Drive Shaft PM and Drive Train Troubleshooting- For FAQ (1 Viewer)

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Sep 14, 2003
Centennial, Colorado
This a compilation of information from Forum members. Driveline issues and troubleshooting can get very complicated and this is by no means a complete and encompassing thread. If you see errors or have key additions, please PM one of the moderators.

There are a lot of potential causes to these types of issues and they can manifest themselves as either a sound, vibration or both. There are many posts and threads in the 80's section discussing this and I have placed links to most of them at the end of this FAQ. These items are some of the most difficult things to troubleshoot and sometimes you have to take it to a shop who can install electronic ears and take it for a test drive to actually find it.

In my own situation I tried everything (Rebuilt Front Drive Shaft, Swaybar bushings, extensions, CV Drive shaft). I was convinced it was in the front end because if you took the front shaft out, the problem went away. Slee Off Road installed the ears and traced it to my rear drive shaft. Even though the problem went away when I removed the front shaft, it turned out to be the rear shaft. Turns out, both shafts needed to have the U Joints rebuilt along with being balanced.

sleeoffroad said:
One thing I do not understand is why people are so reluctant to spend money on u-joints. Hell they are only $40 or so a piece. Most trucks have 100k plus miles on them. When you lift, just replace them with new.

I would speculate that u-joints in most cases are more neglected and worn than birfields, but everyone want to service their front axle, but on-one want to change u-joints as the first step in solving vibrations.

So in my situation, had I rebuilt and balanced both shafts as part of my lift install, I would have had nothing to troubleshoot. I should state that I have a 2.5” lift with 1” spacers up front and therefore should have no driveline angle issues. Larger lifts create more potential issues relative to pinion angles and castor correction. But the first place to look is with the drive shafts.

So, what Preventative Maintenance can you do to the Shafts?
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Proper Drive Shaft Maintenance

A lot of the problems originate with the Drive Shafts and doing the below maintenance may save you a lot of time and trouble. These maintenance steps will usually correct the clunk (Grease in the spline) or Grrrrr (U Joints)

Note: You don't need to do all this maintenance on the drive shafts at the same time. If you have a Center Diff Lock Switch (CDL), you can drive with one shaft with the CDL engaged. This will allow you to have both shafts rebuilt without any down time on your truck

The shafts are similar except the Rear is longer and is in phase. Looking at the picture below we can see both shafts have yokes, U Joints, Dust Cover, Spline and Shafts.

Common Clunks and Grrs are caused by faulty Yokes or U Joints, Unbalanced Shafts, not enough grease in U Joints or too much grease in the Spline.

The Front Shaft is "Out of Phase", note the ears on the front yoke and rear yoke are 90 deg offset

The Rear Shaft is "In Phase" note the ears on the front yoke and rear yoke appear to be lined up. One of the common causes of these drive shaft woes is the Front Shaft is "In Phase" when it should be "Out of Phase". OR, The Rear Shaft is "Out of Phase" when it should be In. If you take it to a drive shaft shop, make sure you are clear on the phasing before they balance it.

If you want to get your drive shafts in top condition perform the following:
- Place Paint marks on the flange yokes and the differential. case flanges so you can install the shafts back in the same manner.
- Remove both shafts (or do one at a time if you have only one vehicle)
If you have a CDL switch you can drive with one drive shaft out if the switch is engaged with no issues. This will allow you to do one shaft at a time and still drive your rig
- Inspect shafts for damage, if you see some serious damage, then take to drive shaft shop and have repaired.
- Verify they are oriented per the picture
- Clean off an area were the dust cover mates over the propeller shaft and draw a line with white paint so you can re-orient them back the same way.
- Remove the dust cover of the propeller shaft
- Using Brake cleaner, long sticks, etc. clean all the old grease out of the spline and dust cover. make sure both halves are dry and clean.
- Take apart the shafts and clean out the splines
- Take the Shafts to a Drive shaft shop and have them replace the U Joints with Toyota OEM Joints and balance the shafts. Make sure the phasing is correct before balancing.
- Re-install drive shafts. Grease the zircs on the U Joints until it oozes out of the U joint.
- Take it for a drive and verify everything is operating correctly. The only thing we didn't touch was the yokes, which do go bad, but rarely. The Drive Shaft shop should have checked this.


Or you can use Semlins thread how to replace the u-joints in your 80 (Semlin Dec 2005) I would still take it to a shop and have it balanced.

Cost for me (Including OEM U Joints) was $197 per shaft replacing the U Joints and balancing.

