Tom Wood's rear DS failures - JeepForum.com
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post #1 of 70 Old 06-18-2018, 08:12 PM Thread Starter
jbparisi
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Tom Wood's rear DS failures

I know this will be just a notch below heresy for some and I should start with I have been a Tom Woods fan for longer than I care to remember. Personally, Ive had a Tom Woods DS in every Jeep Ive owned. I know several other Jeepers that all have TW DSs. Recently I had an experience that I wanted to share only to see if others had similar issues. Im not hating on Tom Woods so keep that in mind as you read on

So I have a 2003 TJ Rubicon. I put in a Tom Wood rear DS when I installed the 4.5 lift which was about 6 years ago (& about 30k miles ago). In that time, the rear drive shaft CV has failed THREE times. I each case, the double cardan had to be rebuilt. The first time is on me I missed lubing up the zerk fitting on the flange socket yoke. Thats my fault. I had a local offroad shop look at it, replace the socket yoke and the u-joints. All good..for about 2 years. Then I had the same issue except this time I was sure to grease the flange socket yoke after every oil change (around 3k-5k miles) but it still failed. This time, I sent the unit back to Tom Woods and he rebuild it. It was good again for about 2 years. Then the other week after a mild off road trip in the NorCal Sierras, the rear DS started having issues again. I called Tom Woods actually spoke with Tom. He looked it up and saw I had it rebuilt 2 years ago and asked some questions. He was real good about saying send it back and well take a look. Based on my description over the phone, he speculated it was the same issue with the flange centering kit gone bad.

I really did not want to deal with the 5 day delay to send off the drive shaft to Utah so I took it to a local driveline shop. This guy has done work for me in the past. All he does is driveshafts and hes been in business for 40+ years. Very reputable reputation !

Today, I picked up the driveshaft & talked to the owner of the shop. I wanted to learn if there is some other cause for the issue. Could it be incorrectly aligned ? Is there something else Im missing ? I was shocked to hear what the driveshaft shop owner had to say. He said the parts on the driveshaft (put in by Tom Woods) were crap. They were not Spicer parts. He showed me the parts he put in vs the ones he took out. The owner said he sees TW DS all the time. He had 3 other Tom Woods driveshaft in his shop with a similar issue.

I told him, among the Jeep enthusiast, Tom Wood's is one of the most respected and well recognized DS out there. He knew about the reputation but had no explanation. He stood by his assessment based on the parts he replaced.

Again my intent is not to beat up Tom Woods but Im wondering if anyone else out there has had similar issues. The symptom is classic DS CV failure. Usually starts with a clicking noise but within a few days (couple hundred miles) it turns into DS play. For what its worth the Jeep has been through the Rubicon several times, last year we went to Moab but of the 5000 miles I put on it a year, 4500+ of those are on the road with my kid driving to school and back.

Ive searched the various newsgroups and was hard pressed to find anything bad about TW DS but I can not be the only one ????

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post #2 of 70 Old 06-18-2018, 08:54 PM
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Do you have a tummy tuck along with the 4.5" lift? Any idea what the operating angle on the double cardan joint is at ride height? Based on the several conversations I've had with guys at Tom woods, the longevity and smoothness of the centering ball decreases the closer the operating angle is to 22*. I forget which guy it was, but he said any angle higher than 22* and the life of the driveshaft falls off a cliff.

I also have 4.5" of lift with a flat tummy tuck, stock wheelbase, 4.0, 32rh and a 231 with an SS SYE. Pretty much the shortest drivetrain you can get with the 4.0 and 3 speed. All of that resulting in a 22.5" long driveshaft and I still am pushing 21* of operating angle on the shaft. I installed a brand new TW shaft about 8k miles ago, almost all street miles. The first 2k were driven with a slight vibe at 60 mph from it being out of balance slightly as I didn't have time to send it back before my trip which was spent at 60mph for about 95% of those miles. I greased it thoroughly after the first 1k, and it was greased again by TW after another 1k once they sent it back to me perfectly balanced.

About a week ago I noticed a slight vibe that grew to an intense vibration at any speed within about 100 miles. I just sent it in per Tom's recommendation as the centering ball still felt fine, but I figured he would be able to tell better than me. I'm waiting to hear back from them, probably tomorrow or the next day.

I would do everything possible within reason to minimize the operating angle on your double cardan to get the most life as possible out of it. I've got 50lb in the back to simulate the 60lb corner guards I'll be getting, partly to weigh it down a bit, and some half inch spacers to level out the rake on the Jeep, which should get me about a half a degree or so. Also make sure your pinion angle is absolutely perfect. My driveshaft will vibrate if the upper arms are turned an 1/8th of a turn to long or too short.

