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Super Moderator
1966 Crown Coupe, 2016 200 S AWD, 1962 Lark Daytona V8.
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23,871 Posts
Welcome to Allpar. I would definitely confirm that the rear axle is the cause of the harsh engagement before just replacing it. Diagnose first. Many other things can cause the 'slack' in the drivetrain and rear suspension that you are experiencing.
With the wheels securely chocked and the vehicle on level ground, put it in neutral, crawl underneath and grasp the propeller shaft. Twist it CW and CCW to see if the slack is in the axle. Ring and Pinion backlash should be about an inch of freeplay on the prop shaft.
A factory service manual will help guide you with pictures and procedures on how things come apart and go together. It will also include a Possible Causes list that will give the suspects to rule out as you narrow down the list and focus in on the root cause. It will also show you how to measure play and what to expect for acceptable freeplay for the different components. The service manual could be considered a tool purchase and can easily pay for itself the first time you use it.
Some of the larger public libraries may also have good service manuals for loan. The Chrysler factory manual would give the best detail. Most car/truck RWD set-ups are similar and the same methods of diagnosis and service would apply pretty much to them all.
Safely watching for excessive driveline movement from the side or on a lift as you shift from D to R and back, may show where the play is. Loose or broken engine/transmission mounts, leaf spring shackle/frame mounts and delayed transmission internal clutch engagement are among the possibilities.
 
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