The Jeep TJ front driveshaft uses a double cardan type Constant Velocity (CV) joint. It may look intimidating but it is not hard to rebuild. This article covers the rebuilding of the Jeep CV front driveshaft and also clears up some confusion regarding the centering yoke replacement part, Spicer part # 211355X.
What You Will Need
With the driveshaft removed (requires a six-point, 5/16” socket and 1/4” drive ratchet) you will need some basic tools:
- Shop press or vice for pressing u-joints
- Pliers (needle-nose and regular), a hammer, and other basic mechanic’s tools
- Loctite (for reinstalling u-joint strap bolts) and penetrating oil
- Centering ball kit or new centering yoke (Spicer part # 211355X)
For the u-joints we opted for Federal Mogul (Moog) parts, made in the USA. In our 2004 Wrangler all of the driveshaft u-joints, front and rear, are 1310 series u-joints with external snap-rings. For the CV joint you will need two Moog 380 CV u-joints or the equivalent part in another brand. The 380 CV style joints have the grease fitting in the cap. The u-joint at the front differential yoke is a Moog 369.
Note: It is claimed that u-joints with the fitting in the cap are stronger. That would definitely be true of u-joints that are not cross-drilled and have a fitting in every cap. The Moog 380s mentioned above are cross-drilled and have only one fitting in one cap. If you choose to, you could opt for 1310 series u-joints with the fitting in every cap in place of all of the u-joints described above.
The steps for rebuilding a CV driveshaft aren’t that much different than replacing u-joints in any other application except for the addition of the spring-loaded centering yoke. We soaked our retaining rings in penetrating oil, broke them loose with channel locks, and pulled them out with needle nose pliers. With the retaining rings removed, we pressed the u-joint caps out on our shop press and pulled each u-joint starting with the transfer case end. With the first u-joint removed, the centering yoke (normally) slides off of the driveshaft. Below on the right you can see the old centering yoke after we attempted to chisel out the race from the old centering ball. In this case, the centering ball was so badly shot that the race was essentially welded in, so we ordered Spicer part # 211355X, shown on the left. (Note that both parts have the same casting number, C2-83-219.)
Below left is the old centering ball which was divorced from its race and had to be pried off. Be sure to clean up any old grease, below right, with brake cleaner or a similar solvent.
Before pressing any u-joints in, if you are installing greasable u-joints, think about the positioning of your grease fittings. In this case, the Moog 380s feature one cap with a grease fitting. Don’t forget that this cap uses a special clip, included, that allows for the installation of the grease fitting. This clip must be installed on the cap that is drilled for the fitting (see third clip to the right below).
We opted to keep all of our grease fittings on one side of the CV joint for ease of maintenance. Prior to pressing the caps in, we like to add a dab of grease smeared around inside the cap to hold the needle bearings in place. This is also where a shop press comes in handy over a vice because you can press the cap straight up or straight down onto the joint which helps reduce the chances of a needle bearing tipping over. We like to press the first cap upward past its final position so more of the opposite end of the u-joint sticks up for the second cap to seat its needle bearings on as soon as possible (see below, left).
You will know if a needle bearing has tipped over because you won’t be able to quite seat the cap. If that happens, do not force it, press it back out carefully, stick the needle back in place with grease, and try again. Above, right, you can see us pressing in the final cap of the first u-joint. Don’t forget to install a retaining ring on each cap after it is pressed in place.
After the u-joint caps are pressed in place you may notice that the new joint is a little stiff. If so, that is because the u-joint caps are not properly seated against their retaining clips yet. These are precision components and a few thousands of an inch in one direction or the other can make a difference. What we like to do is lean the driveshaft against the workbench and rap on the component around the joint with a hammer in different places to seat the caps. Do not use too much force because you can damage the retaining rings. Once seated, the new joint should move freely and the retaining rings should sit flat against the caps. The arrows below show where we struck the H yoke on both sides to seat two of the caps. There is no magic formula, just use your common sense and go easy.
With the first u-joint installed, it is time for the centering yoke. The new centering yoke comes with a white plastic cap that you remove and dispose of. It is there for shipping and storage purposes to keep the needle bearings in place. Do not forget to remove the spring from the white cap and place it in the end of the driveshaft (red arrow, below).
The spring-loaded centering yoke holds two of the caps of the outer u-joint in place. As such, you will not need two of the retaining rings on the outer u-joint but do not forget to think about the positioning of the grease fittings on the u-joint and centering yoke. You want to position everything to be as easy as possible to maintain.
Press the remaining u-joints in place as normal. We find that whenever there is a joint with loose caps, it is best to use some tape to keep the caps in place until the final install. In this case we used some packing tape that can easily be removed with a utility knife after we get the transfer case end of the shaft bolted in place.
With the driveshaft removed it is a good time to inspect the boot on the slip spline. There is a kit, Crown part # 5012793AA, that comes with the boot and the correct clamps. Our boot was in good shape and the slip spline moved very freely and felt good, but we wondered what a driveshaft expert might think about drilling and tapping the slip spline for a grease fitting, so we made a call to Tom Wood’s Custom Drive Shafts. They advised against a grease fitting, which confirmed what we were thinking. The slip splines are sealed against the weather by the boot and should not require maintenance unless the boot is compromised. If you were to install a grease fitting, continually adding grease could eventually fill the boot with enough grease to throw the driveshaft out of balance. If your slip spline does require maintenance, we recommend cleaning and greasing the slip spline and replacing the old boot and clamps with the boot kit from Crown or another manufacturer.
Do not forget to use Loctite on the bolts when reinstalling your driveshaft. Also, new u-joint straps and bolts can be purchased separately from the u-joints if yours are questionable. Good luck and happy wheeling!