I was told during an annual vehicle inspection that my 2000-4WD Jeep Cherokee Sport needed new Ujoints to pass inspection. There was a slight movement, an almost imperceptible movement when the mechanic pushed as hard as he could. I had the ujoints changed. The mechanic also changed the drive shaft seals and the differential fluid. I was charge 4.5 hours labor plus 1 hour for the differential service. Actual time was less than 2.5 hours. I was never charged for the drive shaft/axle seals and don’t believe that they were done as the service was done so quickly. The service manager said that they forgot to add the seals to the invoice. The invoice listing for the 4.5 hour charge was labled as CV/JNTS/Axles/Boots as there was no standard listing for Ujoints. Also every other mechanic I’ve spoken with says that axle seals didn’t need to be replaced or the differential fluid. The State Police manual says that there can be ujoint movement just not excessive which leads me to believe that this didn’t need to be done at all. The mechanic had said that no movement at all was allowed per Jeep specifications. What do you think?
State inpsections are for safety purposes only, and a U-joint with a little play in it is not a safety issue. The U-joint would have to be severely worn for it to be a safety issue, in which case you’d notice it when driving.
You mentioned a service manager, so I assume this was a dealership or an auto repair chain. Don’t go back there. Click on the Mechanics Files tab on this website and find a local recommended mechanic you can trust.
I haven’t knowledge of your state inspection law, but if there is noticeable U-joint movement, the joint should be replaced. If not, the free play will only increase, yielding “thunking” and “cluncking” noises of various types whenyou start and stop and shift gears, and if you let those noises be ignored, the joint will eventually fail, leaving you stranded on the side of the road. Plus u-joint free play can stress the transmission and differential. You may could have got some more miles out of it, but you’d just be buying time and it was good in my opinion to get it fixed. How many billing hours would depend upon how may joints they needed to fix and how difficult it is to get the driveshaft free to do the repair, and installed again after the repair. On my Ford 4WD Truck, replacing the u-joint is pretty easy. Unbolt the old one from the drive shaft, drive it out with a socket, drive (or press) the new one in, bolt it back up to the driveshaft, lube all the driveshaft fittings, and you’re done. But if parts of the exhaust sytem has to be moved, etc, that can make it much more time consuming.
Me, I wouldn’t change the seals or replace the diff fluid unless there was some noticed problem, like it was leaking or some weird noise coming from it, or there was an indication water had got into the fluid, like if you had been driving across a creek or something. Otherwise I’d just inspect and top off the fluid level as needed. I wouldn’t judge the seal job wasn’t done based on the fact that the seals were left off the itemized replacement parts list. The cost of the seals are small, probably just a few dollars, compared to the hourly costs to install them.