The U-joint, also called the universal joint, serves as a means of connecting the rear axle to the gearbox.
Each prop-shaft has its own u-joint that enables the rear axle to move in an up and down motion.
Symptoms of a Bad U-joint
It is crucial that you learn about some of the different symptoms that are associated with bad u-joints. This will provide you with advance warning, which can help keep you safe.
If this part fails completely while you are driving, you could get into a serious accident.
1. Clanging Noise
It is fairly common for people who have a problem with u-joints to hear a clanging sound coming from their vehicle as they shift gears.
This sound will usually get increasingly loud as the problem becomes worse. By this point, you can safely assume that this part has significant wear at the areas that link to the drive shaft.
Another sign that you have u-joint issues is excessive vibration throughout your vehicle. The vibration tends to become more noticeable as you start driving faster. There are other potential explanations for a vibrating sensation, but there are some important distinctions.
If the vibration is caused by something like a wheel balance issue, it will constantly feel the same. If the problem is your u-joints, the vibration will fluctuate according to your speed.
3. Grinding Noise
A grinding noise can also be indicative of problems with the u-joints. This is ultimately caused by a lack of grease, which these joints need to stay lubricated.
The lack of lubrication eventually leads to indentations in the cross. The longer you go without getting your u-joints replaced, the deeper these indentations become.
This is just one of the reasons why it’s so important to get your vehicle inspected as soon as you notice this type of sound.
4. Fluid Leakage
Transmission fluid leakage is another common sign that your u-joints are done for. The vibration causes serious wear on the output shaft seal. This directly results in transmission fluid leaking from your vehicle.
The mechanic you bring your car to will have to find where the leak is coming from and replace the u-joint. This usually only happens with this part is in very bad condition.
5. Drift Shaft Problems
Problems with the drive shaft assembly are fairly common with u-joint issues. In fact, it is possible that you could lose this part entirely if the u-joint is in bad enough condition.
This means that you will have to get your drive shaft and u-joint repaired.
U-Joint Replacement Cost
While it is technically possible to replace u-joints yourself, it is not recommended. This is the sort of task that should only be attempted by skilled professionals. The total cost of replacing this part will depend on your vehicle and where you get the work done. You will definitely want to make a point of finding a skilled and reputable mechanic.
It can cost anywhere from $200 to a little over $400 to get a single u-joint replaced. The average person pays around $300-$350 for this work. The part itself only costs about $30, so most of what you pay for is labor. The fact is that some cars are designed in such a way that replacing a u-joint can take quite a while.
How Often Are U-Joint Replacements Needed?
You can easily drive up to 100,000 miles before you will need to get any of your u-joints replaced. This is assuming that you keep up with routine maintenance. The better you are about taking care of your vehicle, the less money you will have to spend over time.
If a u-joint goes bad earlier, it is most likely due to negligence on the part of the owner.
Buying a Replacement U-Joint
If you want to save some money, you can try buying your own u-joint and hiring a mechanic to install it. While this part is typically pretty cheap, you might be able to save a few bucks if you buy it on your own. Depending on your vehicle, this part can cost over $200. Take the time to look around online before buying from somewhere in particular.
Make sure that you get a brand new part and not a used one. Buying a used u-joint might seem like a smart economic choice, but it is not a good idea. You want to know that the new one you have installed is going to last a good long time.
Diagnosing a U-Joint Problem
A mechanic will be able to diagnose a u-joint problem with your car fairly easily. They just look for the joint that feels looser than the rest. Sometimes the bad joint will also move around, which is a dead giveaway.
You may be able to diagnose the problem yourself, but you’ll ultimately want to have the work done by a professional.
How the Replacement is Done
Some mechanics choose to remove the u-joint all at once, while others take it off bit by bit. First the retaining clips have to be taken off. The actual joints slide out from the yokes. After this has been done, the new joints as well as the clips are put on.
While it might seem like a fairly simple and straightforward job, it can be time consuming. Certain vehicles pose more of a hassle than others when it comes to doing this particular job.
If you notice any of above listed symptoms, you should get your car inspected by a mechanic right away. Even a little bit of wear or damage to just one of your u-joints can cause serious problems very quickly. The most common sign to look out for is a loud clinking or banging noise when you are changing gears.
Your mechanic will be able to quickly tell if you have an issue with any of the u-joints. While it might not be a cheap fix, it is definitely necessary. It is not safe to drive around with this kind of problem looming over you.