I spent nearly a year working in a top notch driveline shop. A lot of customers ask the same few questions about caring for the driveshaft but few ask before they are putting big bucks in a shops pocket. Here are a few tips that can save you money when dealing with your driveshaft.
Tip one: Do a visual inspection of your driveshaft and components regularly. A lot of expense can be saved by catching problems early. Drivelines have multiple wear parts as well as parts that can be damaged during use, and unfortunately one part having a problem can cause excessive wear and damage to other parts. During your inspection you should be looking for anything that feels like it is not moving smoothly, has extra movement, signs of metal on metal wear, and in general you want to see that it does not have any obvious damage.
Tip two, remember that your driveline has to be straight and balanced properly. If during your inspections you notice that there is a nick, gouge, bend, dent, or a hole in the round tube part you need to take it to a reputable shop and have it checked and repaired if necessary. You may notice a vibration show up one day, this is most commonly caused by a imbalanced condition. This is not something the average mechanic can do, especially not your cousin’s friend with a hacksaw and a welder in the back of his apartment and needs to be addressed with a special set of machines and skills. You will want to have this corrected as soon as possible. These vibrations can cause damage to your axle and your transmission.
Tip three: Changing a u-joint is usually a simple task on an older vehicle but more and more new vehicles is using glued in u-joints. Now I could spill the beans and tell you how to pop them out, but to be honest these glued in joints bring a host of complications that have to be dealt with at a reputable shop. Often when the drive shaft is initially set up the u-joint is not perfectly centered in the yoke, this may cause a vibration that had been be dealt with by balancing at the factory. So when you change these joints it is highly recommended that you balance the driveshaft again. The replacement joints will be installed using circle clips that insure the u-joint is centered so your balance can now be considerably changed from the original setup. The last thing you need is more broken parts so please leave this job to the professionals.
Tip four: Reputable shops will use high quality parts. Spicer and Neapco are the best out there. The best parts fit great and are machined to a high standard where lesser parts tend to be sloppy and wear out quickly. When you do have your driveline worked on make sure you ask where the parts come from, Stay away from parts that do not say Made in the USA if at all possible. If you are offered a used part make sure it still comes with a warranty.
Tip five I feel is the most important: when at all possible keep your driveline clean and lubricated. Most drivelines have fittings that allow for greasing of critical parts, make sure you use the proper high temp high pressure grease and please make sure you use it about as often as you change your oil. Wipe off excess grime from the parts, make sure there are no debris stuck between moving parts, and that any seals are still intact. You may be tempted to hit it with a pressure washer, please don’t. The high pressure water likes to get past the seals and even push dirt in to the sealed parts shortening the life of the grease inside. If you have questions about what can and cannot be greased seek a professional for assistance but as a rule of thumb if it has a zerk fitting grease it.