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Driveshaft Replacement or Rebuild


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Hey everyone,

Just sourced a bad vibration and clicking at greater speeds.  I'd been dealing with a pretty bad vibration from 45mph and up for a while now and finally decided to take the time to find it's source.  I had noticed the front of the vehicle produced an audible click/pop that matched the rotation of the wheels.  This happened no-matter the direction or process of turning.  My first thought was front driveshaft u-joints and especially because the clicking would get quieter slightly when put in 4WD.  My thinking being that the torque induced within the shaft resettled the joints (taking up slack) in some manner thus quieting the clicking just a bit.

 

Recently I got to removing the front driveshaft and what do you know, that was the culprit.  Vehicle drives like butter now without vibration.  So the reasoning behind my post is simply to decide whether its worth the time to replace the U-joints or just go for an aftermarket replacement.  On top of this is the factor that I will not have this vehicle for more than two years is my guess.  The vehicle has nothing lifting it above stock ride height either.  I'd rather steer away from junk-yard shafts as at this point the vehicles are already pretty old and no telling what a questionable car might produce.  So my main curiosity surrounds the best brands of U-joints for our vehicles and which type is recommended, i.e. serviceable vs non-serviceable.  How am I to know that the vibration is solely dependent on the U-joints and not also in the shaft balancing itself or possible damage?  Would taking it to a shop definitively tell me the answer?  My assumption is that its got to mainly be (or only be) due to the u-joints as there was an audible click coming from them.  Lastly, in terms of aftermarket shafts, what should I stay away from, and what price range is adequate for my situation? Do I really need to spend $500-$600 or can I get by with a $200-$300 shaft?  Let me know of your experience, and much thanks for any info!

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Are the joints noticeably bad? I've always used spicer brand u-joints with little issue. You could take it to a driveline shop to have them changed and they will test that it is balanced, which definitely will solve your vibrations.

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One side (t-case side) has pretty notchy movement.  There’s no doubt the U joints need replacement I just don’t want to find out after the fact that the shaft is also damaged or what not.  What line of spicer joints do you normally use, I’ve also heard of people using Neapco joints with mixed results.  Seems people don’t always solve their vibration issues after replacement.

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Unless the joints are so flogged that they've eaten into the yokes, or the driveshaft has obvious dents/chowder marks/slop in the slip joint, I would just throw a set of joints at it and see where that gets you. Check your front diff bushings while you're in there, I remember someone on here had a vibration that came down to the diff flopping around under load and putting the joint at weird angles.

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18 hours ago, Slartibartfast said:

Unless the joints are so flogged that they've eaten into the yokes, or the driveshaft has obvious dents/chowder marks/slop in the slip joint, I would just throw a set of joints at it and see where that gets you. Check your front diff bushings while you're in there, I remember someone on here had a vibration that came down to the diff flopping around under load and putting the joint at weird angles.

At this point I do believe that is the best course of action.  Though, to you what constitutes enough play/slop in the slip joint that it'd be a problem?  Also it's highly unlikely a balancing weight broke off the shaft correct?  As far as the diff bushings, I can't imagine it'd be them as I would still be feeling the vibration, but the vibration has completely disappeared since the driveshaft removal.  

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I don't know driveshafts well enough to judge how much slop is too much, and I don't see a spec in the manual (though it does spec total runout at 0.6mm). The only truly bad one I've seen was in our '63 Scout, and that thing was so whupped it was sagging in the middle. I wouldn't expect an IFS truck to put enough stress on the slip joint to wear it out. If you can't make it go clunk wiggling it by hand, I would call it good enough--but, again, I'm not a driveshaft guy.

I have heard of driveshaft weights coming off, though not on one of these that I can remember. I would expect to see an obvious bare spot and busted welds where the weight used to be if this had happened.

The diff bushing symptoms don't match yours from what I remember. Just something to check while you're in the neighborhood.

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Got curious and checked the manual again. Looks like the snap rings for the U joints are also shims, and you select different snap rings to get the axial play into spec. The manual has part numbers for various thicknesses. No idea how you'd know what to order before getting into it. I don't know if anyone actually bothers with this, but I would at least check the play before putting it back in. PD section of the FSM.

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On 6/12/2022 at 6:31 AM, Slartibartfast said:

Got curious and checked the manual again. Looks like the snap rings for the U joints are also shims, and you select different snap rings to get the axial play into spec. The manual has part numbers for various thicknesses. No idea how you'd know what to order before getting into it. I don't know if anyone actually bothers with this, but I would at least check the play before putting it back in. PD section of the FSM.

I'm thinking about getting some Spicer joints and getting a shop to install them just so I don't risk the chance of inducing a vibration through installation.  I've seen a lot of horror stories on this forum.  Would you think that a rebuttable shop, even if they aren't a driveline specialist, would take into consideration what you mention about the c-clip/snap-ring thickness when installing the new Spicer u-joints?  I'm looking into the 25-3218X model as its the only one in their catalog they say is compatible with the front driveshaft.  They obviously come with snap rings and I'm curious if the shop just slaps them in along with the joints, or even if they check runout at all.

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I have no idea. Until I saw that in the manual, I didn't even know U joints were adjustable. Looks like some heavy duty Dana/Spicer joints require shimming, so maybe this isn't as weird as I think it is. Something to ask the shop doing the job.

