Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Universal Joint (U-Joint)

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Cost of Replacing a Bad or Failing Universal Joint (U-Joint)

Common signs of a faulty u-joint include a squeaking noise, clunking sound when shifting, vibrations in the car, and transmission fluid leaking. Our certified technicians can come to you and diagnose the problem. You will receive a $30 credit towards any follow-up repairs that result from the diagnostic. Following are example prices for Universal Joint (U-joint) Replacement. Click on the button below to get an upfront quote for your car.

Cars Estimate Parts Cost Labor Cost Savings Average Dealer Price
2003 GMC Yukon XL 1500 $174 $33.80 $140.00 30% $248.80
2004 Chevrolet Cavalier $198 $37.18 $161.00 30% $284.43
2012 Chevrolet Tahoe $163 $37.38 $126.00 29% $230.88
2003 BMW 325Ci $367 $59.23 $308.00 31% $532.23
2007 BMW 335i $339 $59.23 $280.00 30% $489.23
2003 Dodge Viper $174 $33.98 $140.00 30% $248.98
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How to Diagnose a Bad or Failing Universal Joint (U-Joint)?

u joint

Universal joints (“u-joints” for short) are components of the driveshaft assembly fitted to most rear-wheel drive trucks, four-wheel drive trucks and SUVs, or off-road vehicles. U-joints, which are found in pairs on the driveshaft, compensate for the height misalignment between the transmission and the rear axle, all the while transferring power to move the vehicle. This allows each end of the driveshaft, and its associated universal joint, to bend with each rotation of the driveshaft in order to handle the misalignment (as a side note, rear-wheel drive cars now mostly utilize constant-velocity joints for the same purpose, which permit far smoother flexibility of drive shaft rotation).

Here are some symptoms of a bad or failing universal joint you may notice, in approximate order of severity:

1. Squeaking noise when starting to move (forward or reverse)

The bearing components of each universal joint are greased at the factory, but may not have a grease fitting to allow further lubrication after the vehicle is put into use, limiting their service life. Since the bearing portion of each universal joint twists a small amount with each rotation of the driveshaft (but always in the same location) the grease can evaporate, or be thrown out of the bearing cup. The bearing becomes dry, metal-to-metal contact is made, and the u-joint bearings will squeak as the drive shaft rotates. The squeak usually cannot be heard once the vehicle moves faster than 5-10 mph because of other vehicle noise. The squeak is a warning that the universal joint should be serviced by a professional mechanic. You can certainly extend the life of your existing u-joints by doing so.

2. “Clunk” with a ringing sound when shifting from Drive to Reverse

This noise usually indicates that the universal joint bearings have enough excess clearance to allow the driveshaft to rotate slightly, then come to a hard stop, when power is reversed. This can be the next stage of deterioration after having insufficient grease in the u-joint bearings. Servicing, or greasing the u-joint bearings, won’t reverse damage to the u-joint, but may extend its life somewhat.

3. Vibration felt throughout the vehicle while moving forward at speed

This vibration means that the universal joint bearings have now worn enough to allow the driveshaft to move outside its normal rotational path, causing imbalance and vibration. This will be a higher frequency vibration than that of an out-of-balance wheel for example, since the driveshaft turns 3-4 times faster than the wheels. The worn universal joint is now causing damage to other components of the vehicle – including the transmission. Replacement of the universal joint by a professional mechanic is certainly in order at this point to prevent further damage. Your mechanic should, when possible, select quality replacement u-joints with a grease fitting, allowing for long-term preventative maintenance, and enabling extended life of the u-joint bearings.

4. Transmission fluid leaks from the rear of the transmission

Transmission fluid leaking from the rear of the transmission is often the result of a badly worn universal joint. The vibration noted above has now worn the transmission tailshaft bushing and damaged the transmission output shaft seal, which then leaks transmission fluid. If fluid is suspected of leaking from the transmission, the transmission should be inspected to determine the source of the leak, and the appropriate repair made.

5. Vehicle cannot move under its own power; driveshaft dislocated

You've probably seen it before: a truck on the side of the road, with the drive shaft lying under the vehicle, no longer attached to the transmission or rear axle. This is the ultimate failure mode for a universal joint – literally breaking, and allowing the drive shaft to drop to the pavement, no longer transferring power. Repair at this point will include much more than the universal joint, and may require full driveshaft replacement or more.

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YourMechanic Universal Joint (U-joint) Replacement Service

Average Rating

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Number of Reviews

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Robert

17 years of experience
436 reviews
Robert
17 years of experience
Professional and explained procedures in completing the job
2000 DODGE RAM 1500 - UNIVERSAL JOINT (U-JOINT) - DENVER, COLORADO

Braxton

8 years of experience
101 reviews
Braxton
8 years of experience
I requested Braxton because he did such a great job in the past and he didn't disappoint. On time, quick, and professional.
1997 JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE - UNIVERSAL JOINT (U-JOINT) - ORLANDO, FLORIDA

Brikk

15 years of experience
299 reviews
Brikk
15 years of experience
Nice guy. Despite a couple of snags beyond his control that caused it taking well over the quoted time and charges, he hung in there and completed the change out. No complaints. Keep in mind that these guys are locked into the quote, no matter how long it takes. I'd request him if I need on the spot service again.
2005 JEEP WRANGLER - UNIVERSAL JOINT (U-JOINT) - CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA

Richard

10 years of experience
419 reviews
Richard
10 years of experience
Second time i have had Richard work on my car, always on time excellent work, awesome mechanic
2001 FORD F-150 - UNIVERSAL JOINT (U-JOINT) - LAS VEGAS, NEVADA

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