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How tough are CV joints?


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17 replies to this topic

#1 JohnVT

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Posted 12 February 2006 - 06:39 PM

How strong are CV joints? On our 97 OBW, with 134K miles, I discovered today the rumble noise is the front left wheel - the outer boot is gone, and the CV is dirty... I know not good news.

It's been making noise for a while - ok a long time. I looked for a cause, but at first had blamed it on the studded snow tires.
Now at low speeds, the steering wants to wobble.

So I plan to change it, but it's cold and work is busy. I assume this is a failure that could be catastrophic at any time?? or will it fall apart? How dangerous is it to drive?

I've read lots of opinions on this board, and plan to change the front axle next week. Or should I take a day off quickly? It might get above freezing later this week (and we're north of all the snow that was in New England today).

I know this isn't smart, but how much more damage can I do if I drive it more? :mad:

#2 Chef

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Posted 12 February 2006 - 06:48 PM

How strong are CV joints? On our 97 OBW, with 134K miles, I discovered today the rumble noise is the front left wheel - the outer boot is gone, and the CV is dirty... I know not good news.

It's been making noise for a while - ok a long time. I looked for a cause, but at first had blamed it on the studded snow tires.
Now at low speeds, the steering wants to wobble.

So I plan to change it, but it's cold and work is busy. I assume this is a failure that could be catastrophic at any time?? or will it fall apart? How dangerous is it to drive?

I've read lots of opinions on this board, and plan to change the front axle next week. Or should I take a day off quickly? It might get above freezing later this week (and we're north of all the snow that was in New England today).

I know this isn't smart, but how much more damage can I do if I drive it more? :mad:


I've heard of several people driving on torn boots for a long time provided the axles were original subarus ones. Rebuilds are notoriously less reliable. However outer CV joints usually make clicking noises when going, not rumbles. Rumbles are more likely Wheel bearings. But given your situation I'd presume the joint is screwed and replace the half-shaft regardless. If you're worried, clean off the joint with some rags and repack with some CV grease, then wrap a thick plastic bag around it and seal with duct tape for now. Then replace it proper when convenient (sooner the better).

#3 JohnVT

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Posted 12 February 2006 - 06:54 PM

I've heard of several people driving on torn boots for a long time provided the axles were original subarus ones. Rebuilds are notoriously less reliable. However outer CV joints usually make clicking noises when going, not rumbles. Rumbles are more likely Wheel bearings. But given your situation I'd presume the joint is screwed and replace the half-shaft regardless. If you're worried, clean off the joint with some rags and repack with some CV grease, then wrap a thick plastic bag around it and seal with duct tape for now. Then replace it proper when convenient (sooner the better).


thanks - is the bearing exposed to dirt with a torn CV boot, or is it sealed in the hub behind the CV? (did the boot aggravate the bearing too?)
And now that you mention it, CVs I've experienced did click. darn.
Is the bearing much harder, or is this process very similar?

#4 Chef

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Posted 12 February 2006 - 06:59 PM

thanks - is the bearing exposed to dirt with a torn CV boot, or is it sealed in the hub behind the CV? (did the boot aggravate the bearing too?)
And now that you mention it, CVs I've experienced did click. darn.
Is the bearing much harder, or is this process very similar?


The bearing is a real PITA. They are sealed in the hub, and require a press to remove. You'd need to separate the knuckle and take it into a shop to have it done. Separating the knuckle isn't too bad, but if you're doing this you may as well replace the balljoints. Not too hard.

But I'd worry about that after replacing the half-shaft first, then seeing if the noise persists. Wobbly steering shouldn't be caused by bad CV joints. More likely bad ball joints or struts. Or, could be a bad wheel bearing too.

#5 cookie

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Posted 12 February 2006 - 08:23 PM

Chef is getting to be an expert here wether he wants to or not.

#6 Chef

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Posted 12 February 2006 - 09:23 PM

Chef is getting to be an expert here wether he wants to or not.


Heheh - that is quite the compliment my friend - thanks! :brow: I'm feeling much better about my ability to work on my car these days - too bad it's my daily (and only) driver. Missed a chance at a 91 passat 5spd diesel wagon today - d'oh! Could have had a spare for when I'm working on the soob. Only needed new rear calipers, rotors, and pads to pass safety. A few small other issues easily remedied by a few hours work.

#7 JPX

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Posted 12 February 2006 - 10:50 PM

If you're worried, clean off the joint with some rags and repack with some CV grease, then wrap a thick plastic bag around it and seal with duct tape for now. Then replace it proper when convenient (sooner the better).


Never thought of this before. I love it! Now I have a way to extend the life of a blown boot! :clap: :brow:

It truly is amazing how long one can go with a blown boot or even a worn CV. The only exception I ran across was when my rear axle CV collapsed and obliterated itself.

