I'd been hearing intermittant squeeking driving my Jeep (angry sparrows?) for a while, so a while back I ordered the parts to rebuild my 98 TJ's front driveshaft: three Gold Seal U-joints and a new centering ball thing (all parts ordered from Tom Wood). The parts came to about $100.00. I also purchased a U-joint changing tool from Harbor Freight. This weekend I decided to tackle the job after reviewing Stu's site one last time.
Getting the driveshaft out of the Jeep wasn't too bad; just had to drop the skidplate. Fortunately when I did the SYE thing years ago the skidplate bolts came out with no issues, and I was liberal with the anti-seize when putting it back together so there were no issues removing the bolts this time. And having a transmission jack helps greatly to lower the skidplate.
But getting the U-joints out was a major PIA. Don't try this unless you've got a U-joint changing tool. I wonder if they were the original U-joints. But I got them all out eventually.
But the really difficult part was getting the new ones in. The trunions didn't always line up like I wanted them to. And actually, on one I dropped a couple of needle bearings in the cap while getting it lined up, and didn't figure it out until I blew the end out of one of the caps. Yes, I shattered one of the end caps. But I finally got the CV end all put together after hours of messing with it. We're talking hours... don't think you can knock this out quickly if you don't do this on a regular basis.
Of course, now I'm short a U-joint for the axle end. I could put a cheapy Auto Zone U-joint in there, or a "Precision" one from NAPA, but since the Tom Wood's warranty will only cover the driveshaft if all the U-joints are their Gold Seal U-joints, I went ahead and ordered one more. Plus I don't want to do this job again for a long time. So the driveshaft is sitting on the workbench waiting to be finished and re-installed. And of course now I'm paranoid about needle bearings falling down and me crunching another U-joint cap. Well... I guess I do have a couple spare caps from the other U-joint I crunched.
During this ordeal I got to wondering if I wouldn't have been better off just ordering a new front driveshaft from Tom Wood's shop. It doing this sort of thing isn't your cup of tea, or you're not that mechanically inclined, that might actually be your better option (other than farming the job out).
Moral of the story:
1. Don't try this without a U-joint changing tool.
2. Allow plenty of time (it's also a dirty job).
3. Be paranoid about needle bearing staying in place.
But I'll tell ya; it's better to do this as a preventative maintenance thing at home in your own garage at your own pace with the right tools vs. out on some muddy trail when it's cold and wet and all you've got is a socket set, a hammer, and a large rock. ESPECIALLY now that I know what the job entails. If you do break a U-joint on the front driveshaft on the trail, pray that it's at the axle end of the shaft.