A Universal Problem – Dave’s Garage

Many automobile manufacturers have been making drive shaft universal joints as a non- serviceable item. These universal joints are also sealed, with no grease fittings or provisions to grease the joint. When the joint eventually fails, (due to lack of lubrication) the entire drive shaft has to be replaced. These universal joints are held in the yokes with stakes, punched in with a press at the factory, and are therefore referred to as “staked in” U-joints. Ford, Chrysler, GM, Honda, Mazda, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota, Jaguar and BMW all have models utilizing staked in universal joints. The Mazda Miata and virtually all Subarus have those joints.

I recently noticed a vibration in my Subaru Outback. When I removed the driveshaft between the transmission and the rear axle both universal joints were binding, with rust powder falling out of the trunnion. Subaru has been using staked in universal joints for years. Subaru does not offer a replacement joint. According to Subaru, the drive shaft is not serviceable, and when a carrier bearing or a universal joint fails, the entire drive shaft assembly needs to be replaced. The cost for a replacement drive shaft is roughly $850. I was not about to purchase an $850 driveshaft because a $30 universal joint failed. Outside of the joints the driveshaft still looked new, no rust anywhere.

Once again, Google is my friend. I found a driveshaft shop that makes replacement universal joints for staked in universal joint drive shafts. This replacement universal joint has an internal snap ring designed to work with this type of drive shaft yoke.

I ordered two joints. The original joints were easily pressed out with my press. Once there was moderate pressure on the trunnion cap, bang! They popped right out.

Installing the new joints was slightly tricky. I had to dress the trunnion cap mating surface in the yoke with a half round file to remove the burrs from the previous staked in joints. I also needed to dress the inner face of the yoke to make a nice flat surface for the new snap rings to go. Once assembled, I needed to tweak the caps a tad to make the joint flex easily. Slight persuasion with a ball peen hammer was required to seat the trunnion caps with the internal snap rings. Once everything was done, there was no binding or free play in the joints. Before I installed the drive shaft I applied grease with the grease gun until I could see fresh grease oozing out of all four trunnion caps. Here is one of the old joints. Notice the burrs on the bearing surface.


Please email all inquiries to: Dave
or snail mail
32 Turkey Hill Road
Richmond VT 05477

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