Finally got around to dealing with my front driveshaft today, and there were quite a few things I learned so far that should be common knowledge for a lot of us and I'm not sure are, thus I'm posting my findings.
As most of us know, our front drive shaft contains 3 sealed U-Joints. 1 at the axle end, and 2 at the transfer case end inside a double cardan joint. However within the double cardan joint (inside the casting, between the 2 u-joints) the is a centering ball... essentially a mini-ball joint with needle bearings inside it.
From all the shops I talked too today, 9/10 times when people believe the u-joints in the front drive shaft are shot, it is ACTUALLY the centering ball that is bad. In my case the centering ball and 2 u joints were toast.
Now, coming across a new centering ball isn't the easiest part to come by. The only people I know to stock it are Napa and Car Quest. I picked one up for $36 and change, despite local repair shops wanting around $70-100 for it.
However replacing the centering ball is not the easiest DIY job, and should be taken to a place with a machine shop... your average muffler man, belle tire, etc. DO NOT have the capacity to change it... whether they know that or not is a different story. Just save yourself some time and either go directly to a driveline shop or an auto shop with a full machine shop. I got quoted today that if I furnished all parts (which I did) it is about $30 worth of labor with the right tools. The other shops capable of changing it wanted to charge me 2 hours labor to change it and the U-Joints... which results in $100-$200 labor bill depending on the shop.
So if you need your front driveshaft repaired, a little bit of shoppin around will pay off big. Try to find an old timer who's used to old trucks and they wont charge too much at all!