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post #3 of 70 Old 06-18-2018, 09:44 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks Trevlaw - Yes - the Jeep does have a tummy tuck as well. I went with the Rokmen tummy tuck so it is not quite flat but pretty darn close. I just put the newly rebuilt DS back in and checked the operating angle. It is right at 21 so getting awfully close. I'm just about the take it for a test run to see if there are any vibrations. Fingers crossed.....
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post #4 of 70 Old 06-18-2018, 10:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jbparisi View Post
Thanks Trevlaw - Yes - the Jeep does have a tummy tuck as well. I went with the Rokmen tummy tuck so it is not quite flat but pretty darn close. I just put the newly rebuilt DS back in and checked the operating angle. It is right at 21 so getting awfully close. I'm just about the take it for a test run to see if there are any vibrations. Fingers crossed.....
Are you using the stock transmission mount still? You should be able to get it dialed in for smooth operation at all speeds with the angle still under 21, but I'm still trying to find out myself how long you can expect it too last.

I'm going to inquire with TW on some part numbers for my driveshaft so I can do the work next time if it is the centering ball that's bad. I don't know what parts they use, but I do know they use specific manufacturers for specific parts in the driveshaft to obtain the maximum angle out of them if you order it like that. Mine for example is a 1310 shaft made to flex to 35* and they told me that different manufacturers for say the H yoke or centering ball yoke can have different castings that cause some to interfere with other parts, whereas other manufacturers don't.

I will say Tom Woods has excellent customer service, they've spent many long phone calls helping me out with stuff, and Tom has been a great help getting all of my vibration related issues figured out. They will be getting a lot of my future business.

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post #5 of 70 Old 06-19-2018, 11:07 AM
Jerry Bransford
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At least from what I'm seeing here the problem is not with the Tom Wood driveshaft itself, it's the excessive angle it's being forced to work into.
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post #6 of 70 Old 06-19-2018, 11:22 AM
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FWIW mine sits at about 21 degrees at ride height (had to work to get it down to that) and had no problem with TW shafts for years. There are other reasons to keep it from getting much higher than that (i.e. bind at droop), but for me have not seen the type of issues you are seeing.
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post #7 of 70 Old 06-19-2018, 12:20 PM
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I would like to take a moment to address some of the things brought up in the original post. First I would like to thank the original poster for being objective and mature in addressing your concerns and the problems you have been having. I would also like to apologize that you have had repeated problems with your drive shaft.

It is a common thing for shops to say that whatever their competitors are using is "crap". I believe that this is often attempt to put others down in order to make themselves look better. I will say that quite simply it is not true, we do not use cheap or inferior components. I will tell you the brand of every component in the TJ Rubicon CV assembly that we use. I will assume that you still have the flat flange on the transfer case.

The cv weld yoke is made by Spicer, sometimes we also use Neapco.
The cv housing is made by Neapco, we go with Neapco over Spicer here because the Neapco housing allows for greater flexibility.
The universal joints are our goldseal joints, unless a customer requests Spicer which we can substitute at no additional charge.
The center ball is made by Neapco and pressed into our own socket flange.

There are two companies that make a 1310 socket flange with the Rubicon flange pattern. Tom Wood's and Powertrain Industries. The center balls that come in the flanges made by powertrain are inferior, not total crap but not up to our high standards. There are some applications where Powertrain is the only company who makes a socket flange (a jeep WK is a good example). When we have to use these flanges, the first thing we do is pull out the powertrain center ball and press in a Neapco ball joint. This costs us more money to do but it is well worth it in the long run. Quality is paramount to us and problems cost us money and hurt our reputation. Plus we genuinely just don't want the customer to have to deal with problems.

This is a bit of a tangent but I want to talk for a moment about Spicer. Spicer has always been considered the top brand when it comes to drive shaft components. But they are not infallible, even Spicer can have problems with their parts. We have actually had a few occurrences where we have had large batches of defective spicer parts (as well as defective parts from other suppliers), problems where the parts did not meet our critical standards. This has resulted in us returning or even sometimes scraping tens of thousands of dollars of bad parts. Spicer is often the most difficult of our suppliers when it comes to getting them to admit that there is a problem with something and getting them to take corrective action. We use many spicer parts, they are one of our biggest suppliers, but we source everthing based on what we believe to be best, regardless of brand.

