Five Signs That Your Universal Joint Is Not Working (U-Joint), and the Cost of Replacement

The driveshaft of rear- or four-wheel drive vehicles is dependent on universal joints. Also known as U-joints. This critical driveshaft component can fail, causing a variety of symptoms that range from noisy to difficult handling.

Here are the most common signs of a damaged universal joint. We also show how much it would cost to replace them. Let’s begin with a look at the signs to look for.

Índice de Contenido
  1. Bad Universal Joint (U-Joint), Symptoms
    1. 1. Squeaking Noise
    2. 2. Clunking Noise
    3. 3. Vibration
    4. 4. Transmission Fluid Leak
    5. 5. Incapable of Moving Vehicle
  2. Universal Joint (UJoint), Location
  3. The function of a universal joint (U-Joint).
  4. Cost of replacement for Universal Joint (U-Joint).
  5. Universal Joint FAQs
    1. Is it bad when a universal joint sounds like?
    2. Is it possible to drive with bad universal joints?
    3. What is the average life expectancy of your joints?
    4. What causes universal joint failure in common?

Bad Universal Joint (U-Joint), Symptoms

A bad universal joint can cause vibrations from your vehicle at higher speeds. This can lead to squeaking, clunking, or other unpleasant sounds while driving. It may even cause the transmission seals to be damaged and the transmission can start leaking.

Here’s a more detailed list of the most common symptoms of a bad U-joint:

1. Squeaking Noise

Noise From Car

When the universal joint bearings are installed on your car, they should be greased. After the vehicle is used for some time the grease may stop working to lubricate the bearings. When the U joint twists with the driveshaft, the grease tends to evaporate and move from the bearing cup.

The bearing can dry and make contact with the metal surfaces. It will produce a "squeaking" sound. It is more common when the shaft of your drive is turning. This is why you'll notice it first when you begin to move in either forward or reverse. The squeaking may stop when you go over five-ten mph. Other vehicle noises are louder. 

2. Clunking Noise

Driving Highway

Squeaking isn’t the only noise your U-joints can make. When you change from Drive to Reverse, you may hear the U-joints making a loud ringing noise and some clunking. The sound is a sign that your U-joint bearings are in the right clearance, but suddenly stop shifting to Reverse. 

This is the most likely next step if the bearings are left ungreased following the sound of the squeaking. You can add grease, but this will not stop the damage done. 

3. Vibration

It could indicate that your U-joint bearings may be worn to the point that you feel vibration as the vehicle accelerates. Vibration and imbalance can result from this situation.

Because the driveshaft travels three to four times quicker than the wheels, you'll notice a greater vibration than when a wheel is out of balance. Other key components are being damaged by the defective U-joint, including the transmission. To avoid further damage, you must replace the U-joint. 

4. Transmission Fluid Leak

Wearing universal joints can cause transmission fluid leaks. If it is, the transmission fluid will leak from its back.

Most often, the leak occurs after all other symptoms have been addressed. The transmission tailshaft bushing wears more quickly, which causes fluid to leak through the transmission output shaft seal. This is the point where you need to consider more than just replacing worn U-joints. 

5. Incapable of Moving Vehicle

If you’ve ever seen a truck sitting on the side of the road with a driveshaft underneath, you can bet that the U-joint caused the problem. When U-joints aren’t replaced at the first sign of failure, they can cause major issues, even complete dislocation of the driveshaft.

If the driveshaft is damaged, the drive shaft will fall to the ground. It will stop transmitting power. Your vehicle may need more than just a U-joint at this time. It might even need a completely new driveshaft. 

Universal Joint (UJoint), Location

Car U Joint E1619981880606

You will find the universal joint on your driveline. Two U-joints are located on the driveline. One is closer to the engine, the other at rear differential for rear-wheel-drive cars. The four-wheel-drive cars will have more U-joint connections along the driveline. 

Front-wheel-drive vehicles don’t use U-joints. They instead use two constant velocity joint (CV), which allow for steering compensation. 

The function of a universal joint (U-Joint).

Truck U Joint E1619981907676

This joint connects the driveshaft and differential. The driveshaft is also connected to the vehicle's transmission by U-joints. These cross-shaped components have bearings on either side. This allows for side to side and lateral movement of the driveshaft. 

You can make slight changes in the position of your differential, transmission or driveshaft with the U-joint. Although it connects between the transmission/differential, it can't allow for static connections. Because the transmission and differential don't always align with one another, it must be able to move on its own. The U-joint compensates for movement, but the driveshaft spins free and stays attached. 

Cost of replacement for Universal Joint (U-Joint).

A U-joint replacement costs on average between $2500-$400. The labor costs between $100 and $200 while parts cost should range from $125 to $200. 

These prices will vary depending on the make and model of your vehicle. You can replace your U-joints yourself if you're mechanically skilled and have the proper tools.

Universal Joint FAQs

Is it bad when a universal joint sounds like?

If your universal joint is damaged, you may feel a clicking or creaking under the vehicle. A bad U-joint may be silent at times, so vibrations are only noticeable when you accelerate or travel higher.

Is it possible to drive with bad universal joints?

It is against the law to drive with a defective universal joint. A bad U-joint will cause stress on the transmission parts and can lead to other expensive repair costs, so it’s best to get it fixed as soon as possible.

What is the average life expectancy of your joints?

U-joints last the entire life of a vehicle. Many car models don't require replacement. Your driving habits, car maintenance, and the type of your vehicle will all affect how long your U-joint lasts. A majority of car models have a U joint that should last more than 100,000 miles.

What causes universal joint failure in common?

Poor maintenance and old age are two of the leading causes of U joint problems. The U-joints need to be greased at least once every 20,000 to 40,000. If the U joint is made with inferior quality gaskets, it will cause the U-joint to crack and dry out.

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