How to Repair the Front U-Joint on a Dodge 2500

By Tim Petruccio
under truck image by Patricia Mesanko from Fotolia.com

Chrysler Corporation introduced the Dodge Ram in 1981. The Ram was produced in a 1500, 2500, and 3500 series. The four wheel drive Ram is equipped with a U-joint that connects the drive shaft to the front axle housing. Over time U-joints can wear out or go bad. When this happens replacement is the only option, as there is no real way to repair a U-joint. The average U-joint costs between $10.00 and $20.00 (U.S.D.), and is available at an auto parts store or at your local Dodge dealership.

Lift the front end of the Ram 2500 using a 2-ton jack, or a jack with greater capacity. Install jack stands underneath both ends of the axle housing. Use 2-ton or greater capacity jacks to support the Ram for this project.

Lay just behind the front tire of the truck, and slide your body underneath and forwards on the truck to access the front U-joint. Remove the two "U" shaped clips that hold the U-joint to the axle housing. Use a 3/8-inch drive ratchet and socket, with a 6-inch extension to removed the "U" clip mounting bolts. The addition of an extension between the ratchet and socket will allow you greater reach, while leaving you room to maneuver the ratchet. There are two mounting bolts per clip. Turn the bolts counterclockwise until they are completely removed from the axle housing yolk.

Place one hand beneath the front of the drive shaft, just behind the U-joint. Pry the front of the driveshaft off of the axle housing, using a small pry bar in your other hand. Do not let the drive shaft fall loose from the housing. Allow the shaft down gently by catching it in your free hand.

Remove the U-joint retainer clips from the end of the drive shaft. There are two holes at the end of the shaft, through which the U-joint is mounted. These are the U-joint mounting holes. The retainer clips sit in recesses to lock the rod bearing caps onto the U-joints and to help the U-joint stay in place. Pinch the center portion of the retainer clip inward, then twist the clip out of the mounting hole. Repeat this pinching and removal on the opposite side of the shaft, to remove the second U-joint retainer clip.

Insert a flat head screwdriver against the inner end of the rod bearing cap, on the U-joint. The rod bearing cap slides over the end of the U-joint and is held in place with clips. Use a hammer to tap the screwdriver and force the rod bearing caps off of both ends of the U-joint, through the U-joint mounting holes. Continue hammering the screwdriver handle until both rod bearing caps are completely removed from the front drive shaft. Slide the loose U-joint to one side of the drive shaft and pull the entire U-joint out of the shaft end.

Remove two rod bearing caps from the new U-joint, and set the caps with the opening straight up. Do not turn the caps on their sides or upside down for any reason. The rod bearings are only held in by gravity, when the U-joint is not inserted into the cap. If the rods fall askew or out of the cap, the new bearing cap is useless.

Install the open ends of the new U-joint onto the drive shaft end. Install a rod bearing cap through the U-joint mounting hole, onto one end of the U-joint. Push the U-joint with your other hand to insert the U-joint into the cap. Hold this assembly secure until the second cap is installed. Slide the second bearing cap through the opposite U-joint mounting hole until it is secured onto the U-joint. Press both rod bearing caps inward simultaneously using your thumbs on either hand to push the caps tight.

Use a hammer and flat head screw driver to very gently assist the rod bearing caps onto the U-joints, if necessary. Do not hammer on the caps with much force, or you will warp the cap end. If possible just use the screwdriver handle end and tap the caps in with just the screwdriver handle.

Install new U-joint retainer clips into the U-joint mounting holes. Squeeze one clip inward from the center, install one edge of the clip and push the clip into the provided recess until it snaps into place. Install the second U-joint retainer clip in the same fashion on the opposite side of the drive shaft.

Lift the front of the drive shaft with the new U-joint up to the axle housing. Use a pry bar to lodge the U-joint ends into the grooves on housing, if necessary. Install the "U" shaped clips over the exposed U-joint ends, and onto the axle housing. Tighten the "U" shaped clips mounting bolts with a 3/8-inch drive ratchet and socket, along with a 6-inch extension. Turn all four bolts until they are snug, then turn the bolt one complete turn farther.

Raise the front of the Ram off of the jack stands, with a 2-ton or greater capacity jack. Remove the jack stands from beneath the axle housing ends. Lower the Ram to the ground.