 

But, yeah, I had the same thought, that not setting these up right might be behind some of the stubborn vibration issues I've seen on here.

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16 hours ago, Slartibartfast said:

I have no idea. Until I saw that in the manual, I didn't even know U joints were adjustable. Looks like some heavy duty Dana/Spicer joints require shimming, so maybe this isn't as weird as I think it is. Something to ask the shop doing the job.

 

But, yeah, I had the same thought, that not setting these up right might be behind some of the stubborn vibration issues I've seen on here.

Right! I'm now seeing plenty of Dana/Spicer kits coming with a multitude of color-coded snap-ring sets which I assume is to fine tune the runout, but unfortunately the only ones that work for our front driveshaft by Spicer are of the somewhat lower end series with just one set of snap-rings.  Something else to note is with a little research I've found that with certain driveshaft materials like aluminum vs steel, a zinc-phosphate coating is needed on the bearing caps to protect against electrolysis.  Mainly its with steel bearing caps mating to an aluminum driveshaft yoke.  The problem is that some manufacturers only coat the two opposing bearing caps so there is only one correct orientation, therefor with an improper installation there would be accelerated corrosion.  Anybody know if this is even a factor for our shafts, or are they all steel?  They certainly look to be of some low carbon steel alloy.

Edited by cham
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 I wouldn't recommend doing them yourself without a hydraulic press. I've done a few now and they all required a press.    

 

The different snap rings are used to center the u joint but mine always took the same size that was on there (usually the skinniest). Spicer u joints should include the 3 different size rings. Spicer is the only brand I'll use for u joints.

 

On my rear drive shaft I used machinist calipers to center the u joints and it worked great with no vibrations (till I snapped my upper control arms and the yokes got bent ?). I have a lokka and manual hubs in front so didn't really worry about centering the u joints in front since the hubs are never locked over 25mph.

 

It's pretty straight forward but getting them centered and not messing anything up makes it tedious and a bit of a pain in the ass. If you're not comfortable doing it yourself I would take it to a specialist driveline shop, the average mechanic will not have done many (if any) of these.

 

 

 

 

 

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2 minutes ago, DesertKyle said:

 I wouldn't recommend doing them yourself without a hydraulic press. I've done a few now and they all required a press.    

 

The different snap rings are used to center the u joint but mine always took the same size that was on there (usually the skinniest). Spicer u joints should include the 3 different size rings. Spicer is the only brand I'll use for u joints.

 

On my rear drive shaft I used machinist calipers to center the u joints and it worked great with no vibrations (till I snapped my upper control arms and the yokes got bent ?). I have a lokka and manual hubs in front so didn't really worry about centering the u joints in front since the hubs are never locked over 25mph.

 

It's pretty straight forward but getting them centered and not messing anything up makes it tedious and a bit of a pain in the ass. If you're not comfortable doing it yourself I would take it to a specialist driveline shop, the average mechanic will not have done many (if any) of these.

 

 

 

 

 

That is invariably the problem, it seems I do not really have any options close to me as far as driveline specific shops go.  I'm only finding companies online I can send the shaft off to.  By specialist though do you mean any drivetrain shop, like for example will a transmission shop suffice? 

 

Also from what I've found, only part numbers 5-3218X and 25-3218X u-joints from Dana/Spicer are compatible with my 2002 front driveshaft.  Both are essentially the same, just one is a red box and the other is a purple box.  Both seem to only come with a single set of inner snap rings, do you have a part number for the ones you installed with your shaft by chance?

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3 minutes ago, DesertKyle said:

Pretty sure I'm running the 53218X from rockauto in front. The yokes are steel ?

Good deal, did those come with multiple snap rings sets if you can remember?

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By driveline I mean driveshaft. If the shop has the equipment to balance driveshafts they should have no problem with it.

 

It's been a couple years since I did the front, they may not have come with multiple snap rings, I might be getting it confused with the rear. I've never needed a different size though and I doubt you will either. A driveshaft shop would be able to figure it out either way

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Makes sense, I'm just kind of struggling to find a driveline specialist near me that's going to have the equipment and know how to go that extra mile, versus some ones who's just going to slap them in.  Regardless, I appreciate the info, definitely gives me peace of mind.

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  • 2 months later...

Finally got around to replacing the front shaft u joints with those 5-3218x spicer joints. With the joints finally in, the caps in the yoke closest to the engine side were the only caps still semi-stiff when the shaft was put back into the vehicle. The rest I was able to bang into submission (meaning the other 6 out of 8 caps).

Now there is a noticeable driveline rumble that starts around 55 or 60 mph and increases all the way to about 70 or 75. Still have not done enough driving to see yet but this kind of sucks since my trip coming up will be at those speeds exclusively. I’m wondering if it’s from those semi-stiff caps on the yoke or if I ever so slightly bent the yoke ears when banging on them. The driveshaft itself seemed to be in great condition with no missing balancing weights. I put the shaft back in exactly how it came out (can’t say that for the driveshaft bolts though). Marked everything prior to disassembly.

So my question then is, at what point is a driveline vibration bad enough that it will rapidly damage the components it’s attached to? Also it’s only been a couple days and I’m wondering if driving on them will loosen the caps and help them settle over time, causing the vibration to settle as well. Is that a possibility?


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