How To Replace Your Universal Joint (U-Joint)

If your car or truck is making noise from underneath, and you've determined that your universal joint is worn, you can replace it and save lots of money in the process. A clicking or clunking sound from under your car may indicate a worn universal joint at the drive shaft. Universal joint replacement may seem like a tall task, but it can be done by a novice mechanic with regular tools.

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Identify the Drive Shaft

Removing a drive shaft.
Drive shaft removal, step first. photo by John Lake, 2011

The first step in replacing your u-joint is getting at it. To do this, you'll need to remove the drive shaft. On some vehicles, you remove the drive shaft by removing the universal joint. If your vehicle is like this, follow the instructions that follow and your drive shaft will drop.

If your drive shaft attaches with axle type bolts (a circle of bolts with either hex or Allen heads), proceed to remove that end of the driveshaft like the photo above. If your driveshaft does not have this type of end, move to the next step to see how to remove it.

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Remove the Drive Shaft

Drive shaft removal.
Disconnecting the drive shaft by removing the holding bolts. photo by John Lake, 2011

The other end of your drive shaft may look like this. If it does, you can remove it by removing the two bolts the hold the two halves of the u-joint together. The drive shaft will drop easily once this is removed.

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Remove Your Universal Joints Snap Rings or C-Clips

The snap rings come right out of this u-joint.
Removing the snap rings on a standard universal joint with pliers. photo by John Lake, 2011

There are two types of clips that hold a universal joint together. Spicer Snap Rings are one type and are pictured in this article. The other type is standard C-clips and they are quite easy to remove as well. The steps are the same whichever clip your vehicle uses.

To remove the snap rings, squeeze the ends together with pliers or a special removal tool. They should come out easily. If they have become corroded, you may need to soak the u-joint with some penetrant.

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Press the Bearing and Joint Out

Tapping the bearing race through.
Remove the bearing on your universal joint and press the joint through. photo by John Lake, 2011

With the drive shaft out of the car or truck, the next step is to remove the joint and its bearings. You'll need to mount the end in a vice, then tap the bearing through far enough to get the joint to drop out. In most cases, a spark plug socket is the perfect tapping tool. Firmly tap the top of your socket with a hammer until the whole thing is pressed far enough in to be able to pop it out.

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Remove the Bearing Cup from Your Universal Joint

Bearing cup removal, u-joint repair.
Unoversal joint bearing cup being removed. photo by John Lake, 2011

With the joint tapped through, remove the bearing cup (it looks like a cup and is full of grease). This will enable you to remove the loose joint section fully.

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Insert Your New UV Joint

U-joint going back in.
Reinstallation of universal joint parts. photo by John Lake, 2011

Get that old joint center out of there and put the new piece in. There's a chance that your new center will assemble a little differently than your old one came out. This is ok. Most replacement joints look a little different. Before you reinstall, lubricate every part you can reach with grease. Don't overpack the assembly with grease as this can cause parts failure, but apply a thin coat to everything. Now's the time to reinstall the bearing cups if your new part comes apart in this manner.

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Install the New Clips

Snap rings hold your universal joint in place.
Installing the new snap rings or c-clips. photo by John Lake, 2011

Now that your assembly is almost back together, you can reinstall the snap rings or c-clips your universal joint uses. The rebuild kit came with new clips, and they look great, don't they?

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Reinstall Your Drive Shaft

u-joint finished
Universal joint installation complete. photo by John Lake, 2011

That's it! To use the old auto repair adage, installation is the reverse of removal. You're ready to reinstall your drive shaft with the new universal joint ready to provide years of service. Well done!