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Stock front driveshaft limitations


NAXJA Member #616
NAXJA Member
Reno, Nevada
Talking Spicer driveshafts here...

So who has discovered they have reached the limitations of the stock front driveshaft here? How tall were you? What were the symptoms?

After reaching 6.5" lift (true lift height) a year ago (and yes I have a HP30...) I started getting a clunking sound after being in 4wd a while. It would clunk at very slow speeds but in sync with speed. On the NAXJA Rubicon run, Richard suggested my CV was worn, which seemed to be the most likely cause of the clunking, after all I had that shaft for 2 years at 5" lift with a LP30 and the new height of 6.5" and HP30 for a few months. It was also mostly a daily driver, so I could see why all that turning (non-disco axle) could eventually wear down the CV. Took the DS off and it doesn't feel bad at all turning it by hand... But I picked up a fresh DS from a 2001 XJ in the junkyard. Oh BTW, I figured it should be long enough, I have about 1" of extension left in the slip joint. I was also upgrading to manual hubs, so I figured this shaft should last me for a long time since it won't be spinning when the hubs are not locked. Well... after less than 6 months, the clunking has returned and again I can't feel it being bad when I turn it by hand.

After visiting Tom Woods site and reading his tech, I think I found the problem. He states:

Most drive shafts will, depending on components used, incur a binding interference at about 30 degrees. You DO NOT , I repeat DO NOT want to run a drive shaft at any where near this angle. you need to allow for axle droop, frame flexing and differential roll. All of which can momentarily alter the operating angle of the "U " joint to the point that it will cause what I refer to as an IMMEDIATE & CATASTROPHIC FAILURE. Ultimately you need to be certain that your driveline will rotate freely under full axle droop.

So I think at full droop it may be causing damage to the CV or at least causing it to clunk when back at "level" ground in 4wd. I don't hear clunking when flexed but do on just regular trails, after I have flexed. Just FYI, at full droop I can unseat the RE5.5" coils about 2 - 3". I wonder what angle that CV is operating at?

I was going to try and rebuild the shaft with greasable joints but now I don't think that will help much. Is an aftermarket shaft the only true solution?
I have a similar problem, I just got done doing my SYE and when I had the front DS hanging from the t-case, it would only hang down past the front diff. yoke 5 inches. I could force it down farther but that would bind the cv.
I can flex pretty well and I would think that my diff. at full droop is farther than 5 inches?
I dont notice any binding on the trail, but when I was under the Jeep I found that my tranny-to-tcase bolts were very loose, I could turn 3 of them with my fingers..
I figure that an aftermarket DS is the solution.
Is the angle travel of a tom woods or other ds alot better than stock?
Well... my original post was over a year ago, but some of the questions about how much angle the stock shaft can take remain unanswered, at least in this post... :)

However, since then I have discovered that the clunking sound I was hearing was not coming from the driveshaft, so that part is good. So I am still using the stock driveshafts with no problems there.
dig this up again :)

Where was the clunking coming from then, I am tracking down a similar problem.
what kinda lift kit are you all running? short arms? long arms? Y-link? 4-link? I think all those play into your full droop drive shaft angle and should be a major factor when figuring out what your driveshaft limitations are.
i had a problem with mine making a noise. at first i thought it was coming from the t-case but after removing the ds i found out that inside the cv part there is a bearing pack that is none greasable that had failed. i was running 6.5'' short arm lift with only a t-case drop. the front end would actually flex enough to bind the ds. i replaced the shaft with a junkyard one. but plan to do the sye before flexing again.
The front DS has no slip yoke, it is already a splined slip shaft.

I just wanted to know where his clunking was comming from. I hope mine is the driveshaft and not a chipped pinion or tcase problem.
I had actual CV yoke binding after +4.5" of lift.It wasnt much and just took a little grinding to clearance the yoke.
andyr354 said:
dig this up again :)

Where was the clunking coming from then, I am tracking down a similar problem.

It took me a very long time to narrow this one down but I have finally found what it was and fixed it.

First I eliminated the driveshaft as a possibility (that one was pretty easy). Then I narrowed it down to the passenger side and for the longest time I thought it had something to do with the brakes because the clunking would stop the second I pressed the brakes. Well I replaced just about everything to no avail. Last thing to replace was the ball joints and steering knuckle. It turns out that it was in fact a ball joint! The lower ball joint on the passenger side was bad. I have been clunk free ever since. :woohoo:

If you are interested, there is a 6 page thread about front end clunks on JF - it's kind of interesting to read at least for me, because we were looking at several different solutions that we were sure would work. I didn't suspect the ball joints because doing the "lift the tire test" they seemed to be good with no play. Here's the thread: http://www.jeepforum.com/forum/showthread.php?t=127315
I've been looking for a clunking noise as well, though honestly not very hard lately. I guess I'll check my ball joints better before my next trip.

When I lifted to 5" with short arms I found that my front drive shaft was too long, yes too long. When my front end drooped all the way, the driveshaft was fully compressed and binding. The axle actually came that far back as it drooped. If I disconnected the drive shaft, the axle could droop about another inch. So now I have a new drive shaft and a trial spare that is just a bit too long but will work.