Why You Need To Be on the Lookout for Universal Joint Issues

Posted on: 8 December 2021

Rear-wheel drive vehicles must rely on a number of individual components to transfer power from the front to the back. Much of this work is accomplished by a long cylindrical part known as a prop shaft that connects the back of the gearbox to the rear axle casing. While the prop shaft is a very reliable component and is unlikely to give you many problems in your motoring life, you may have to pay attention to a separate and connecting part that endures a lot of wear and tear. This part is certainly prone to failure, so what do you need to keep your eye on?

How the System Works

If you think about how a car or truck moves along a road, you may wonder how certain "sprung" components can move up and down while others remain in a static position. For example, the engine and gearbox are largely static at all times, while the rear axle is connected to the chassis via shock absorbers and springs. The prop shaft connects these major components and, therefore, links the static gearbox with the moving axle, so in order to allow this to happen, engineers fit a universal joint.

The universal joint can move in a multitude of directions and, consequently, provides the flexibility needed in this situation. As the prop shaft rotates quickly, the universal joint will take up the slack and connect the entire mechanism to the front of the axle casing.


Most universal joints today have a sealed design and do not require any maintenance, per se. The necessary lubrication is contained within the unit, and this helps to avoid friction during everyday operation. However, the joint will definitely wear out given time and may do so more quickly if you tow a trailer or drive off-road. In addition, the bolts that hold various parts in place can become loose due to vibration or, symptoms, corrosion.

Warning Signs

If the joint begins to play up, you may notice a lot more vibration that you may feel through the cabin's floor. You may also notice whining emanating from the rear of the vehicle or a distinct "thud" when you move away from a static position.

Expert Attention

So, if you have come across any of these issues, you may need to look at your universal joints. Make sure that you hand this over to an auto repair shop, though, as they will need to align the driveshaft carefully once they have carried out the repairs.