title, but has been maintained better (new brakes) and was originally an Arizona car. The hubs, shocks, etc. are all better but the cosmetics are bad and the windshield is broken. Both cars have acceptable batteries and run and charge just fine
The keeper car has 650 miles and has a title but it looks like it came from a state that used a lot of road salt. When I swapped the rusted rear end, it literally came apart when I removed the bolts. The front end and backing plates don’t look much better.
Why did you not include this new info in your first post?
I’d say you pretty much answered your own question.
No offense intended. I didn’t think of including it because it isn’t the question. I want to know if a compete swap can be done and what else I’m not considering.
I’ve already learned from jrjava that removing a transaxle takes about an hour. That’s easier than I thought and it makes a difference in the overall decision.
I was hoping someone had already tried doing this. Looking things over yet again, it looks like it’s two frame bolts, the upper shock mounts, the steering shaft, brake hoses, and wiring - but nothing is ever as easy as it looks.
If your rear suspension was rotted out as described I would give the front a serious look as well. It could be a serious safety issue.
A complete front clip swap might be the best plan.
Your original post only mentioned a gearbox swap.
It’s up to you.
You can certainly go either way with the swap: exchange the differentials between the two vehicles or move the whole front end.
Having spent too many hours working on and also too much money on some 2002’s, my inclination is to move the parts and pieces and leave the front ends alone.
Here’s some reasons why…
- GEMs were hand assembled and welded. No guarantee things will line up or be straight if they do, There were two assembly lines, there is a way to check which one it came off of via the VIN. In the realm of hand built cars, it’s almost a given that each line and team has their own methods, tricks and jigs. It’ll probably be close, but you could be fighting tire alignment issues for which the vehicle doesn’t have adjusters for. These things only have toe adjustment via the tie rod ends.
- You can’t inspect the inside of the differential without taking it out since the pumpkin cover drops through the frame. At 6500 miles, it might be worth the tube of gasket maker to pull the cover off the donor and take a look.
- You can move the motor and differential together, but at 6500 miles, I’d be surprised if the input shaft is not starting to reach the end of it’s service life. You have to pull the motor to change it. And, in the process, you’ll have to update the input bearing to a new design or add a TC oil seal. You can do it in the vehicle, but it’s always easier on the bench,
- Take a good look at the lower arm bushings on the AZ GEM. Unless they have been replaced, the elastomeric in them is probably cracked and not going to hold stuff where it should be. Not sure where the other GEM came from, but there aren’t many places worse than AZ on “rubber” components. They are a colossal PITA to change… dry ice, Oxy-Acetylene and a 20-ton press and I still had a hell of a time with them. Ended up just sending the parts to a machine shop to be changed,
- Take a look at the “rubber” in the eyes of the donor shocks, if they are elliptical or cracked, alignment will be basically impossible and from my experience, that will wipe out front tires every 1500-2000 miles.
- All the AZ car electrical connectors will be brittle.
- Not sure what you plan to do about motors, but it’s a crap shoot on those 3hp short GEs. 6500 mile motor might be in great shape because no humidity, or it could have baked windings, or a worn out bearing. 6500 is a lot for those anemic like buggers. The later years the motors got much beefer. The low mileage motor could have it’s own issues,
/shrug It’s up to you man,…
Road salt and aluminum don’t mix well, if the rear suspension swing arm was as bad as you say, you might have a compromised frame too,
The windshields are usually held in place with double sided foam tape. It seems that only about 1 out of 10 actually got mastic to hold them in.
The VIN sticker peels off with a hair dryer, and if you look on the crossmember under the bench seat, you’ll find 5 numbers that were stamped by hand with a punch set. The member is welded in, but they could be redacted or polished out. Not sure that any DMV even knows where to look for them on the old ones. Just sayin’
jrjava - thank you for the well articulated list. Your first point alone was enough to convince me I need to disassemble both cars and use the best parts from each. I will also look inside the donor differential like you suggested. All of your points included exactly the information I hoped for. Great advice on the windshield and VIN info, too.
A huge “thank you” to both jrjava and AssyRequired for your answers.