When I had my shaft problem, the Rear U Joints seemed fine when cool, i.e. at the shop. But when Slee drove it around and took it off while it was warm, you could feel a dead spot in the U Joint that went away when it was cool. My recommendation is to change all the U Joints and have it balanced at the same time even if the shop says you don;t need to.

concretejungle said:
Trust me shotts, i have lots of experience in this. Take the rear shaft out and see if it drives smooth with only the front shaft in.
I was chasing down vibs just like you are. Would remove the front shaft and it was smooth as silk with only the rear in. Put the front shaft in and vibs would come back. Turned out to be the rear shaft (80%) and a little front shaft (20%), but i would have sworn it was just the front shaft.
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So, you want to skip the PM step and isolate what your problem is,

Under the conditions I have described above, the components involved are limited to drive shafts, U Joints, CV Joints, Caster, Pinion Angle, Tcase, Front Diff and Rear diff. With that the components it should be easy to troubleshoot, Right?? Wrong!

So what is your Rig Doing?



Whine that increases in tone and pitch with speed
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Do you have a Gear Shift Clunk (From Semlin’s write-up)

1. If it's a gear shifting issue while driving, especially a clunky downshift when braking at slow speeds, then a throttle cable adjustment is the first step. This is a very easy job described in the FSM at the beginning of the transmission section. This link by randy farnsworth tells you how to do it on the 442 from (93-94) but it is similar on the others. Make sure the cable receiver itself is properly aligned. This is a 1/4 banana job requiring a 12 mm wrench and 2 minutes that can make a surprising difference.


2. Next, check the tranny and transfer case fluids. top up, drain or flush the tranny fluid (using a low pressure flusher that uses the trucks own pump) and replace (you can use synthetic if you want). Top up or drain the gear oil in the transfer case (again synthetic can be used). This will probably not fix a bad clunk but its worth a try and good maintenance.
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Do you have an Acceleration/Deceleration Clunk/Grrrr (From Semlin’s write-up and oth

1. If you get a clunk or drive line Grrrr when you accelerate or brake that is not associated with a gear shift, chances are it is somewhere in the drive shaft.


2. Checking the transfer case oil level and condition is a good start. Occasionally people find ATF in there by mistake. Also check the front and rear axle diff oil levels and top up or change if required. This is also a good time to make sure your diff breathers are not blocked up.

3. Next lube the u-joints but do not lube the drive shafts themselves even though there is a zirc to do this. Also check for play in the u-joints yanking the drive shaft at either end hard in all directions. If you can get a wiggle going you should replace the u-joint. The OEM Toyota u-joint is pricey, but much preferable to aftermarket and usually fails only if it has been allowed to run dry. Replacing a u-joint yourself requires dropping the drive shaft and a c-clamp or similar. Check the slip Yokes as well.

landtank said:
I've replaced both my shafts for loose slip yokes. This can be hard to detect and you need to grasp the axle in just the right spot to feel it. If your hand is a little forward or aft of this spot the axle will feel tight. Basically grab the outer tube at the end and move the shaft up and down. At the end you'll probably not feel any play. Then move you hand back about 1/4" and check again. I know it doesn't seem like much but the hand placement is critical. Keep repeating down the shaft for about 6". Once you feel a bad slip yoke it will be easier the next time.

4. Lubing in the drive shaft zirc arguably still does not lube the splines that allow the shaft to slide in and out but too much lube in there can cause unacceptable loading and damage to the t-case or diffs. Instead, drop the drive shafts from the diff ends and separate the drive shafts into two parts at the spline (be sure to make match marks before you separate). clean the spline and receiver area for spline (there may be a lot of built up hardened grease in there) and then lube the spline and reassemble. This is a ½ banana job requiring you to undo 8 bolts (although you have to remember to loosen from the bolt side, not the nut, because the nuts are friction locking and can wear out)

IdahoDoug said:
As many of you know, over greasing the zirk fitting that feeds the rear shaft spline can lead to the shaft being essentially "hydrolocked" and doing damage to the center diff or rear diff due to enormous force they are not designed to take longitudinally.

5. Check if the drive shafts are in proper "phase". The alignment u-joint arms at either end of the drive shaft should be the same on the rear drive shaft, but at a 90 degree angle on the front drive shaft (e.g., "--" and "--" on the rear, and "[" and "--" on the front). This can apparently cause vibration or other stuff. I just noticed that my front drive shaft was out of phase. It has been for at least 18 months when I had it straightened.

6. next check for play in the u-joints. wiggle them up and down and see if there is play. If there is play, replace the U joints and have the shaft balanced per the PM section.
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Whine that increases in tone and pitch with speed

I had this problem and it turned out to be a problem within the center diff/Tcase. The whine started and built in pitch and tone when I accelerated and got above 10 MPH. When I decelerated, it sounded like something winding down (changes tone).

One test you can do is the following:

- While driving a constant speed down hill shift into Neutral. Note the impact on the whine pitch and tone. Does it change with the engine RPM or is tied more to vehicle speed. In my case it was tied to the vehicle speed even when put into Neutral.

