How Long Can You Drive with a Bad U Joint? Top Solutions

How long can you drive with a bad U joint?” is a question that most drivers ask if they notice problems with their driveshaft or U joint. A faulty U joint can cause a lot of damage to your car if you don’t replace it quickly.

How Long Can You Drive with a Bad U Joint

The U joint connects the differential with the driveshaft, so when it stops working, you will experience different problems with your car. In the guide below, we take a closer look at how long you can drive with a bad U-joint and more.

How Long Can You Drive Your Car With a Faulty U Joint?

You can drive your car for a few miles with a faulty U joint. How long you can drive with a faulty U joint depends on the severity of the damage, but it is not safe to drive with a damaged U joint. It’s important to fix it as soon as possible.

 

While driving with a bad U joint, you might notice your car is vibrating, rattling or making noise. Your wheels might also come off while you’re driving, which is why it is very dangerous to run your car with a failing U-joint. If you force your car for a couple of hundred miles, it would lead to more damage or cause an accident.

If you notice any of the symptoms of a damaged U joint, you should contact a mechanic and don’t drive car.

What Are the Signs of a Bad U Joint?

The signs of a bad U-joint include clunking, ringing or squeaking sounds from your car, transmission fluid leaking, or the car isn’t moving. If you notice these symptoms, you should take your car to a mechanic as soon as possible.

The Signs Of A Bad U Joint

Clunking and Ringing Noise

One symptom is a clunking and ringing noise when you shift your gear from Drive to Reserve. If you hear the clunking noise followed by a ringing noise when shifting gears, it’s a sign that the U joint has been damaged. In this case, the universal joint has space to allow the driveshaft to rotate a bit, but it can’t go all the way.

This symptom can pop up if your U-joint fails because of inadequate grease in the bearing. You can grease or service the bearings to reduce the damage to the U joint, but it won’t fix the problem. It would only prolong its life.

Transmission Fluid Leaking

A bad universal joint might also cause transmission fluid to leak from the transmission. If your car is vibrating, the U joint would be moving and would damage the output shaft seal and transmission tail shaft bushing. This causes the transmission fuel to leak.

Mechanic Try To Stop Transmission Fluid Leaking

Keep in mind that there are other reasons why the transmission fluid might be leaking aside from a bad U-joint. If you notice this sign, it’s a good idea to explore all our options,

Squeaking Sound

You might also notice squeaking sounds from the car when driving. The bearing components in the U joint might not get enough lubrication, which limits their functionality and also causes squeaking noises while driving.

Whenever the transmission rotates, the universal joint will squeak because there is no lubrication. The squeak would disappear if your vehicle drives faster than 10 miles per hour, but it’s a sure warning that you need to get your U joint serviced by a professional. By maintaining it, you can prolong the life of this part.

Vibrating Car

Another symptom you should look out for is vibration. Aside from your car clicking, squeaking or popping, it would also vibrate. This vibration would be worse when you speed, and you would feel it in the steering, floorboard or seat. It’s best to stop driving if you notice this sign.

Vibrations across your car mean that the universal joints are so damaged that it has done enough damage to the drive shaft, causing an unbalance. The vibration can also cause your wheels to be out of balance and would damage other parts of the car like the transmission. It’s best to get the U joint replaced by a professional rather than simply servicing it.

Car Isn’t Moving or Difficulty Steering

In the worst cases, your car would stop moving in general. The U joint might cause the steering wheel to feel too loose, sloppy, or stiff, and the car might sway from side to side while driving. Or, the car won’t move, which shows that the entire U joint is damaged, and you need to replace it, along with the drive shaft.

When the U-joint failure is worse, it causes the wheels to come off. This can lead to an accident if you’re already driving. If you notice these symptoms, take your car to a mechanic quickly.

What Causes a U Joint to Become Faulty?

A U joint can become faulty because of wear and tear, as this is the most common cause. Other causes include contamination, poor lubrication, an accident or impact, hazard duties, and if you made major changes to your car engine.

Wear and Tear

Although universal joints are designed for longevity, they can eventually become damaged, especially with hard driving, poor conditions and enough miles on the car. It might give up faster than you expected.

If you are driving a truck or an SUV, the U joints would be under more pressure, which can cause it to squeak and creak soon enough. It’s best to service it regularly in this case. With an older car, you should replace the U joint.

Lack of Lubrication

Since the U joint consists of bearings, it needs to stay lubricated so that it can function properly. But a loss of lubrication is harmful to your U joint, as it causes them to creak and collide against each other.

Filling the Engine With Lubrication Oil

It’s best to have a U joint that can be lubricated and greased regularly, especially if you have a heavy-duty vehicle.