If you find you need frame bushings and you are going to dare a repair yourself or just have a machine shop do it, and you don’t have the new parts already, LMK, I have an extra set of brand new ones I’ll never need, I’ll sell them for a lot less than what NEVA wants for them these days, There are 7 identical ones on the 00-04 GEMs, two at each front swing arm and 3 on the rear suspension swing arm to frame.
Couple other things to watch for:
Carefully inspect the rear swing arm (“rear subframe” lots of posts out there under that term) for cracks at the welds by where the shocks mount to it, They were notorious for cracking. You have to weld gussets in or wrap it with C-channel and weld that in over it. I might have some C-channel pieces that are the right size too, I don’t remember if I sold them or not though.
If you have the longbed truck with the dual rear shocks, the rear swing arm is different, so it doesn’t crack. Unfortunately, the top of the shock mounts at the frame do, so you need someone who can weld aluminum properly to fix that situation,
The only thing holding the steering column in place is a 1" wide piece of thin metal as bracket. When you have the dash off and look around, you’ll see it. They can tear if people have been using the steering wheel to lift themselves in and out of the gem or just if they have been driving on bumpy roads because the suspension is so horrible, drivers tend to tug on the wheel a lot. If that tears, the steering column will end up in your lap. Ask me how I know…
Dumb question… How did you tell a bad transmission from a bad axle without taking the cars apart? Is it the sound each makes?
Get the front end up in the air and run it a bit.
First observation would be the frequency of the noise you are concerned about. Watch the halfshaft and listen for the noise to happen once a revolution.
You can also slow down a wheel and send the power to the other side. If halfshaft it will double or stop depending on what wheel you stop.
If noise does not change then it is in the gearbox.
Thanks for explaining it. I’ll try that.
I have done a front-end swap. I swapped a 2014 front end onto a 2000. The swap was pretty easy the thing that takes the longest is the wires and plumbing. If you are doing a 2000-2000 swap of the entire front carrier it should not be that challenging as long as you can bleed brakes and remember to label the electrical wires. Make sure to have the entire car on jackstands (on frame rails). Also have two floor jacks.
I am an educator in a public school in New York,
and my students and I have retooled a 2002 Gem e825 into a first responder vehicle. Our trainer uses it to get from one field to another during times injury in games or practice.
The automotive class is removing the differential and CV joints due to the clunking noises. We have a good differential and CV joints from another vehicle. We are trying to take the old Diff and CV joints out as one piece. Any ideas or support on this matter would not only help the high school but also help educate the kids. I have a team that works on it every day,
My Sincerest Thanks,
Are you trying to remove the drive line just for sake of convenience/time/hassle?
I’m not sure if you are saving very much trying to pull the entire unit as one piece. You still need to disconnect the axles at the hubs and the next step is to pull the inner CV off the gearbox. Then it is all out of the way.
If you can scrounge up a parts car you could remove the entire front clip with maybe 6 bolts. Then you could prep/rebuild the entire front end up on a bench top. (A-arm bushings, steering rack, steering rack bellows, shocks, shock bushings, brakes) and have it ready for a reasonably fast swap. Then you would need to deal with steering shaft, brake bleeding, a bit of electrical and you would be good to go.
Do you have manuals for this car?
What is your email address?
Have you first just removed the motor and replaced the rubber bumper? My 2002 would clunk on start and stop etc but once the rubber bumper was removed there was no clunking. And I too thought it was in the CV joints but it was not. It’s a 30 minute R&R operation, maybe 1 hour if you remove a shock( I just disconnected to top of the shock and moved it out of the way to remove the motor.
Thank you for the advice.
I have the original parts manual for the gem.
My email is email@example.com
The cv joints are on the half shafts, just pull really hard and they will cone off the diff output shafts. The output shafts have a little spring ring towards the end of the splines. Thats all you are fighting against.
The cv joints are welded to the half shafts, so you’ll have to cut them off and then re-ballance them after doing work.
When you reinstall, use a grease with lots of molybdenum on the splines. Honda M77 is good as are some of the extreme pressure lubricant greases.
Hi Team Menber,
Thanks for the reply.
I see my team tomorrow. Do you mind if I send some pictures tomorrow on where we are at.
Thanks again for helping me and the kids out.