Blog Car Care Advice 9 Steps to Perform a Successful U-joint Replacement
Car Care Advice

9 Steps to Perform a Successful U-joint Replacement

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Do you hear high-pitched squeaking noise while driving?
Or see a puddle of transmission fluid (a reddish fluid) beneath your car?

This could indicate a faulty universal joint that needs a replacement ASAP.  

So, should you replace it immediately?
Or continue driving with a bad U-joint

We’ll address your concerns and introduce you to the U-joint replacement process. We’ll also clue you in on the replacement costs and share a few car care tips to maintain your car’s U-joint.

Let’s start!

This Article Contains:

How to Perform a U-joint Replacement: The Steps Explained

U-joints are flexible couplings that transmit rotational force between the driveshaft, transmission, and differentials. This powers the vehicle’s drive wheels. 

But if these flexible couplings go bad, you may notice the following symptoms: 

These red flags usually indicate it’s time to replace your worn U-joint. But, replacing a universal joint is complex and requires technical knowledge. So, it’s best to opt for professional U-joint replacement services.  

Here’s how an auto repair mechanic will replace your car’s universal joint:  

Step 1: Prep the Vehicle

First, the mechanic will elevate the car’s front end using jack stands to remove the drain plug. They’ll drain the transmission fluid using a pan to avoid spilling in the surrounding areas of the car. 

Step 2: Detach the Driveshaft

Next, they’ll inspect the driveshaft assembly as well as unscrew the bolts and every retaining clip between the driveshaft and the transmission. 

Note: 4WD and AWD vehicles usually have a front driveshaft and a rear drive shaft with U-joints. However, there’s only one driveshaft with U-joints in FWD and RWD vehicles. Depending on your vehicle, the mechanic will detach the driveshaft with the worn U-joints.  

They’ll use a hammer to dislodge the yoke (the part that connects the drive shaft to the transmission) and remove the driveshaft.

For a 4WD or AWD, the mechanic will first remove the carrier bearing and then unscrew the bolts of the driveshaft to access the U-joint. A carrier bearing reduces vibration and keeps the driveshaft aligned. 

Step 3: Secure the Driveshaft

Now, the mechanic will cover the needle bearings and caps (bearing cup) with tape to keep them from moving. 

Needle bearings are unfastened roller bearings that help reduce friction between moving parts. The bearing cap or cup is a removable covering that holds the bearings and keeps dirt from entering.

Then, they’ll place the driveshaft on a vise (a tool with jaws to hold an object in place) for better access. Once done, they’ll remove the tape and use pliers to detach the caps.

Step 4: Remove the Bearings and Retaining Rings

They’ll hammer the yoke to dislodge the retaining rings and use sockets to force each bearing cap out. This will help dislodge the needle bearings from the yoke. 

The mechanic will turn the drive shaft to repeat the process on the other side using the hammer and socket. Once the bearing caps are removed, the faulty U-joint should slide out of the yoke.

Step 5: Clean the Grime and Apply Grease

Now, they’ll apply some grease to the replacement caps and insert one bearing cap partially in the yoke. If there’s grime in the front or rear drive shaft, the mechanic will wipe it thoroughly before applying grease.

Note: When the bearing portion of each universal joint twists, the grease gets thrown from the bearing cup or evaporates. This leads to a lack of lubrication, and the joints make a squeaking noise.  

Step 6: Install the New U-joint

The mechanic will slide the new U-joint into the partially inserted cap and insert the other bearing cap on the other end. Afterward, they’ll check if the U-joint is properly aligned and use the press machine to secure the parts. 

Step 7: Re-insert the Retaining Rings and Reassemble the Driveshaft 

Now, they’ll fix the retaining rings, slide the driveshaft into the transmission and secure it to the differential side. Then, use the mounting bolts and retaining clip to secure the shaft and insert a grease fitting (if applicable and if there was no fitting before). 

Note: In modern vehicles, the original equipment U-joint is sealed, so there’s no grease fitting. But if it’s an older vehicle, there will be a fitting that requires frequent greasing.  

To make things easy, you should call a professional to handle your car’s U-joint replacement needs and perform routine inspections.

Step 8: Lower the Vehicle

The mechanic will check for any loose fittings and ensure every part is fixed in place. 

Finally, they’ll lower the vehicle by removing the jack stands. 

Step 9: Refill the Transmission Fluid

To finish the process, they’ll insert the drain plug and refill the transmission fluid that was drained in the beginning.

Note: If you replace one universal joint, it would be ideal to replace the second U-joint too. That’s because the old one can wear out and affect your new U-joint’s performance. So, it’s better to ask the auto repair person to replace the second U-joint as well.

Curious about how much this process will cost you? 
Let’s find out.

How Much Does a U-joint Replacement Cost? 

A mechanic will charge you between $380 and $420 for U-joint replacement services. The cost will include: 

1. Cost of parts: $270 and $280
2. Labor charges:  $110 and $140 

The final cost depends on your car’s model, make, and local labor charges. Usually, original equipment u-joint costs more than aftermarket parts.

However, replacing a bad universal joint is cheaper than spending on a major repair, like a driveshaft replacement.

Want to know more about universal joints?
We’ve got you covered. 

3 FAQs on Universal Joints

Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions on U-joints:

1. How Long Does a U-joint Last?

Universal joints can last for up to 100,000 miles. It depends on the vehicle type, its usage, driving environments, and maintenance routines followed. 

For instance, in an older vehicle, the joints are more susceptible to rusting. The formation of rust and corrosion on metal U-joints increases the surface resistance. When the surface resistance increases, it stops your car’s U-joints from functioning properly. 

So, you should request routine inspections and follow good car care tips to avoid expensive repairs of other parts like the driveshaft, transmission, and differentials

Note: If your differential gets damaged due to the bad U-joint, then you’ll have to get your car tires checked. A damaged differential can wear the tires unevenly, irrespective of which tire brands you use or how many tire care tips you follow. 

2. Can You Drive with a Worn U-joint?

No, it’s not recommended to drive with a faulty U-joint. 

Driving with a bad joint can make the driveshaft detach from the transmission and fall on the ground. Without the driveshaft, the car wheels won’t receive the power to operate. If this happens while you’re driving, it could even lead to a severe collision.

3. How to Maintain Universal Joints?

Follow these general car care tips to prolong the life of your U-joints:

  1. Grease the universal joints often (if applicable), but don’t over-grease them. If they come in contact with water, you should relubricate the joints to avoid rust and corrosion. Doing this will reduce the surface resistance on the joints. 
  1. Get the driveshaft alignment checked during routine inspections to ensure there’s no strain on the universal joints.
  1. Don’t drive carrying heavy loads frequently. It can put excessive strain on your car’s driveshaft and U-joints, leading to expensive repairs. 

Get Your U-joint Issues Fixed at AutoNation Mobile Service 

If you hear squeaking or rattling noises from underneath the car, it could signal a failing universal joint. It’s best to get it replaced before it leads to other major repair jobs.

Since you should skip driving to the auto repair shop, expert mechanics from AutoNation Mobile Service can come to you and replace the U-joint right in your driveway. We are a mobile auto repair service that offers a 12-month | 12-000 mile warranty on all auto repair services. 

Contact us for your U-joint replacement needs and other services like wheel alignment or brake repair.