If you drive a rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive vehicle, the driveshaft is a critical component of the drivetrain. When the driveshaft is not operating correctly, you’ll likely notice some problems while driving. Fortunately, balancing a driveshaft is much less expensive than repairing or replacing this vehicle component.
The cost to balance a driveshaft starts around $120 and may cost up to $200. For a standard driveshaft balancing, most people pay around $135, on average. Of course, the cost may vary depending on your vehicle. For example, working on a high-performance racing car or a large truck may be more expensive than a standard sedan. The actual cost will mainly depend on where you take it for the work. Your vehicle’s year, make, and model can also impact the price. If you need other repair work done, it will also increase the total cost for the job.
Where you take the vehicle for the work can also have a significant effect on the price tag. Taking your car or truck to a dealership is usually more expensive than a private garage or tire shop.
Some establishments have balancing machines that spin the driveshaft at a high speed for balancing. This is different from the traditional method of driveshaft balancing. More specialized shops that use advanced equipment often charge more for their services than traditional garages.
Regardless of the cost, balancing a driveshaft is less expensive than replacing it outright. A new driveshaft (plus installation) typically costs anywhere from $650 to $1,000 so it’s best to avoid replacing it unless you absolutely have to.
- Driveshaft Balancing with Weights
- Other Related Costs
- Labor Costs for Balancing a Driveshaft
- DIY Cost to Balance a Driveshaft
- The Role of the Drive Shaft
- Why Do You Need to Balance Your Driveshaft?
- Symptoms and Signs
- Extra Parts and Labor Costs
- What You Need to Know about the Drive Shaft Replacement Process
- The Balancing Process
- How to replace the Driveshaft
- Steps to Replace the U Joint
- The Bottom Line
Driveshaft Balancing with Weights
Balance weights are used by attaching them to the driveshaft tube. If you use the DIY field balance method discussed earlier, the clamps serve the same purpose as the weights, but are less precise and may require more trial and error.
These weights aren’t very expensive, and you can typically find a set of them in different weights and sizes for under $25. For example, you can find sets of 50-200 weights on eBay for $20-$25. Mako Driveshafts sells a box of 66 weights for under $25 as well.
Other Related Costs
Often, driveshaft problems go hand-in-hand with universal joint (U-joint) problems. This can make your driveshaft balance much more expensive if there is damage to the U-joint.
This component connects the driveshaft to the differential and allows the suspension to move without damaging the driveshaft.
Replacing a universal joint usually costs between $225 and $280. If you replace the U-joint, you should also plan on having your driveshaft balanced.
Replacing U-joints and balancing the driveshaft will likely cost over $250, but some shops may give you a break on the labor charges since you’re doing two related repairs at the same time.
Just the U-joint itself is not a very expensive part. You can find them on Amazon for $10-$15, and from retailers like Advance Auto Parts for $15-$35.
A functioning U-joint is essential. If the joint breaks, it can cause catastrophic damage to the driveshaft, even causing it to become detached from the vehicle while in motion.
If the driveshaft is badly damaged, dented, or bent, it will need to be replaced. The cost for the driveshaft may depend on many different factors, including what it’s made of, its size, and whether it’s a performance part.
Labor Costs for Balancing a Driveshaft
Since balancing a driveshaft doesn’t require many parts, most of the cost is attributed to labor and shop fees. If the shop has a balancing machine, the process is fairly quick and should take well under one hour.
On average, labor costs for a garage range from $85 per hour up to $150 per hour. If you take the car to a dealership, you should expect the rate to be on the higher end.
If you have the know-how and equipment to lift the vehicle, you may be able to save some money by doing the work yourself.
DIY Cost to Balance a Driveshaft
Balancing your driveshaft doesn’t cost much (if anything), and it’s possible to do it yourself. This process, known as “field balancing” can be done as long as you’re able to raise the vehicle off the ground enough so that you can start it and accelerate to rotate the wheels.
Follow these steps to field balance the driveshaft:
- Measure six inches from the yoke end and place four marks around the driveshaft.
- Accelerate the vehicle to the speed where you begin to notice vibration. Place a screw-type hose clamp at the first position where you made a mark.
- Repeat the acceleration process to see if the vibration ceases or changes. If it does not, rotate the clamp to the next mark on the driveshaft.
- Continue this process until you’ve corrected the vibration or rotated the clamp all the way around the driveshaft.
- Install a second clamp if needed to increase the weight and repeat the test.
- If the vibration worsens, separate the clamp screws about ½ inch and repeat the test.
- Continue to increase the distance until the vibration improves.
