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I had picked up a set of D-30 inner and outer axle shafts from a friend in California when we wheeled the Rubicon together. Having gone to 35" tires during my last lift, I thought it would be prudent to carry a set, "just in case". It seems that when an axle u-joint goes, it often times takes the yoke ears with it. Having a spare u-joint sitting in the tool box doesn't do much for you when that happens. Having a full set of ready spares does! The spare shafts I picked up needed new u-joints before being put in the Jeep as trail spares.
The outer shafts had old Spicer u-joints in them (looking pretty bad) so these would need to be removed before the new ones were installed. I had thought about doing this at my friends house, since he has a 25 ton shop press that would make short work of this job. But, I had a bought a u-joint press from Harbor Freight some time back and to date, I had only used it on someone else's vehicle out on the trail. So, hey, why not break it out of the storage box and give it a try? Besides, that would give me a chance to take inventory in the box and figure out what was going with me to Moab next weekend. (Click here for a helpful trick for using the u-joint tool.)
Here is the old u-joint, shown in the outer shaft yoke. I pulled the bearing caps off of the two free ends and set them off to the side. Note that it is VERY EASY for the bearing caps to slide off of the u-joint, hit the floor, and scatter the enclosed needle bearings ALL over the place. (been there, done that, probably will again!)
You need to remove the C clip from both sides of the u-joint. This does NOT take a special tool of any kind....just something you can use to pry the clip up and out of the groove it sits in, as shown in the above picture. I found that one of the jaws of a small pair of needle nose pliers made an easy removal of the C clip. Although the new u-joints I bought came with new clips, I kept the ones I removed and stashed them away in the storage box. You never know when you might need a spare (or your friend might for that matter).
This is the Harbor Freight u-joint tool I mentioned at the beginning of the article. They sell for about $30 and the company seems to have them in and out of stock at various times. It is made in China but seems to work just fine. (hey, there is only 1 moving part....the big screw) It also works on ball joints and has some kind of use for pushing a brake pin out of a truck brakes (or something like that). I realize that some of you hard core folks like to use a big hammer and a couple of properly sized sockets to remove u-joints, but I prefer this method and highly recommend it. Everyone that has either used it or seen my use it was very impressed with how easy it is.
When using the Harbor Freight press to remove the u-joint, the
bearing cap will be pushed into the large hole at the bottom of the tool, as
shown above. I highly recommend this simple but effective tool as an
addition to your off-road tool box.
More U-Joint Replacement