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

Schedule 75 Point Safety Inspection
Service Area

$0.00

Upfront, Transparent Price
Average rating from 370 customers who received a 75 Point Safety Inspection.

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.

2. 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 2-4 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.


Next Step

Schedule 75 Point Safety Inspection

The most popular service booked by readers of this article is 75 Point Safety Inspection. Yourmechanic’s technicians bring the dealership to you by performing this job at your home or office 7 days a week between 7AM-9PM. We currently cover over 10k cities and have 100k+ 5-star reviews... LEARN MORE

SEE PRICING & SCHEDULING

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Recent 75 Point Safety Inspection reviews

Excellent Rating


YourMechanic 75 Point Safety Inspection Service

Average Rating

4.8/5

Number of Reviews

370

Rating Summary
339
14
10
1
6
339
14
10
1
6

Mario

18 years of experience
101 reviews
Mario
18 years of experience
Honda Prelude - 75 Point Safety Inspection - Fort Myers, Florida
on Arrival he introduced himself. Extended his hand with a warm and welcoming shake as he addressed me my name. Mario got right to work. He looked at everyThing under the hood. Then he Showed me and explained The discoveries that needed attention and repairs. He is soKnowledgeable and veryCourteous. I will beUsing Mario for all the needs, repairs for/to my Honda Prelude. I highly recommend Mario! He is an ace!!!
Dodge Avenger - 75 Point Safety Inspection - Fort Myers, Florida
I scheduled for work to be done to replace my vehicle's serpentine belt, pulley, and tensioner ('cause Firestone said that it needed to be "replace"). When Mario arrived and checked the belt, he was very honest and informed me that the serpentine belt did not need to be replaced. He showed me the serpentine belt and pointed out that it did not have any cracks. It didn't need to be replaced for "preventive maintenance" either. I appreciate his honesty and the time that he took to show me other issues (that Firestone failed to mention) and explained it.

Jerimiah

17 years of experience
324 reviews
Jerimiah
17 years of experience
BMW 528i - 75 Point Safety Inspection - Las Vegas, Nevada
Fantastic....There is a lot of work needed. He informed me that I needed work done on my control arm which was replaced in Dec 2018 by Big O Tires. Not sure how long they should last but I am pretty sure that I can get atleast a year. They replaced them(supposedly), but the issue continued after. Anyway, I am glad that Jeremiah pointed this out. Thank

Pardeep

19 years of experience
578 reviews
Pardeep
19 years of experience
Ford Escape - 75 Point Safety Inspection - San Jose, California
Pradeep immediately found the suspension problem I was worried about and fixed it. We had just purchased this car and now feel a lot better about it now that he has checked it out.

Alexander

18 years of experience
58 reviews
Alexander
18 years of experience
Toyota Sequoia - 75 Point Safety Inspection - Kissimmee, Florida
Look at issue with my vehicle. Quickly diagnosed the problem, which actually saved me some money. Problem was fixed and vehicle running in less than one hour. Suggested other things I should due to keep vehicle in running shape.

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE