Repairs not always expensive
On The Road AgainApril 18, 2012 | 4,070 views | Post a comment
If you’ve ever owned a front-wheel drive vehicle with some age on it, you may have had to deal with CV joint issues. CV joints, or constant velocity joints, are the part of the front drive axle that allows the axle to bend as the front wheels turn, and flex with the car’s up-and-down suspension movements.
There are two joints per side, an inner and outer joint. The inner joint, the one closest to the transaxle, doesn’t see as much movement, as that part of the axle isn’t subjected to the turning -- only the up and down movement of the suspension. The outer joint has to allow both movements, and therefore is more prone to splitting a CV joint boot -- arguably the weakest link in the axle assembly.
These rubber boots have several ribs to help the boot flex during movement without ripping open, but eventually they get old enough where they do just that -- split open. When the boot splits, centrifugal force slings the grease out in a relatively short amount of time, allowing the joint to run dry. Once the joint runs dry, it begins to self-destruct.
At first, the joint will start clicking during turns as the wear begins to cause some loose tolerances between the parts. The noise gets louder as the joints wear, and once they get to this point, they must be replaced. The good news is the joints can often be saved if the split boot is discovered before the clicking noise begins by installing a boot kit. The axle is removed and disassembled, cleaned, repacked with special grease, and new boots and clamps installed. On most vehicles, removing the axle isn’t extremely labor-intensive, but some vehicles require a front-end alignment after the repairs have been completed, which adds to the cost of the repair. Other cars don’t need the alignment after an axle repair. It depends on how the car is designed, and if the mechanic cares enough to preserve these settings during the repair.
Most CV joints and complete axle assemblies aren’t horrifically expensive, so a split boot or worn joint isn’t a gold card type repair. I bought two complete rebuilt axles for a Honda last week from a national parts chain at a cost of $59 per side, with a lifetime warranty. This isn’t bad when some boot kits can cost $30 per side without the labor to swap them out.
The kit normally includes two boots, four clamps, grease, c-clips, and an axle nut. Buying the unit rebuilt and complete creates less labor and new or rebuilt joints back to factory spec. Either way, the axle has to be removed and replaced, so it works out about the same.
If you own a front-wheel drive vehicle, always ask the person changing your oil to inspect the boots. Early boot-split detection can usually save the joint or at least get you prepared for an upcoming repair bill.