Contamination

Contamination can also cause your U joint to become damaged. If the bearings get damaged because of water or dirt, they can damage the U joint. It’s important to clean your U joint regularly, especially after driving in a muddy area.

A Dirty Car Full of Dust and Dirt

Impact

Impacts can also cause the U joint to get damaged. If you hit another car or a surface, or even something as minor as hitting a pothole or bump, you can cause damage to the U joint. Hazard duty, like going off-roading, towing, or racing, would also strain your driveshaft and damage the U joint.

If you plan on putting your car through extreme applications, you should make use of heavy-duty U joints. But in general, it’s best to service your car regularly too.

Poor Lifting

If you have a lift kit in your vehicle, you need to install it properly to prevent the U joint from being damaged. Installing a U joint into your vehicle can change the angle of the driveshaft, pressuring the U joint and reducing its lifespan.

Before lifting, you should examine the driveshaft alignment to make sure it works properly. The driveshaft angle needs to be balanced, and if you cannot get it, you should consider replacing it with a heavy-duty U joint.

Upgraded Engines

Many people have the habit of replacing their engine with a more powerful one, but they often forget about the U joint. If you increase the engine power and horsepower of your car, you also have to upgrade the U joint to carry it.

A Close Up on An Upgraded Engine

How Can You Replace a Bad U Joint?

You can replace a bad U joint by locating the faulty U joint, remove it by loosening the bolts, and replace it with a new one. If you haven’t replaced a U joint before, you can follow the steps. But, if you are not handy with tools, contact a mechanic.

The tools that you need for U-joint replacement include a socket set with standard and metric sockets, a hammer, grease, a torque wrench, and an impact driver. You can follow the steps below to replace U-joints:

  1. Park your car on a straight surface and set the gear on the Park. Then, put a jack under the frame of your vehicle, which would support the car while you work.
  2. Locate the faulty U joint to replace it. You can find it by checking which one looks worn out or damaged. You would see a grease fitting on one side of the U joint, and that is where the grease gun would be inserted to lubricate the U joint.
  3. Next, you should remove the bolts that are securing the U joint in place. You would see four bolts, two on each side.
  4. The U joint would come free from the axle or driveshaft after you remove the bolts. If it is an old car, it might be stuck, so you should tap it loose or use a hammer to remove it.
  5. Line the new U joint up with the hole where the old one was. Push it in until it is secure.
  6. Replace the bolts based on the manufacturer’s specifications. If the bolts are rusty, you should consider replacing them too.
  7. Using the grease gun, lubricate the joint. You should insert the grease into one side of the joint until the grease starts coming out of the other time.
  8. Now, remove the jack and ensure that the U joint is well installed. You should then test drive the car to make sure it is working right. If you hear any squeaking, the car is vibrating, or the joint is loose, you should stop and check the car again.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Will Happen if You Keep Driving With a Faulty U Joint?

If you keep driving with a faulty U joint, it will cause more strain on the parts of the drivetrain system. This would lead to leaking pinion, drivetrain vibrations, and leaking transmission seals. It would eventually lead to damage to your car.

How Can You Stop My U Joint from Failing?

You can stop your U joint from failing by keeping the area clean and free of debris, lubricating it regularly, and servicing it regularly. When maintaining your car, you should clean the U joint to stop it from being contaminated. You should also use a grease gun to lubricate it.

What Happens if a Drive Shaft Breaks When Driving?

If a drive shaft breaks when driving, you should stop driving immediately. If you keep on driving, it leads to damage to the transmission and other components. It can also lead to an accident. If the transmission breaks, you might have noticed it before due to the U joint.

What Are the Solutions for Driving with Bad U Joints?

Driving with bad control arm bushings can be unsafe and lead to poor handling and steering control. The solutions for this issue involve replacing the damaged bushings with new ones of high quality. Timely maintenance, regular inspection, and addressing any signs of wear or damage promptly are key to ensuring a smooth and safe driving experience.

Conclusion

With our complete guide to how long can you drive with a bad U joint, you know how to take care of your universal joint. Here’s a summary before you go:

  • You can drive your car for a few miles with a bad U joint, but it would get even more damaged.
  • The signs of the bad U joint include clunking, ringing and squeaking, leaking transmission fluid and vibration.
  • A U joint becomes faulty because of wear and tear, lack of lubrication, poor lifting, contamination, and impact.
  • You should maintain your U joint regularly to prevent it from getting damaged.

If you notice any of the symptoms of a faulty U joint, you should inspect your U joint and contact a mechanic. But, you would have to consider the replacement cost.

References

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