Ever lifted your truck only to go for the first drive and feel like you are in a tumbler? I have. This topic certainly hits close to home. On my rig, driveshaft vibrations are getting increasingly more of an issue due to the lift and the odd drive shaft setup Nissan blessed the Xterra’s with.
The video below gives an excellent demonstration of the intracasies of drive line angles in relation to the differential and transfer case/transmission.
Luckily, all is not lost. There are a few solutions to drive shaft issues. This article is merely an introduction to drive line solutions.
Option 1: Lift within reason
The obvious and easiest option is to simply understand the maximum limit of your drive line angle by doing some research or testing of your own. Typically, most drive lines won’t have an issue at 2 or even 3″ of lift but this is an estimate across a wide range of vehicles.
Figure out how much lift you NEED and then work backwards from there. Understand that lifting any vehicle changes many characteristics of handling and operation so realize what you are trying to create and plan accordingly.
Option 2: Leaf Spring Shims
If you decided you need to lift your rig above the threshold of where the drive shaft is comfortable, the first stop for any leaf sprung truck will be axle shims. These shims are sold in many different degree angles and are mounted between the axle and the leaf pack.
Their sole purpose is to bring the pinion flange on the differential into a better alignment position which in turn should reduce the severity of the angle on the drive shaft u joints. Cheap and effective, this will help a majority of people get the lift and smoothness they are looking for.
Option 3: Adjustable Control Arms or Bolts
On coil sprung vehicles, the pinion angle can be adjusted with adjustable control arms or similar “camber” style bolts. If these are not adjustable, most popular vehicles have aftermarket arms that can be installed with little issue.
Option 4: Custom Drive Shaft
This option is more expensive than the previous options and will require the skilled labor of a drive line shop to accomplish (or an off the shelf drive shaft for more popular vehicles).
A drive line shop will be able to assess which options are best for your scenario and can build you a custom drive shaft to fit your needs. Whether that be a two piece drive line, cardon setup, cv setup or just a simple two u joint drive shaft, this option will also solve most of the drive line issues out there and likely be more robust and easier to service in some cases.
Option 4: Custom spring perch brackets or control arms
Still not satisfied? It is time to get your hands dirty then. This option isn’t for the feint of hart but solves the driveshaft issues in a clean way if done correctly. Simply by cutting off the old spring perches on the axle, aligning the axle to the desired angle and re-welding the spring perches back on, one can gain the pinion angle that is needed to reduce drive line vibration.
The downside is that it requires fabrication time and skills and there must be very careful attention to the spring perch angle and orientation when being installed. If one perch is welded at the incorrect angle or in the wrong spot, the axle can be out of place or crooked and other issues with alignment and vibration will be very prevalent.
Whats the Verdict?
There are really too many factors on what goes into drive line vibration, but the purpose here was to show the various options that could remedy the issue. If you are interested in more reading, check out the links below!
Tom Woods: http://www.4xshaft.com/driveline101.html