Many of us have had the unsettling experience of finding a bad U joint in our truck. We know how it is; you’re driving down the lone highway without a care in the world. Then you start to hear noises like the growls of Cerberus from underneath your truck. After careful examination, you have determined that it is in fact the U joint that is causing these unsettling sounds. What do you do next?
A trip to the auto mechanic can cost a lot of money. Learning how to make repairs yourself is almost always the better option and mastering the process of U joint removal is definitely worth the effort. However, before actually getting to U joint removal, you will need to gain access to the U joint itself. The first step in this process is to remove the drive shaft. While most vehicles are built this way, some of them are actually designed with the U joint located on the outside of the drive shaft. Always inspect the drive shaft for a U joint before attempting to remove it.
The next step in U joint removal is to find the clips that are holding it in place and determine what type they are. There are generally two types of clips that secure a U joint, Spicer snap rings and standard C-clips. Both of these kinds of clips are fairly easy to remove. If you are dealing with snap rings, simply take a pair of pliers or special removal tool and squeeze the ends together. This should cause the snap rings to easily come off of the U joint. If these rings have been corroded, soak the U joint in some penetrant.
Now that the drive shaft is out of the way, you have full access for U joint removal. The easiest way to begin this process is to place it into a vice and tap the bearing until the U joint falls out. A convenient trick for accomplishing this is to use a spark plug socket as your tapping tool. Keep tapping the top of the socket with a hammer until it is far enough in for the joint to pop out.
Next you will need to remove the bearing cup. This cup is usually full of grease and should be easy to remove by hand. Once you have accomplished this, remove the central joint section. After removing the old center, place in the new center. There is always a possibility that the new piece will slightly differ from the old one. This shouldn’t be a problem and a simple application of all the parts with grease usually does the trick. Make sure to only apply a thin coat because overpacking the assembly with grease will risk failure of the parts.
After you have done this, it is time to replace the bearing cups. The final step in professional U joint removal is to reinstall the clips. Many U joint removal kits include a new set of clips; if this is the case then you can use these new clips as a replacement for a better looking and higher quality result. Now you know how to perform U joint removal and impress all of your friends with your auto mechanic expertise.