If you hear a squeaking noise whenever your vehicle starts to move, there is a good chance that you already have a bad or failing U joint. You may also feel vibrations throughout the car while it is running. You might also hear a distinct ‘clunk’ when shifting to reverse. These are some of the indicators of a bad universal joint. They also signal a much-needed U joint replacement. Don’t worry, though. Replacing it is easy. We’ll teach you how.
An Overview of a Universal Joint
What is a U joint? The universal joint or U joint is an important component of the driveshaft and the suspension system. Power from the engine is transferred to the transmission then to the driveshaft, then to the axle and finally to the wheels. The universal joint allows the driveshaft to continue spinning at its normal speed regardless of the movement of the suspension.
Driving your car can always produce an up and down movement of the rear axles. This can cause a misalignment between the axle drive and the driveshaft. The U joint compensates for such misalignment so that both the driveshaft and the axle drive can still function in a normal fashion. It also prevents bending or snapping the driveshaft.
Steps to Replacing Universal Joints
Now that we have a fair understanding of what is a U joint, we can now proceed to the different steps of replacing it.
- Prepare the Materials
The first thing you need to secure is a U joint replacement part. You will also need a hammer for knocking the automotive part out of its socket. An alternative is to use a U joint tool or a Powerbuilt balljoint tool.
You will also need a jack, a pair of jack stands, wrenches, and a socket and ratchet. If you are going to use the hammer method, then you will need some kind of ear protection. A pair of snap ring pliers and a grease gun will also come in handy.
- Get Ready with Your Car
Since universal joints are often seen in rear-wheel drive, front-engined cars, you will need to raise the rear section of the car. This will help prevent transmission fluid from leaking out. It would be ideal to raise the car as a whole and with its rear end a bit higher than its front end. It should be high enough to allow you to place two jack stands on opposite sides of the car.
- Remove the Driveshaft
Get a permanent marker and mark the orientation and alignment of the driveshaft in relation to the differential and transmission flanges. These alignment markers will help you put the driveshaft back to its original position.
Detach the bolts or mounting clips that secure the driveshaft to the vehicle’s transmission. Use a wrench or a socket and ratchet to remove the nuts and bolts securing the yoke. Once removed, you can push the driveshaft forward. Next, push it down before pulling it towards the rear of the car.
- Disconnect the U Joint
One of the trickiest aspects of U joint replacement is the removal of the U joint itself. This often involves hammering the yoke in one direction, while holding the U joint to counteract the movement. This will help release the snap ring tension or the tension on the joint’s C-clip.
Secure the U joint and yoke assembly by grabbing onto the caps of the U joint. This will help stabilize the assembly while you strike one side of the yoke with a hammer. Once you release the tension, you can remove the ring or clip.
If you are going to use a U joint or balljoint tool, then it is important that you use the correct size of press cap. It should fit the yoke of the driveshaft. Place the press cap over the threaded rod of the U joint tool. Get another press cap that is smaller than the yoke opening. However, it should be larger than the U-joint bearing caps.
Tighten the U joint tool threaded rod to help release the tension from the yoke. You can then remove the clips or snap rings. Continue tightening the tool until you are able to push one bearing cap out of the hole of the yoke. Remove the rest of the caps using this technique.
- Install the New U Joint
Get your new drive shaft U joint replacement part. Lubricate the inner surface of the replacement cap using a small amount of grease. Put two opposing bearing caps to the replacement U joint and secure them with a tape or a rubber band. Insert the polished ends of the replacement U joint into the holes of the yoke.
The next step in how to replace U joints is to place one of the bearing caps right under one of the yoke openings. Gently tap the yoke so that it advances into the cap. This will help seat the yoke in the cap. Once the bearing cap is seated straight, you can start hammering the yoke. Replace the snap ring or C-clip to secure the U-joint to the yoke.
If you’re using a balljoint or a U joint tool, insert the U joint into the opening of the yoke. Slide the joint to one side of the yoke as far as possible. Push a new bearing cap as far as you can into the yoke. Use the balljoint tool to push the bearing cap straight into the yoke. Make sure that the cap is properly seated before attaching the snap rings or C-clips.
- Put Everything Back
The last part in how to replace U joints is putting back the driveshaft to its original position. Lift the driveshaft and align it with the yoke. Observe the correct alignment of the yoke with the driveshaft and the transmission. Reattach the mounting clips to help secure the driveshaft into the transmission.
Put a jack under your vehicle and raise the rear end of your car. Remove the pair of jack stands and lower your car to the ground. Remove the jack and secure the work area.
Take your car for a drive. Make sure to take note of the symptoms that prompted you to engage in the process of how to remove universal joint. You shouldn’t observe these symptoms anymore.
Learning how to replace U joints is not that difficult. You need the correct tools and a bit of elbow grease to get the job done. If this still looks daunting for you, a professional mechanic can help you replace your car’s universal joint.