- Repeat the above test, but use the Tcase shifter instead of the Tranny shifter. See if there is an impact on the noise.
In My case the noise changed slightly leading us to think it was the Center Diff.

- Changeout the gear oil in the Tcase and replace it with 140W gear oil. See if this has impacted the sound. In my case it did and it was isolated to inside the Center Diff.


In the Tcase it could either be an outer bearing (Most typical) and this can be replaced on a bench after pulling the Tcase OR it could be something more serious in the Tcase. If you get to this point, take it to a shop who knows these vehicles and differentials and can install the electronic ears. Other than a tear down, the only way to troubleshoot farther is place ears in several places of the diff and see where the noise is coming from.

Note: In this discussion a Tcase (Transfer Case) and Center Diff are the same physical unit
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Lifts, Castor and DC (Double Cardon) Drive Shafts

Some qoutes from others. More is being worked on for the FAQ for this

sleeoffroad said:
The caster plates give about 4 degrees of correction. Rule of thumb (from measuring caster on a lot of trucks) is that you loose about 1 degree for every inch you go up from stock.

In stock form the flange angles are like this \----/ and not like this \----\ They are oposing, but still the same. So when you drop the axle (lift the truck) and you keep the caster constant you will see that eventually the \---/ situation changes to a |---/ situation that is ideal for a cv shaft. That point is between 4" and 6" of lift. If you go beyond 6 inches of lift it changes to \----\


sleeoffroad said:
Our experience is that in the 3"+ range, you can expect these vibrations and issues. Adding weight and it changes the situation points to the shafts. Given that you replaced the U joints, I would say a DC shaft is the way to go.?
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Items to consider with a 6”lift

Feel free to contribute to this

Waggoner5 said:
You have changed the geometry on the rear driveshaft which as a single joint shaft, is designed to run at -1.5 degrees difference between the output flange on the tcase and the pinion flange. I have seen trucks without the adjustable rears NOT vibrate because they are within the 1.5 degrees, but as Christo informs us, most likely the shaft will eventually. When you tilt the pinion up, you will have to run the Cardan shaft in the rear. They are designed to run with the cardan at the output shaft end taking all of the angle, and the pinion end being parallel with the pinion shaft. Your vibration being at such a low speed could possibly be patched by installing new Toyota ujoints because, the old ones may have a wear pattern in them from the previous height or it could also be that the slip yoke is worn allowing the shaft to rock back and forth in the receiver flange, but in the long run you will want to do the arms and cardan shaft. The arms are adjusted to be longer and need to be done on the truck. A simple straight edge is what I used on my truck to make sure the piion shaft is parallel to the driveshaft. I then measure the distance from the upper mounts to the frame to make sure each arm is the same length.
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Feel free to provide your write-ups and additions and reffug and I will be happy to incorporate them into this FAQ.

The FAQ's are better when the forum members contrubute and provide comment. i.e the Front Axle Rebuild thread changed a lot from when it was first released to its current forum with valuable input from forum members.
GREAT advice. My rear drive shaft was 94 deg out of alingment. the shop that replaced the U-joints F...ed up!.

Re-alinged it's smooooth as silk.

thanks again.
What is the frequency that everyone checks all this out? Manual says 15k. Didn't know if that was a good real life PM timeframe.
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Questions on greasing the splines/drive shaft & u joint...

I've pulled the rear drive shaft (and marked alignment). I replaced one u joint, man, that is not a fun job. On the second u joint, as described in another forum, I put a little grease in the caps. Also, between getting the first set in & the second, I inserted the zirc as I saw recommended by a member that it was tough to insert the zirc after putting all 4 caps in. What I'm guessing the problem is, is that this created air pressure within the u joint. I got one side in to the point were I could put the internal c pin installed, but when trying to press it through far enough to get the other c pin installed...POP...the top of the cap exploded off. Has anyone else experienced this?! I've reached out to the supplier to see if I can get just an end cap to finish off the project and figured I'd pull the zirc out prior to trying to finish up the job. I am going to do the front u joints as well this weekend & plan to leave the zirc off to relieve any air pressure building in the spider.

On greasing the splines...I haven't seen any good videos on doing this appropriately on Mud, only discussions. I get/understand, at least I think to put the grease right on the splines (I've already cleaned the rear ones out really well), as well as push some grease into the zirc until you see movement. I certainly don't want to over grease from the described impact of this, but don't want to under grease as well. Do you pump the grease in the zirc until you see movement while you have the drive shaft off the vehicle or after you've installed it back on the truck? Does anyone have a great video to demonstrate how much grease and this process?

I found this one where the guy is greasing the splines of an F150 on youtube, is this a good example:

Any tips, guidance, better video examples, etc. are greatly appreciated in advance! Thanks!!!

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