How to Change Plastic Filled U-Joints

Written by kevin mclain
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A lot of the newer make and model vehicles come equipped with plastic filled U-joints. These plastic filled U-joints can be found on Ford trucks, Chevrolet trucks, Jeep model vehicles and many other vehicle types. This plastic is used to secure the U-joint caps to the ends of the U-joint. The plastic inside of the U-joints must be melted before the U-joints can be removed and replaced.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Wheel chocks
  • Chalk
  • 1/2-inch drive ratchet
  • 1/2-inch drive deep-well socket set
  • Safety glasses
  • Hand held sledge hammer
  • Table vice
  • Protective gloves
  • Hand held bottle torch
  • Pliers
  • New U-joint kit
  • Snap ring pliers
  • Torque wrench

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Park the vehicle on a flat surface and engage the parking brake. Place the wheel chocks in front of both front wheels and behind both front wheels.

  2. 2

    Slide under the vehicle and locate the front driveshaft yoke that is attached to the transmission yoke. Mark a line across the top of the transmission yoke and the top of the driveshaft yoke with a piece of chalk.

  3. 3

    Loosen and remove the U-joint strap bolts from the driveshaft yoke with a ratchet and a socket. Pull the bolts out of the yoke along with the straps and place them in a safe area.

  4. 4

    Pull back on the driveshaft until the U-joint is out of the transmission yoke. Use a hand held sledge hammer if necessary to tap the top of the driveshaft yoke until the U-joint is out of the transmission yoke. Lower the end of the driveshaft to the ground. Move to the rear U-joint that connects the rear driveshaft yoke to the rear differential yoke and repeat the same process to remove the driveshaft U-joint from the rear differential yoke.

  5. 5

    Slide the driveshaft out from under the vehicle. Place one of the driveshaft yokes into a table vice. Position the driveshaft yoke so that one of the U-joint caps is facing upward and the other U-joint cap is facing downward. Tighten the vice around the yoke. Ignite a hand held bottle torch and hold the flame of the torch over the top U-joint cap until the plastic oozes out of the small hole on the side of the U-joint. Turn the torch off.

  6. 6

    Loosen the vice and turn the driveshaft over so that the other U-joint cap is facing upward. Tighten the vice around the yoke. Ignite the torch again and hold the flame over the U-joint cap until the plastic oozes out of the hole on the side of the U-joint.

  7. 7

    Place the end of a deep-well socket, that is one size smaller than the U-joint caps, over the top of the upper U-joint cap. Tap the top of the socket with the hammer until the bottom cap slides off of the U-joint. Finish removing the bottom cap with the pliers if necessary.

  8. 8

    Loosen the vice and turn the driveshaft over so that the exposed U-joint is now facing upward. Place the end of the socket over the exposed arm of the U-joint. Tap the top of the socket until the bottom cap slides off of the bottom of the U-joint. Finish removing the cap with pliers if necessary.

  9. 9

    Manoeuvre the old U-joint out of the driveshaft yoke and place it to the side. Position the new U-joint inside of the driveshaft yoke. Install the caps to the arms of the new U-joint by tapping the caps with the hammer until the top of each cap is below the snap ring groove. Use the snap ring pliers to lock the snap rings into the grooves above each cap.

  10. 10

    Loosen the vice and flip the entire driveshaft over so that the rear U-joint is inside of the vice. Tighten the vice around the rear driveshaft yoke. Repeat the same U-joint replacement process exactly as outlined in the steps above. Slide the driveshaft under the vehicle.

  11. 11

    Position the front driveshaft U-joint inside of the transmission yoke. Ensure that the chalk marks on top of the front driveshaft yoke and the transmission yoke are lined up with each other. Slide the other two U-joint caps over the exposed U-joint arms. Place the U-joint cap straps over the caps and screw the bolts in tightly. Tighten the bolts down tight with a ratchet and a socket. Torque the U-joint strap bolts down to 30 to 35 foot-pounds with a torque wrench and a socket.

  12. 12

    Move to the rear driveshaft yoke and repeat the same process as the front driveshaft yoke to install the rear U-joint to the rear differential yoke. Ensure that the U-joint strap bolts are torqued down to 30 to 35 foot-pounds.

  13. 13

    Slide out from under the vehicle remove the wheel chocks. Test drive the vehicle for about 10 minutes.

  14. 14

    Park the vehicle and recheck the torque specifications on the strap bolts to ensure that they remain at 30 to 35 foot-pounds.

Tips and warnings

  • The new U-joint kit will come with snap rings or retainer rings instead of the factory filled plastic U-joints.
  • If the sledge hammer and the sockets will not move the U-joint caps, take the driveshaft to a machine shop to have the caps pressed off of the U-joints.
  • The U-joint kit can be found at most all auto parts stores.
  • Wear safety glasses when using the sledge hammer and when using the bottle torch.
  • Wait for the U-joint caps to completely cool off before touching the U-joints. Wear protective gloves if necessary to prevent any burns to the skin.

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