Finally I will address the cause of the original poster's issues. Angle is a big factor here. If you have a 4.5" lift and a 2" tummy tuck, that means that as far as the drive shaft is concerned you have about a 6.5" lift. This is across a span of about 16"-17", so the angle can get real steep real quick. As angle increases, life expectancy decreases. On average most vehicles' drive shafts will turn about 2,500 times per mile driven. That means that if you drive just 10,000 miles, your drive shaft turns 25,000,000 times. That's a lot. When the shaft is running at an angle that is really pushing the limits of what it is capable of, it will wear out more quickly. I wish I could say that we have found the magic solution to this but we haven't. A big lift on a short Jeep means a short life on the drive shaft. That being said, there may be an element of just plain bad luck at play here. Often we will talk to customers who never grease their cv center ball, drive their Jeep every day, and still they will go years without any issues. You may also want to check and make sure that it is not binding under full droop. If this happens, even momentarily, it can pry the ball loose from its seat. This in turn will expedite wear of the ball and socket.

For the record, my post is intended to be informative, I hope that I do not come across as being argumentative or confrontational.

Again, thank your for your post and my apologies for the problems you have had with your drive shaft.

Last edited by Jerry Bransford; 06-19-2018 at 12:43 PM. Reason: Corrected minor typo on the 25,000,000(0) driveshaft rotations
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post #8 of 70 Old 06-19-2018, 01:12 PM
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The post that was just made & then deleted by the OP I happened to catch showed what appeared to be an excessively low rear pinion angle.

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post #9 of 70 Old 06-19-2018, 01:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerry Bransford View Post
The post that was just made & then deleted by the OP I happened to catch showed what appeared to be an excessively low rear pinion angle.

That could also be a contributing factor. Here's how, when you point rotate the pinion up to point towards the transfer case, you are also raising the bottom end of the shaft, this decreases the slope of the drive shaft and lessens the net joint angle up at the transfer case. The less angle everything is operating at, the longer things will last. So to the original poster, if your pinion is not pointed up toward the transfer case, doing so may help you to get a bit more longevity out of the shaft. Again, my intention here is to be helpful not to point blame at anyone.
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post #10 of 70 Old 06-19-2018, 01:48 PM
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Good info, thanks. I will be dealing with this as soon as my skid shows up. Luckily, I don't have a lot of suspension lift so I'm hoping for a good outcome. Never heard anything bad about Tom Woods.
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post #11 of 70 Old 06-19-2018, 02:03 PM
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Originally Posted by 03Blubicon View Post
Good info, thanks. I will be dealing with this as soon as my skid shows up. Luckily, I don't have a lot of suspension lift so I'm hoping for a good outcome. Never heard anything bad about Tom Woods.
Whenever someone says they have never heard anything bad about us, my wisecrack remark is that "You haven't talked to enough people then". We make mistakes, we have problems, we just do everything we can to keep those things at a minimum.
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post #12 of 70 Old 06-19-2018, 03:51 PM
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Originally Posted by ShawnAtTomWoods View Post
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Originally Posted by 03Blubicon View Post
Good info, thanks. I will be dealing with this as soon as my skid shows up. Luckily, I don't have a lot of suspension lift so I'm hoping for a good outcome. Never heard anything bad about Tom Woods.
Whenever someone says they have never heard anything bad about us, my wisecrack remark is that "You haven't talked to enough people then". [IMG class=inlineimg]/forum/images/JeepForum_2016/smilies/tango_face_wink.png[/IMG] We make mistakes, we have problems, we just do everything we can to keep those things at a minimum.

Well, I live in the "sticks", but I understand what you're saying.
I will take my chances. I'm not too worried.😁
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post #13 of 70 Old 06-19-2018, 04:31 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerry Bransford View Post
At least from what I'm seeing here the problem is not with the Tom Wood driveshaft itself, it's the excessive angle it's being forced to work into.
Jerry - I get 21* is quite a bit of angle but I don't view that as 'excessive'. Am I missing something ?

I gotta believe there are several others out there that are very near if not more than 21*. Heck my TJ is not that extreme - although with the short wheel base, combined with the lift & tummy tuck it all adds up to a stressed DS situation.

This weekend I'll make sure all the angles are aligned and set as close to perfect as I can get them with the goal to minimize the stress points. I'm just trying to figure how to avoid rebuilding the rear DS every 2 years.

Appreciate the insight as usual.
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post #14 of 70 Old 06-19-2018, 04:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jbparisi View Post
This weekend I'll make sure all the angles are aligned and set as close to perfect as I can get them with the goal to minimize the stress points. I'm just trying to figure how to avoid rebuilding the rear DS every 2 years.
You can definitely minimize stress, but you aren't going to get away from the fact that u-joints and centering balls are wear items and applications like this are stressful on those parts.
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post #15 of 70 Old 06-19-2018, 05:51 PM Thread Starter
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[QUOTE=Trevlaw;40251413]Are you using the stock transmission mount still? You should be able to get it dialed in for smooth operation at all speeds with the angle still under 21, but I'm still trying to find out myself how long you can expect it too last.

Trevlaw, Yes I still have the stock transmission mount.
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