Rear Drive Shaft U-Joints


Spicer U-Joint

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Update: 2/11/06

Update: 2/25/06

So now I have my crash damage more or less repaired, and I'm driving home after getting my engine replaced from the unexpected catastrophic failure a couple weeks prior.  I'm fat but not completely happy, though I have absolutely no complaints about the engine work.  The ride back to West Virginia after retrieving it was marred only by the foolish loss of my prescription sun glasses...

The ride was nice and smooth with no hint of problems on the horizon.  I reached my new home and parked the Jeep thinking that finally I was going to have a stretch of peace and quiet.  Muahahaha!  Silly man!

The next day we had a moderate snow storm that accumulated several inches of snow.  It coincided with our plans to go out and get a Christmas tree.  So it was going to be a white Christmas, I was going to do a little street wheeling, and life was going to be grand.  I took a quick solo run down the street to check the conditions and to see if any of my neighbors were having trouble with the snow.  The conditions were mild and my neighbors were doing funny tricks with minivans on the hills.  I stopped to help a couple of them, then returned home to go out for the tree.  We decided we'd take a ride to Wal*Mart first, so loaded up the kids and headed out flying on instruments.

No sooner than we got to the bottom of a hill then the ride in the Jeep started to remind me of driving on a corduroy road.  There was a low-frequency rumble.  At first I thought it was the street but soon enough I realized that it was the vehicle.  I varied the speed, the gears, and even tried shimmying the steering.  The rumble stayed and I was once again in that bad place that my morale goes when something like this crops up.

I was determined that we'd have a nice day so I continued to Wal*Mart where we bought some decorations to proxy for the ones that were packed in some unknown box, currently stored in some unknown place in our new house.  Then we got on the highway and headed for the "select and cut" tree farm up the road.   By now it was snowing heavily.  We drove through a couple white-outs on the highway.  Traffic, such as it was, was crawling and there were vehicles strewn about the median and breakdown lanes, depending on which way the road slanted.

We reached the tree farm only to find that it was closed (Sunday, 5pm, what was I thinking...?) so we turned tail and headed for home.  On the way, I got the Good Samaritan urge and then abandoned the idea to fish a Cadillac out of the ditch when I realized I would have to drive 10 miles to get back to him.  And of course the whole time the Jeep is rumbling along, I was forced to admit that I could also end up disabled myself.

As one might guess, I knew what the problem was - U-Joints.  I even knew which ones.  The only joints on the Jeep that had not been recently replaced were the two on the rear drive shaft.  The front axle joints had been replaced in March, and the whole front drive shaft had been replaced the week before.   It was a no-brainer.  The only diagnostic I attempted was to run in 4-Wheel Drive.  When I did, the rumble disappeared or was greatly reduced.  My logic reasoned that was because the load of moving the vehicle was distributed front and rear, taking away the strain on the rear shaft.

So I called Jeff and ordered some u-joints and then I drove the Jeep the rest of the week while I waited for the parts to come.  In the meantime my parents arrived to visit after Christmas.  The box came with the parts and when I had a free moment, I entertained my father by installing them.

Spicer U-Joints

The process is simple enough in principle:  remove the old joints and install the new ones.  I can hear you swinging your hand to whack me in the side of the head.  But seriously, I just pressed the old u-joints out and pressed the new ones in.  The purchase of the 12-Ton Shop press from Harbor Freight in March paid off.  It was easy to get the old joints out.  I just removed the clips, lined up the joint on the press, then put a slight load on the joint by pumping the press handle a little.  Then I tapped lightly on the yoke of the drive shaft and the joint snapped loose.  A couple more cycles of this and the joint was all the way pressed to one side.

Central Hydraulics

Central Hydraulics 12-ton Shop Press

I removed the assembly from the press and hammered the yoke decisively and drive the other side cap out of the yoke.  Then I removed the center portion of the u-joint from the assembly.  One end of the shaft was completely disassembled.  And not too suprisingly, I discovered that the caps contained nothing but magnetic dust.  All the needle bearings were completely disintegrated.   Shame on me.  The shafts on the center section were oval and pretty well worn down.  I'm guessing I was pretty close to another catastrophic failure.   Fortunately I got off my butt just in time.

I disassembled the transfer case end of the assembly and absent-mindedly set the shaft and yokes down carelessly.  As soon as I did it I realized I had screwed up - I hadn't marked which end was which.  But I deduced that the wet end of the shaft was the end that I had just disassembled and that was the end that went on the transfer case yoke.  And since I had marked the orientation of the yoke and shaft (both ends) I was able to properly reassemble the shaft, and then reinsert it into the slip-yoke on the transfer case.

The work was tedious but uncomplicated.  Once I replaced the dust boot clamp and bolted the straps to the pinion yoke, I picked up the mess, put away my tools and took it out for a ride.  And it was like a magic carpet.   Next time I won't wait!  And with spares on the shelf, I won't have to!


Spicer U-Joint

Another job out of the way...  Maybe one of these days I will get done fixing stuff and go wheeling...



Update: 2/11/06

I went in to get my annual inspection sticker and was passed but told that I needed a new right-front axle end u-joint.  I gave Jeff a call and soon I had a couple Spicer 5-760X u-joints.  I removed the front right axle shaft, pressed the u-joint out, and installed a new one.


Update: 2/25/06

A couple weeks later I had a vibration in the rear drive shaft and found the rear u-joint toasted.  So I pulled one from the shelf and installed it. Fortunately I have a couple more around because I have a feeling the other's aren't far behind...




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