How to Replace U-Joints on a Tahoe

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On the Chevy Tahoe, the universal joint connects the driveshaft to the rear axle. It is a u-joint design with internal bearings that wear out over time, and eventually needs replacement. Often the first symptoms of a worn u-joint is when you hear a loud clunk when shifting the vehicle out of park. As the u-joint continues to deteriorate, the drivetrain will vibrate or shudder. Replacement of the universal joint requires removal of the driveshaft.

Things You'll Need

  • Replacement u-joint kit
  • Blowtorch
  • Socket set, ratchet, extensions and a breaker bar
  • Permanent marker
  • Vice Grips
  • Press
  • Rubber mallet and hammer
  • Locking pliers
  • torque wrench
  • Hydraulic jack, jackstands and wheel chocks
  • PB Blaster or similar penetrating oil
  • Park your Tahoe on level ground. While it is possible to replace the u-joint while lifting the rear end of your Tahoe, you may want to use a hydraulic jack to raise the rear, then place it on jack-stands to gain additional space under the truck, Place wheel chocks to block the front wheels. Put the transmission into neutral.

  • Mark the u-joint where it connects with the companion flange on the rear differential with a permanent marker. Spray the u-joint liberally with penetrating oil, such as PB Blaster. Remove the u-joint strap bolt, then pull back on the driveshaft (towards the front of the Tahoe) to release the driveshaft. You may need to use a rubber mallet or similar device to get the driveshaft to release.

  • Remove the caps from the u-joint yoke. Later model year Chevys will have plastic caps built into the rear u-joint that need to be melted with heat, or removed with a press or a large pair of vice grips. If using heat, apply the heat from a blowtorch until the plastic pins melt. If you do not have access to a press, you can place the u-joint into a vice clamp, then use a deep well 3/4-inch socket and a sledgehammer to pound the plastic cap out from the bottom of the u-joint.

  • Remove the bearing cap clips from the yoke with a pair of locking pliers, then remove the u-joint from the driveshaft.

  • Slide the new u-joint onto the driveshaft, then press new caps into the u-joint yolk. Use locking pliers to lock new snap rings over the u-joint caps.

  • Re-install the driveshaft with the replaced u-joint, making sure to torque down the strap bolts to 35 foot-pounds with a torque wrench.

Tips & Warnings

  • Consider having a shop replace the u-joints since shops will have access to presses to make cap removal easy. In addition, it is a good time to have the transfer case rear output seal replaced when the driveshaft is removed for u-joint replacement.
  • Automotive supply shops may rent out cap removal tools to make removal of the plastic caps easier.

References

  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images
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