'98 Grand Cherokee (130kmi) - u-joint


My auto feels and sounds clunky when taking tight turns (like u-turns) both to the right and the left. From the front of the car I hear a soft “clunk, clunk, clunk” and the steering wheel, feels like it hops or jerks while in the turn. When I straighten out, all is well.

My trusted mechanic stated that I need to replce my front u-joints. My car-guru friend (w/ auto-cross racing) suggested that the cheapest option would be to simply remove them. I’d not be able to engage the 4wheel drive, but I only use it about 4times a year any way.

Please confirm if removal (not replacement) is an option. Thank you, Nancy


There is no point in owning a Jeep without 4WD, is there? The friend may be right about cheap, but he will offer to do the work cheaply too if he helps you take them out, how hard is it to put new ones back in? Whatever you do, have fun.


Again, I only use the 4WD about 4 times a year. I’d have a mechanic remove them. From what I understand, new ones can be installed at a later date. That’s one thing I’m trying to confirm.
My friend has built three race cars. I trust his skill and knowledge. But, even he wasn’t sure about this.


Which transfer case do you have? This sounds like a viscous coupler problem, not a u-joint. If your transfer case only has settings for 4hi, neutral, and 4low then my suggestion would be to get the VC checked (this is the np249 transfer case). If the transfer case has settings for 2wd, 4hi part-time, 4hi full-time, neutral, and 4low, then make sure you are actually in 2wd or 4hi full-time (this is the np242 transfer case). BTW, if you have the np249 transfer case you don’t have u-joints in front, you have cv-joints.

Removing the joints requires removal of the front axle shafts. You can’t simply remove the u-joint and expect to drive that way. You will damage the axle shafts and hub bearings. That would end up being quite expensive to repair. You actually have to remove the front drive shaft and both front axle shafts for this to work. This is actually much more work than simply replacing the u-joints with new ones.


i would be skeptical of your guru’s advice. (unless the guru is doing the work for free)

the reason is, if you are going to dissasemble the unit to remove the ujoints, then reassemble it, THEN dissasemble it again and install new ones later you are at least doubling the labor involved.

i know I don’t dothing twice, when once would do.


You CANNOT remove the drive axle from a front differential and drive it.

There is a axle seal that needs the axle inplace to prevent the fluid in the differential from leaking out. If you remove the axles and drive it you will destroy the differential.


Didn’t think I had to go into complete detail on the process. I just wanted to get across the idea that it is less work to fix the u-joints.

BTW, if you remove the axle shafts and the front drive shaft on a '98 Jeep GC the differential no longer turns. Yes, you will need to drain the gear lube as it will spill out the ends of the axle tubes otherwise. But, the hubs are what hold the wheels in place on this vehicle. The axle shafts simply slide into the splined socket for drive.


I wouldn’t be to sure about the hubs holding the wheels on. I saw a tech remove the front drivshafts on a GM truck with unitized bearings, he took it for a test drive without the driveshafts and the wheels fell off. Without the driveshaft axle nut the bearing came apart.


I pulled out my service manual last night, and I stand corrected. Willey is correct.

Skanover, just go ahead and do the u-joints. The u-joints, themselves, are not that expensive. It’s the axle removal on each side that is the work. You need to pull the axle shafts to perform the work on the u-joints.

I still wonder if the problem is with the viscous coupler in the transfer case though, given the symptoms.