Drive Shaft Replacement

How to Replace a Drive Shaft

Removing a drive shaft is a simple job in most cases. A drive shaft will need removed to replace leaking transmission tail housing seals, replace universal joints, if the driveshaft has been damaged, or if major transmission repairs or differential repairs are needed. The driveshaft is used to transfer the energy from the transmission to the differential. Most drives shafts are equipped with "U" joints, "CV" (constant velocity) joints or a flex coupler to help continue the shafts operation without binding when the suspension is in motion. (Note: When the drive shaft is removed, the vehicle will no longer be held by placing the vehicle in park or a standard transmission in gear. Therefore, it is very important that the parking brake and tire blocks be used to hold it in place).

Park your car on level ground with the engine off and the emergency brake off. Block both sides of the front wheels. Always raise a car according to the manufacturers recommended instructions and secure with jack stands. Also, we will be dealing with grease so be sure to wear protective clothing, eyewear and gloves. Never trust only a hydraulic floor jack.

Tools and Supplies Needed to Complete this Job

1. Floor jack

2. Jack stands

3. Wrench set

4. Electrical tape

5. Tire blocks

6. Pry bar

7. Drip pan

8. Socket and ratchet set with extensions


Step 1 - Locate the driveshaft under the vehicle.

Step 2 - On the differential side (rear axle) of the drive shaft, you will see where the rear universal joint is mounted (at the end of the drive shaft) to the differential using U-bolts or regular bolts.

Step 3 - Using a wrench, remove the nuts at the end of the U-bolts or mounting bolts.

Step 4 - Once the nuts/bolts are removed, remove the U-bolts (bolts) and gently pry the U-joint away from the yoke. Make sure to hold the driveshaft so it doesn’t fall. The end caps on the universal joint can come off and there are needle bearings that can be lost or damaged.

Step 5 - Once the universal joint is moved away from the yoke, wrap electrical tape around the end caps so they don’t fall off.

Step 6 - Next, lift the weight off the drive shaft and slide the front section carefully from the transmission tail housing (transfer case on 4wd), and slide the driveshaft from under the vehicle. We recommend placing a drip pan under the tail housing in the event transmission fluid leaks.

Step 7 - Wrap the U-joint with electrical tape to help hold the end caps in place while the shaft is being serviced.

Step 8 - Check and fill the transmission or transfer case with fluid after the shaft has been reinstalled.

Best Practices

  • Look for signs of rust in and around the universal joint, this is a sign that the joint has failed and needed to be replaced
  • Recheck the transmission and the transfer case fluid level to ensure proper operation.
If further assistance is needed, our certified car repair technicians are ready to answer your car questions. Also, gain manufacturer specific instructions and information by clicking - Auto Repair Manual

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Written by
Co-Founder and CEO of
35 years in the automotive repair field, ASE Master Technician, Advanced Electrical and Mechanical Theory.


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Article first published (Updated 2015-01-07)