I have 2003 dodge ram 2500 4x4 front driver side axle is loose I cam move it up down side to side at the differential what is causing this
Wear! Replace this axle.
Remove the differential cover and look.
I was thinking what’s loose is the axle shaft inside that solid axle tube, where the axle shaft connects to the differential’s side gear. I presume the OP has observed that by removing the differential cover and pushing this way and that on the axle shaft inside the differential. I’m just a diy’er, but one time I had to replace the clutches in my Ford truck’s limited slip rear differential, which involved removing both axles and the third member, so I’ve had a close of up view that internal-diff stuff, but quite a long time ago. For the axle to be loose it seems like the most likely scenario is it is the differential end is no longer seated in the side gear for some reason. It seems like for that to happen there’d have to be some noticeable movement at the wheel end of the axle too, so good idea to check in that area for signs something has shifted. It’s possible the axle shaft has broken of course. Or the differential cage, the side gear, spider gears, bearings etc has failed…
If the large solid axle tube has broken loose from its moorings at the differential case, and all the fluid has leaked out, I expect OP is looking at a replacement solid axle ass’y.
OP sees looseness. and wonders why things wear? was there oil in the housing when the cover was removed?