Heavy-duty trucks are at the heart of many industries operating in today’s economy. Without a reliable semi, consumer goods wouldn’t be transported to retail outlets and construction companies wouldn’t be able to haul heavy loads to job sites.
A fleet of heavy-duty trucks must be meticulously maintained to ensure each vehicle is in good working condition at all times. The engine, transmission, and body of a truck are easy to maintain, but the driveline is a critical component that can go overlooked.
Of all the parts installed on a heavy-duty driveline, the U-joints are subject to the most constant movement and stress. Premature U-joint failure can be costly, so you need to understand what these vital components are and how you can better maintain them in the future.
What is a U-Joint?
Your truck’s driveline is responsible for transmitting torque from the engine to the wheels. Without this torque transfer, the wheels would not turn on the pavement. Universal joints, or U-joints, help to compensate for the height differences between your semi’s engine and transmission and the wheels on which the truck sits.
As the driveshaft turns, the U-joint allows each end to bend in order to accommodate the misalignment of the engine, transmission, and wheels. The bending motion created by a U-joint helps to prevent the driveline from jamming and keeps your semitruck running down the road smoothly.
Why Do U-Joints Fail?
A failing U-joint will cripple your semitruck and leave you unable to move the truck from its stationary position. A truck that isn’t in motion is one that is not making money, so preventing U-joint failure should be a top priority for any fleet manager. You can easily protect the U-joints in your heavy-duty trucks against premature failure by investing in preventative maintenance.
Proper lubrication is one of the most critical factors that can determine the lifespan of your U-joints. The old lubricant should be drained from each U-joint regularly and replaced with a fresh supply to reduce friction and premature wear. You can use the old lubricant as an investigative tool to learn more about the condition of the U-joints on each of your heavy-duty trucks.
Lubricant that has a black or gray appearance can indicate wear within the joint itself. Moisture in the lubricant removed when you are greasing your trucks’ U-joints is a sign that the joints are failing and no longer have the ability to prevent outside contamination. Repair or replace faulty U-joints before they fail completely, which will reduce downtime and ensure the profitability of your fleet.
What Are the Signs of a Failing U-joint?
You must be able to identify a failing U-joint between lubrication services, as this may prevent serious mechanical problems later. All heavy-duty trucks will exhibit some tell-tale signs of U-joint failure, you just need to learn to interpret the signs appropriately.
The most obvious sign of a failing U-joint is vibration when your truck is moving forward. Vibration occurs as a result of the joint’s failure to allow the driveshaft to bend properly, creating friction.
Another indication that your truck’s U-joints might be going out is noticeable transmission fluid leak. The leak will come from the rear of the transmission and could lead to serious mechanical failure if the U-joint is not replaced right away.
Understanding what U-joints are and how they contribute to the proper operation of your semitrucks is essential if you want to manage your fleet more efficiently. Contact Godfrey Brake Service & Supply to learn more about U-joints and schedule a service appointment if you suspect U-joint failure is affecting your heavy-duty truck.