Of course, this process is a temporary measure and is not a permanent fix for an out-of-balance driveshaft.
The Role of the Drive Shaft
Your car’s Driveshaft is an integral part of the powertrain. It transmits the engine rotation to the rear axle, which in turn powers your vehicle. Unfortunately, the drivetrain can be damaged or imbalanced in the following conditions:
- Driving on rough terrain
- Driving with unevenly inflated tires
- Hitting a curb.
When this happens, it is crucial to get your Driveshaft balanced again, or you may end up with more severe problems that cost more.
The drive shaft in your vehicle is attached to the rear axle with a unique “buck” shaft. It transmits rotational energy from the engine to the rear axle. This creates a continuous stream of energy that, in turn, moves the rear wheels.
The drive shaft transmits the engine’s rotation to the rear axle and then sends that rotation to the drive wheels. It’s basically an extension of the transmission.
If your Driveshaft breaks, your transmission will suffer, too. It’s a two-way problem. For instance, a transmission problem can cause engine problems.
Why Do You Need to Balance Your Driveshaft?
Driving in rough terrain can damage your Driveshaft. Unfortunately, dents in your Driveshaft cannot be fixed. If you have dents, you will need to fully replace the Driveshaft.
However, you can fix minor imbalances caused by debris, paint, or shock. When you notice the symptoms of a damaged or imbalanced driveshaft, you should take your car to a mechanic to get diagnosed.
The signs of an imbalance driveshaft are the same as the signs of a damaged driveshaft or misalignment. Figuring out precisely what is causing the vibrations in your vehicle is most easily done through troubleshooting and ruling out the other possible causes.
Symptoms and Signs
When your Driveshaft is damaged, you may not notice it right away. However, some subtle signs may feel or look like a misalignment but are more severe.
For example, suppose you continue to drive with an improperly balanced driveshaft. This will cause further damage to your Driveshaft resulting in the need to fully replace it, which can cost twice as much if not more than balancing.
You may notice the following
- Vibration under the vehicle while you are driving
- Difficult turning
- Loud clunking noises
- Squeaking noise
- Clicking or knocking noise
- Car shudders upon acceleration
Remember, if you notice these symptoms in your vehicle, it is best to get them checked out sooner than later. Balancing should be considered routine maintenance, and if done when needed, it can save hundreds of dollars.
Extra Parts and Labor Costs
If you find your Driveshaft is more damaged than you thought, you could be looking at a higher cost than a simple balancing. Factors that affect the Driveshaft price include the RPM balancing, the material it is made out of, and the length and diameter of the part.
For example, higher balancing is going to cost more. And, steel or chrome driveshafts will cost more than aluminum ones. As a result, driveshafts can cost as little as $75 or as much as $2000 for a performance part.
The other most common part to be replaced when getting a balance is the U joint which can cost up to $100 but an average of $75
Labor costs vary between $70 and $150 per hour. The main thing that affects the change in labor cost is the mechanic certification and locations you get your work done. Some shops have better warranties and even guarantee their work.
However, these locations often have a slightly higher labor cost.
The amount of time spent on balancing is between 1 and 2 hours.
What You Need to Know about the Drive Shaft Replacement Process
You should not attempt to balance a driveshaft yourself unless you have the proper tools. One of the critical functions you need to have the capabilities to do is to lift your car evenly into the air, so your wheels can move freely.
Suppose you do not have the proper mechanisms to provide this type of lift. In that case, you could seriously harm yourself or others while attempting a driveshaft balance.
The Balancing Process
For the Driveshaft to be correctly balanced, it must remain completely intact, meaning that the slip yoke, U joints, and flanges should all be on the Driveshaft. If you balance a new driveshaft before putting any of these parts on, you will have to rebalance it.
When balancing a driveshaft, a professional will use a dial indicator to ensure that the shaft is within .010″ all the way down the tube. Then, the mechanic will rotate the shaft at speeds up to 3300 RPM.
As the shaft rotates, the machine evaluates the weight placement. Next, it determines the corrections needed to bring the Driveshaft within tolerance. Finally, during spinning, the Driveshaft must be brought within .001″.
When the balancing machine is done, the professional will balance the Driveshaft using the information delivered by the balancing machine.
To do this, the professional will weld the proper weights to the appropriate locations on the shaft. Once the Driveshaft is balanced correctly, it may be reinstalled under the vehicle.
Before a balance should be done, the professional should check the following
- check for missing weights, broken welds, and any build-up of dirt or paint that could cause the issue
- Inspect the U joint. If this is weakened or worn out, it will need to be replaced
- Inspect the Driveshaft. If it is bent, dented, or damaged, it will have to be replaced.
