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

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

Automotive Solutions

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When You Have the Need to Downspeed

While engine downspeeding offers increased fuel economy and decreased emissions, the faster axle ratios needed to accommodate the lower RPMs result in additional torque in the drivetrain, placing much higher stresses on the main driveshaft, axles, and inter-axle shaft.

The right driveshaft and inter-axle shafts with robust and durable components from Spicer can reliably handle the added input torque. Spicer Life Series u-joints—in particular, the SPL® 350 series—are engineered, tested, and proven to meet today’s torque demands: their exclusive design accommodates faster axle ratios without sacrificing u-joint life.

Spicer Life Series u-joints performed more than 2X better than the closest competitor!

Journal Cross

Engineered with a cold-formed body to ensure better wear and overall strength.

Bearing Cups

Heat-treated for strength; precision-ground and case-hardened for durability.

Thrust Washers

Friction and heat can cause premature failure. The Spicer thrust washer eliminates metal-to-metal contact/friction, prevents wear, and lowers the overall operating temperature.

Lubrication Options

Get longer life and lower maintenance costs for your u-joint with two lubrication options. Choose from a greaseable u-joint or a service-free, lubed-for-life u-joint. Periodic inspection is always recommended.

Seal Guard

High-impact material for optimal first-level protection against contaminants.

Premium Viton® Multi-Lip Sealing Package

This premium sealing package includes a Viton® multi-lip seal, garter spring, seal guard, and a needle bearing spacer. Keeping the grease in and contaminants out is the key to maximizing u-joint bearing life.

SPL170-4X SPL250-3X


What Happens When a U-Joint Fails?

When a u-joint fails, your vehicle breaks down and stops moving. It sounds simple, but it’s actually not. There can be a lot of damage involved. The driveshaft assembly can come loose and even fall off. In that case, the entire driveshaft may need to be replaced. There may also be extensive damage to the underside of the vehicle and potentially to the driveline itself. The u-joint is a small part, but it can cause thousands of dollars in repairs if it completely fails. If your u-joint fails while your vehicle is in motion, it may cause an accident.

Neglecting to replace a u-joint when symptoms start to crop up can bring some really serious consequences. That’s why we always say that it’s better to err on the side of caution and replace a u-joint as soon as it starts to fail.

The Competition Doesn’t Even Come Close

When it comes to torsional fatigue capability, the competition can’t touch the Spicer® 10 Series u-joint. These u-joints are consistently stronger, helping to ensure longer life and better performance. Zerks are positioned at 180°, so lubrication can be done without rotating the driveshaft. You save maintenance time and costs!

Spicer 10 Series u-joints performed more than 5X better than the closest competitor!

Journal Cross

Forged with high-quality steel, precision heat-treat- ing and case-hardening to very specific levels, ensuring optimal and consistent strength and durability.

Zerks positioned on both sides

Allows for easy and thorough lubrication to maximize the life of the u-joint.

  • One zerk is always exposed, greatly reducing the chance of missed lubrication
  • Case hardening inside and out increases durability, ruggedness and strength
  • Long-life seals resist heat and maintain lubrication at all speeds
5-280X 5-674X

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.

Next Step

Schedule Vehicle Drivetrain Inspection

The most popular service booked by readers of this article is Vehicle Drivetrain Inspection. Once the problem has been diagnosed, you will be provided with an upfront quote for the recommended fix and receive $20.00 off as a credit towards the repair. 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 2,000 cities and have 100k+ 5-star reviews… LEARN MORESEE PRICING & SCHEDULING

Replacement U-Joints: Quality Matters

Since the u-joint is an extremely important part in your vehicle, quality should matter a lot while shopping for replacement u-joints. As one of the world’s largest u-joint manufacturers, GMB builds sturdy and reliable u-joints to OE specs. All GMB u-joints are built with high-quality materials (including special chrome-molybdenum alloy steel for superior corrosion resistance), heavy duty needle bearings, and an exact fit snap ring to ensure longevity and reliability. All GMB u-joints are also extensively tested for maximum quality control.

If you’re in the market for new u-joints, you can’t go wrong with GMB.


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