Universal Joints: U-Joints

Universal Joints: The Small Parts with Big Importance

Sponsored by Dana Aftermarket

When was the last time you took a moment to think about universal joints? Maybe the answer is not recently; perhaps the answer is never. Although universal joints, or u-joints, aren’t the flashiest or most exciting part under a car or truck, they are essential to the reliable and safe functioning of a vehicle. Take a few minutes to consider this hard-working part, and you’ll be better prepared if a u-joint shows signs of failure—and you might just find new respect for what a u-joint does.

A vehicle’s driveline is made up of a driveshaft, slip yoke, bolt-in yoke, and at least two u-joints. The u-joints work to adjust for the operating angles of a suspension. They may be small, but a car can’t roll down the road without functional u-joints. In fact, the results can be disastrous if a u-joint fails. In a best-case scenario, the vehicle simply breaks down and stops moving. This is because the driveshaft will not be able to spin, so nothing will be turning the wheels. Yet unfortunately, there may be significant damage to the underside of the vehicle and to the driveline if a u-joint fails. U-joint failure can cause a chain reaction that ends in thousands of dollars of repairs. Clearly, the best idea is to replace a u-joint if there’s any doubt about its dependability.

Since it’s difficult or impossible to guess when a u-joint might fail, it’s a good idea to check these parts during every oil change, or twice a year at the minimum. To check a u-joint, engage the vehicle’s emergency brake, raise the vehicle, and manipulate the driveshaft near the u-joint. Try to manually rotate the driveshaft in either direction, and push it up and down and side to side. If there is any movement at all in the u-joint, it’s time for a replacement. Even if it’s only slightly loose, it’s just going to get worse, and replacing the u-joint now is a much better option than waiting for complete part failure.

In addition to the manual inspection, a failing u-joint may give a few indications. A new vibration upon acceleration or deceleration, a clanking or clunking noise from the underside of the vehicle when shifting gears, a leak from the rear pinion seal or transmission seal, or a metal-on-metal banging noise are all signals to check the u-joints immediately. And if anything doesn’t look right, replacement is always the way to go.

While u-joints can last the lifespan of a vehicle, they may fail due to everyday wear and tear. Frequent, heavy towing or aggressive off-roading can also lead to u-joint failure. Unless the u-joints are the maintenance-free, lubed-for-life variety, they have to be greased at regular intervals to avoid failure. The u-joints could fail if the bolts that hold them in place become loose. Anything from vibration to corrosion to incorrect torqueing can bring this about. U-joints may also wear out if there is a misalignment in the vehicle. This can happen if the ride height is altered, which in turn affects the u-joint operating angles. A greater operating angle means that a u-joint moves more with every driveshaft rotation, wearing it out quicker.

If it turns out that one u-joint needs to be replaced, don’t just replace the failing part. It’s a good idea to replace u-joints in pairs; if one fails, its partner is likely heading in the same direction soon.

When selecting new parts, the quality and design of the replacement u-joints makes a huge difference. You can’t go wrong with a u-joint from Spicer, the company that invented the universal joint in 1904. Spicer® u-joints incorporate the latest advancements in design, materials, and manufacturing processes to deliver a consistent, high-quality product. Premium Spicer Life Series® u-joints and Spicer® 10 Series u-joints are built for the long haul. Forged from high-quality steel, they deliver the strength and durability that today’s vehicles demand. Choose a u-joint with proven quality, and you’ll know that the repair will be done right the first time.

Check u-joints regularly and be aware of the signs of failure, and you can avoid the extreme frustration of complete part failure. To be confident that this relatively small part doesn’t create an enormous hassle later, choose u-joints that provide performance that’s as good as or better than the original equipment parts.

This article was sponsored by Dana Incorporated. For more information, please visit https://www.dana.com/.

You May Also Like

A Closer Look: Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI)

Gasoline direct injection (GDI) is used on most new vehicles and requires a different approach to diagnosis and service. GDI technology has been an integral part of helping to improve fuel economy while reducing emissions, and can be found on more than half of the U.S. fleet. In fact, the use of GDI engines has

Gasoline direct injection (GDI) is used on most new vehicles and requires a different approach to diagnosis and service. GDI technology has been an integral part of helping to improve fuel economy while reducing emissions, and can be found on more than half of the U.S. fleet. In fact, the use of GDI engines has grown by over 600% since 2010. This means that in the next five years, 42 million more vehicles with GDI will enter the Aftermarket “Sweet Spot” of 6-12 years old, during which their injectors and related parts may need to be serviced or replaced. While GDI systems have proved effective, these systems encounter specific failures and require an understanding of how they work and how to test them when they set a code.

A Closer Look: Electronic Throttle Bodies

A shop’s reputation is affected by things like accuracy of diagnosis, quality of the repair, and friendly service. Equally as important is the quality of the parts installed. If the shop does everything right, and the part fails, the customer will ultimately be upset with the shop. When a new part fails, the customer is

Enhancing Efficiency and Streamlining Operations: The Benefits of Utilizing Nexpart Multi-Seller for Repair Centers

In today’s fast-paced automotive repair industry, staying ahead of the competition is crucial for repair centers to thrive. One key aspect that can significantly impact operational efficiency and customer satisfaction is the availability of OE, Aftermarket, Heavy Duty & Salvage parts. Here are just a few advantages of incorporating Nexpart Multi-Seller, a cutting-edge parts ecommerce

Get your vehicle road trip ready with these summer tips 

Summertime is a great time to take your car out on the open road, but it’s also important to ensure that your vehicle is in tip-top shape. Regular preventative maintenance can help you avoid costly repairs and keep your car running smoothly. Make sure you’re ready with these helpful tips from Delphi Technologies. Chassis The

A Closer Look: Ignition Coils

OE coils are known for their high failure rates. Engine misfires, rough idle, a decrease in power under acceleration, poor fuel economy, and a check engine light are all signs of an ignition coil that has failed. Read along for more technical information on how to diagnose a failed coil, and why the original equipment

Other Posts

Engineering behind chassis: high and low-friction parts

What is overengineering? Overengineering is often described as designing a product or solution in an unnecessarily complicated way where a simple solution had been shown to have the same efficiency, or is even more effective than the original.  In the aftermarket world, the OE part is where the journey starts. It begins with testing and

A Closer Look: Turbocharger Operation and Installation

Turbocharger Overview With an effort to increase fuel efficiency, maintain performance and reduce emissions, vehicle manufacturers are adding turbocharged engines to their lineups at a significant rate. Over the next five years, the turbo service market will continue to experience substantial growth.  At a basic level, a turbocharger consists of just three major internal components:

Two Lubegards Are Better Than One

Lubegard Synthetic ATF Protectant and Instant Shudder Fixx work better, faster, and longer together to stop torque converter clutch shudder (TCC shudder).  Both products are effective on their own, but when used together they provide not only a long-term solution for TCC shudder but also offer complete protection for transmissions. Since the 1980’s lockup torque convertors

The Importance of Proper Spark Plug Torquing

Whenever you install new spark plugs in your vehicle’s engine, there are some crucial considerations to keep in mind. For those who have installed plugs before, proper plug gapping usually comes to mind first. But another important factor in getting the most out of a new set of spark plugs is to precisely torque them