A U-joint, or universal joint, is the part of the drive-shaft that transfers power from the transmission to the differential. If it malfunctions or fails, your vehicle will not be able to drive. Knowing the warning signs of failure in advance and taking your vehicle in for immediate repair may save you from getting stranded and needing a tow if the joint completely fails.
1. Clunking or Clanging
Your vehicle’s U-joint may eventually wear at connecting points to the drive-shaft. If that happens you will likely hear a loud clanking or clunking as you shift your transmission from one position to another (i.e. reverse into drive).
If your driveshaft is out of balance, it’s often because of a defective universal joint. You will usually feel a vibration that increases in intensity as your vehicle’s speed increases.
It can be easy to confuse this vibration with a wheel balance problem, but there are telltale differences to look for. A vibration caused by wheel imbalance will have a consistent, steady vibration when the vehicle is in motion; a U-joint failure will cause vibration when both accelerating and decelerating but the vibration will stop when your vehicle is not moving, even if you gun the engine.
3. Grinding or Chirping
Over time the grease inside a universal joint can dry out, causing the roller bearings to wear small indentations into a section called the cross. A grinding or chirping sound will come from the bearings being forced over these indentations.
4. Loud Banging
On the rare occasion that a vehicle’s U-joint breaks apart, separating the driveshaft from the transmission, you will typically hear a loud noise, like metal striking metal. And if the U-joint becomes completely severed, your vehicle will fail to respond to any power it receives from the transmission and won’t be able to move.
U-Joint failure or malfunction can be a very dangerous situation, so be vigilant when you notice your car making strange sounds and avoid letting the problem get this far. At V&F we offer complete driveshaft and U-Joint repair and replacement. If your car is experiencing any of these symptoms, call us at (413) 314-2280 or schedule an appointment online.