Axles Arrived Today
Two nice new axles showed up today and I got them installed with only minor problems. Nothing related to any trouble getting them to slide into the differential or hubs, though - it was easy with the body supported by jackstand, a jack under the differential and another under the hub (control arm).
A slight rust issue on one side required penetrating oil to get the axle spline to release from the hub. Special tool required here - a small stick of firewood. (I thought about carving a MB emblem on it and selling it on EBay for $50.) The other thing I had difficulty with on one side was getting the C-clip back on inside the differential. Because of the tolerances, it was a tight fit inside its groove on the axle shaft. I saw an appropriate Dilbert cartoon related to my efforts, where someone described themselves as "learning to swear from a one-eyed carpenter". It takes a fair amount of straight-on force to get them on the axle. My solution was to grab the "ear" with vice grips and push it in.
Actually, it was a repetitive routine:
1) Carefully grab C-clip ear with vice grips in the same plane as the clip.
2) Get the clip positioned in the differential.
3) Push clip.
4) Retrieve clip from inside differential or on dirty floor.
5) Curse and swear a minimum of 30 seconds while cleaning clip.
6) Repeat above until success.
Another note of interest is that the replacement axles are redesigned to allow boot replacement without special tools (what a concept!) The "can" on one side is a bolt-together design rather than a crimped assembly, and can be disassembled without special tools. This allows easy access to both boots. The brand I got is "GKN Automotive" "Glaenzer Spicer" Made in Germany. (Hope this is a brand with a good reputation!) So although under normal circumstances I would now expect the axle boots to outlast the car, it is comforting to know that if they get torn by road debris the repair will be $20 rather than $300 or so. I'll try to get a picture posted later that shows the design change.
Everything is buttoned up, waiting for the sealant to cure overnight. I sure appreciate the detailed account and comments from you on this job.