We ordered new driveshaft universal joints from Lakewood Industries to replace our stock units. The Lakewood U-joints are made of high-strength alloy and have heat-treated needle bearings made of high-carbon steel. Lakewood performance U-joints are not cross-drilled, which helps them withstand the rigors of harsh street/strip conditions. Lakewood U-joints are available for most OEM uses as well as custom driveline installations.
Begin the U-joint swap by removing the driveshaft from the vehicle. Be sure to support the car with a sturdy set of jackstand--don’t just rely on a floor jack to hold the car’s weight.
Use an old piece of pipe or a large-diameter socket as a low-buck U-joint removal tool. Place it under one end of the driveshaft. It will support the yolk assembly but allow the U-joint cap to be pushed out.
Using a pair of needle-nose pliers, remove the snap rings that hold the U-joint caps in place. Then use a punch (or even a socket extension) and a hammer to drive the U-joint downward. As the U-joint moves, it will push the U-joint cap out of the yolk assembly and into the pipe/socket support. Rotate the driveshaft 180 degrees and remove the other U-joint cap in the same way. With both caps removed, angle the U-joint slightly and remove it from the driveshaft.
Once the U-joint is removed, carefully inspect the driveshaft end for cracks and/or damage. Use a small metal pick or a thin screwdriver to remove any gunk buildup in the snap-ring groove.
Carefully remove the U-joint caps, making sure you don’t knock any of the small needle bearings out of position. Then angle the new U-joint and slip it into the driveshaft yolk. Install one of the U-joint caps and slowly tap it into position with a hammer. Only tap the cap far enough to clear the snap-ring retainer groove.
Use a pair of needle-nose pliers to install the new snap-ring retainer clip. Rotate the driveshaft 180 degrees and tap the other U-joint cap into position (as shown earlier). Now install the other snap-ring retainer.
To remove the front U-joints from the transmission yolk, begin by supporting the driveshaft with a brace. (We used a scrap piece of iron.) Remove the snap-ring retainer clips from the driveshaft and yolk. Hold the end of the snout and tap on the yolk with a hammer. As you tap, the U-joint cap will push itself out. Rotate the driveshaft 180 degrees and do the same for the other side.
With the two U-joint caps pushed up, angle the yolk slightly and remove it from the U-joint. (The U-joint will remain in the driveshaft.) Then remove the other two snap-ring retainer clips and use a hammer to tap out the remaining U-joint caps (as shown with the other end of the driveshaft).
Install the new Lakewood U-joint into the driveshaft (as shown with the other end of the driveshaft). Secure the U-joint in position with the supplied snap-ring retainer clips, then angle the yolk and slip it onto the new Lakewood U-joint.
Position the new U-joint end caps in the yolk and carefully tap the cap downward until it clears the snap-ring retainer groove. Install the new snap-ring retainer clips and you’re done. Move the yolk and new U-joints to make sure that everything actuates smoothly and nothing binds.
The loud "clang" noise coming from the driveshaft in an accelerating vehicle likely comes from the driveshaft universal joints. Noise is generated because the U-joints are severely worn and moving around within the driveshaft/yolk assemblies. This is extremely bad and potentially dangerous. When there is noise, the U-joints are shot and need to be replaced. One good launch at the dragstrip will likely destroy the clanking driveshaft assembly. If there's not a driveshaft safety loop, a nasty crash could occur if the U-joints fail.
Because universal joints are among the most overlooked hop-up amongst car enthusiasts, chances are good that most are stock and have never been replaced. Stock U-joints are medium-duty units at best. They were not designed to handle the rigors of street/strip use. Upgrading your driveshaft with new U-joints is a step in the right direction. But what you should really do is upgrade to heavy-duty U-joints that can handle the hard-launching abuse inflicted by today's high-horsepower Ford machines.
Here, we follow along as the driveshaft experts at Wenco Industries show us how to install new heavy-duty Lakewood U-joints in a driveshaft assembly. This driveshaft wasn't making noise, but we wanted to replace the U-joints before they started acting up. Good advice is to have the driveshaft balanced and checked for straightness while it is out of the car. And this is exactly what Wenco Industries did to ensure that our driveshaft performs properly for years to come.
And one other thing. Some Ford automatic driveshafts were of a two-piece rubber-cushioned design made to absorb vibration. The thing is, after 30 years of use, many of them are not suitable for continued use. If your two-piece driveshaft has deteriorated and is nonserviceable, a replacement driveshaft may be in order. In the months to come, we will show you how to have a new driveshaft made from scratch.