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How to replace U-Joints & Balance Your Truck’s Driveshaft

Project Over/Under, 2003 Chevy Silverado: Part 10

Sep 15, 2020
Most people don't think about replacing the U-joints on their truck until they hear the telltale whine. That's exactly what happened to us and Project Over/Under recently. With the truck basically complete, we've mostly been enjoying it, but we've also done a little fine-tuning. We changed out the exhaust—our former kit was rubbing in a few places because we cut it down to fit a standard cab longbed. We also changed out a catalytic converter that was rattling so bad we thought it was a rod knock at first! Anyway, we're not sure if the U-joints were whining all along, or if they're just easier to hear now that we've fine-tuned the truck. Either way, it seemed like a good time to visit our friends at Inland Empire Driveline in Corona, California, to have the job done correctly.
Photo 2/29   |   Even with the lift and rearend work, we had never given the factory driveshaft in our Silverado project a look.
If you're driving a truck that's more than a few years old and thinking, Man, I've never checked the U-joints, then you can be one of the rare, proactive ones who takes care of your driveshaft before it starts talking to you, or worse: breaks loose and drags on the ground—but not before violently banging on everything else under your truck.
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2003 Chevy Silverado- Project Over/Under
Instead of haphazardly pressing on some new U-joints and calling it a day, we wanted to do the job right, which includes balancing the driveshaft, something that's often overlooked. In one afternoon, the Inland Empire Driveline crew removed our factory Silverado driveshaft, replaced the U-joints, and had the refurbished driveshaft (which was balanced and polished) back in the truck before sundown. Follow along below, and check out IEDLS.com for any of your driveline repairs or custom builds.
Photo 3/29   |   Up front, you can tell by the thin line of new rust where the slip yoke relocated on the output shaft after lifting. As you can see, there's definitely not enough difference to warrant lengthening the driveshaft.
Photo 4/29   |   The process began with the removal of the straps from the pinion shaft yoke.
Photo 5/29   |   Then we used a pry bar to gently release the U-joints from the yoke.
Photo 6/29   |   Now the slip yoke will slide off the transmission's output shaft.
Photo 7/29   |   In the quest to have this story look professional, we looked all over (with no luck) for a red plastic plug from a parts house or transmission shop to keep fluid from leaking out while the driveshaft was removed. We had to settle for a red solo cup with a rag in it and some masking tape, which actually worked great.
Photo 8/29   |   Soon we were out in Corona, California, at Inland Empire Driveline with our well-worn driveshaft.
Photo 9/29   |   Carlos started by removing the U-joint snap rings. He immediately knew without question these U-joints were factory and had never been replaced.
Photo 10/29   |   IEDLS has all the right tools for the job, and the pressing out of the old U-joints happens in just a few seconds.
Photo 11/29   |   It's hard to see, but we cleaned and inspected the old U-joints, which revealed wear spots from the needles being dry and not moving freely.
Photo 12/29   |   IEDLS uses Spicer products pretty exclusively, and Spicer is widely known as one of the best options out there.
Photo 13/29   |   As quick as the old ones were removed, the new U-joints were pressed in place.
Photo 14/29   |   Up at the front of the shaft, Carlos presses off the slip yoke then presses out the U-joint.
Photo 15/29   |   Then the new joint was pressed into place.
Photo 16/29   |   That's where most U-joint replacements end, but we also wanted to balance the driveshaft while we were here. Carlos installed the sleeves for the balancer so we could test it out.
Photo 17/29   |   The shaft was bolted into the balancer and we were ready to give it a whirl.
Photo 18/29   |   This gauge measures the shaft vibration in thousandths as the shaft spins at about 2,500 rpm. Carlos says a reading of around .010 will almost certainly be felt when driving the truck. Ours was at about .006.
Photo 19/29   |   From there, Carlos removed the factory balancing weights with a 4-inch grinder.
Photo 20/29   |   Then the weight is chiseled off the old-fashioned way.
Photo 21/29   |   Now Carlos uses a piece of emery cloth to sand the entire shaft and reveal a nice clean surface.
Photo 22/29   |   A couple of different size weights were temporarily wire-tied to the shaft before it was given another spin.
Photo 23/29   |   Once we achieved the IEDLS standard of 0 to .001, the weights were welded in place.
Photo 24/29   |   Carlos gave the welded areas a quick cleanup with the wire brush.
Photo 25/29   |   At this point, we gave the shaft one more pass with the emery cloth, followed by Scotch-Brite.
Photo 26/29   |   With that, we had a balanced and polished shaft with new U-joints and were ready to head home and install it.
Photo 27/29   |   We grabbed a new set of bolts and straps on the way home to prepare for installation.
Photo 28/29   |   A bit of grease was added to the inside and outside of the slip yoke before sliding it back into place.
Photo 29/29   |   Finally, the rear was set into place and bolted down with the new straps and bolts. We were back on the road and extremely happy knowing we would get many years of trouble-free service from the new setup.


Inland Empire Driveline
Ontario, CA