Step by Step Balancing Process
- Raise vehicle parallel to the ground so tires can rotate freely
- Measure about six inches from the yoke end and place four numbered marks 90 degrees apart around the Driveshaft.
- Run vehicle and note vibration and speed
- Place screw-type hose clamp at the first position
- Run the vehicle to see if the vibration changed.
- If the vibration is still there, rotate the clamp so the screw is at the next numbered mark.
- Run the vehicle and note vibration and speed.
You will repeat this process until the vibration is gone.
How to replace the Driveshaft
In a worst-case scenario, you may need to replace the entire Driveshaft to include the U joint. The good news is that while you may not be able to balance your Driveshaft yourself, you can install a new driveshaft at home, saving some money.
However, please note that all-new drive shafts will also need to be balanced, so after installing a new driveshaft, make sure to get your vehicle to the shop!
- Jack up or lift up your vehicle.
- If using jacks, place jack stands to make sure your car is secure.
- Locate the U joint
- You will see 2 or 4 bots connecting the Driveshaft to the vehicle’s rear, opposite the transmission.
- Place a drain pan under the Driveshaft on the transmission side.
- Use your wrench to loosen and take off the bolts.
- Push the shaft forward until it is released, then pull back firmly. The Driveshaft will pop off the transmission yoke. (Before replacing the new Driveshaft, use the instructions above to install new U joints.)
- Slip the new Driveshaft into the transmission, and bolt the U joint back into place.
Steps to Replace the U Joint
After your Driveshaft is off your vehicle, you can either replace the U joint or add a new U joint to the new Driveshaft.
- Look at the Driveshaft, and locate the U joint. You will see a clip holding the U joint to the shaft. Use a screwdriver (or your chisel) and a hammer for popping these clips off. There are four of them.
- Use the U joint removing tool kit to remove the U joint off the Driveshaft after removing the clips.
- Put the Driveshaft on top of the tool.
- Put the end of the socket over the end of one side of the U joint.
- Hit the socket firmly with a hammer several times to remove the cap
- Repeat on the opposite side to remove the yoke
- Then repeat the process to take all 4 caps off of the U joint.
- Now you can insert the new U joints.
- Take 2 opposite ends off of the U joint and place them into the end of the Driveshaft.
- Push one side of the new U joint all the way up into the Driveshaft and replace the cap. Push firmly
- Hammer the cap down all the way.
- Then replace or add a new clip and hammer it down firmly into place.
- Turn to the opposite side of the U joint and hammer the cap down firmly.
- Add clip and hammer down firmly.
- Then Replace the yoke.
- Next, hammer the following two caps and replace both of the clips as well.
- Slip the Driveshaft back into the transmission
- Line it up with the rear end and bolt it back down.
The Bottom Line
Your vehicle’s driveshaft can become imbalanced due to various driving conditions like a rough road or from hitting a large object or curb. If this occurs, you’ll need to have the driveshaft balanced to get it back into normal working order and prevent additional damage.
If the driveshaft sustained significant damage to the point where it’s bent or dented, you will likely need to replace it altogether. However, if it’s not visibly damaged, but you’re experiencing vibrations or strange sounds from underneath the vehicle, it could be a balancing issue.
Having the driveshaft balanced isn’t a very expensive job. Most people pay well under $200 for the work. However, the cost is ultimately based on the labor and shop fees at the garage or dealership. You should expect to pay significantly more if you take it to a dealership.
If you end up needing other related repairs, that will make your final total increase quite a bit. The best thing to do is shop around and get a few estimates before you commit to a garage.
Some shops offer discounts for AAA members, military discounts, student or senior discounts, or loyalty discounts. It never hurts to ask about these perks if they apply to you.
It’s always a good idea to consider the shop’s reputation and what kind of warranty they offer on their work. Sometimes, the cheapest option isn’t the best one.
When you bring your vehicle into the shop, the technician should give your vehicle an inspection to look for and identify any leaks, cracks in the housing, or physical damage to the drivetrain or components.
They will evaluate the overall wear and tear on the vehicle, and provide you with recommendations for service.
It’s not a good idea to continue to drive your vehicle if the driveshaft is not operating properly. Vibrations from the drivetrain are an indication of a problem that will only worsen over time, so it’s better to get it checked out and corrected as soon as you can.
Not only can driving with a damaged driveshaft pose a danger and potentially cause more damage, but it will also increase the wear and tear on your vehicle, potentially causing your more money in repairs in the long run.