#8 Chef

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Posted 12 February 2006 - 11:28 PM

Never thought of this before. I love it! Now I have a way to extend the life of a blown boot! :clap: :brow:

It truly is amazing how long one can go with a blown boot or even a worn CV. The only exception I ran across was when my rear axle CV collapsed and obliterated itself.


heh, thanks. Twice I did this, first time my inner boot was torn (actually when I bought it). Covered it with a plastic bag and duct tape for a few weeks before having the boot replaced (joint was still fine). Another time I had my FL outer boot clamp come off at the hub, not sure how long it was being exposed because of an exhaust leak at the time. After the exhaust fix I swear I heard some not so nice noises down there and I took a peak. Well, I picked up some CV grease, plastic ties, and cleaned that joint as best as I could. I then proceeded to pack it tightly with grease, and put some in the boot as well. I then clamped that boot on tight as I could with a couple of ties and it seemed to quiet down completely. I replaced the axle 6 months later, but still question if I really needed to. But, I figured it was the safer thing to do.

#9 grossgary

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Posted 13 February 2006 - 07:00 AM

cv's generally don't rumble and vibrate the steering wheel. i'm one that drives on broken and clicking CV's for 50,000 miles with no worries. but with rumbling and feeling it in the steering i'd fix it.

sounds like it could be the wheel bearing though. if it's that bad, it should be obvious once you get the wheel off and have a look at it. if you pull the axle shaft out and it's still noisey or hard to turn by hand then it's likely the wheel bearings.

if time/money is a concern i'd replace with a used hub. they don't fail all that often and they generally give you lots of warning (noise) before they actually fail so no worries about being stranded. replacing a hub isn't that hard at all, much easier than replacing bearings. or pull the hub and take it with new bearings to a machine shop and they'll replace them for you much cheaper than taking the car in for wheel bearing replacement. that's why i did last time, took my hubs into a machine shop. but my bearings weren't bad, just doing it for preventative maintenance. if the bearings are that bad, the hub could be ruined though so you might need a new one anyway.

#10 JohnVT

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Posted 13 February 2006 - 10:35 AM

thanks to all.

since the car belongs to my father-in-law, I'm going to change the axle shaft assembly, even though it sounds like cleaning and greasing the CV joint and a new boot might last a long time...(if it was my car, )

BUT I'm afraid to see the bearing. It is not hard to turn (had the front end on jackstands yesterday, and front wheels both turn easily), but as I said it 'rumbles' and at low speeds the steering wheel wobbles some. Hope the hub is ok, as they're harder to find. And, off to find a machine shop...

and try to take this afternoon off to do it, since now I've made my wife afraid to drive it ;) .

again, thanks!

#11 grossgary

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Posted 13 February 2006 - 10:47 AM

axles are easy enough to replace, i'd replace it and see how it does afterwards. make sure the axle nut is tight and the washer is on the right way.

#12 JohnVT

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Posted 13 February 2006 - 09:50 PM

I changed the bad one this afternoon - took about 2 hours, with most of the time spent fighting with the ball joint. Sheared the cotter pin, then had to drill it out, but took some effort to separate it from the A-Arm. Finally got a gear puller on it, and then hammered a piece of pipe on the arm until it gave. This took a few tries...
But then, without help here, I wouldn't have gotten this done! thanks.

It appears the noise is gone, though with rough winter roads (frost heaves), and old studded Hakk1 snow tires that may need balancing, it's hard to tell until I can get out tomorrow. The bearing seems to be ok - it looked good on inspection. Hopefully I can wait until better weather to change the other side. Looks like it's much easier, and maybe not much more $$ to just change the axle, and not bother with just replacing the boots. A new Cardone axle was $70 locally, and a pair of boots is $27, plus at least grease.

#13 Chef

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Posted 14 February 2006 - 05:52 PM

I changed the bad one this afternoon - took about 2 hours, with most of the time spent fighting with the ball joint. Sheared the cotter pin, then had to drill it out, but took some effort to separate it from the A-Arm. Finally got a gear puller on it, and then hammered a piece of pipe on the arm until it gave. This took a few tries...
But then, without help here, I wouldn't have gotten this done! thanks.

It appears the noise is gone, though with rough winter roads (frost heaves), and old studded Hakk1 snow tires that may need balancing, it's hard to tell until I can get out tomorrow. The bearing seems to be ok - it looked good on inspection. Hopefully I can wait until better weather to change the other side. Looks like it's much easier, and maybe not much more $$ to just change the axle, and not bother with just replacing the boots. A new Cardone axle was $70 locally, and a pair of boots is $27, plus at least grease.


Good to hear it seems likely to be better. Funny this, all this talk about CV axles and yesterday morning as I set out to work, pulling from a stop I hear Click-click-click. I JUST had those replaced. Haven't heard the noise since, but seemed very clearly a CV axle click. Boot seems fine. Bloody cheap-rump roast remanufactured axles.:mad:

#14 cookie

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Posted 14 February 2006 - 05:55 PM

and become a public transit rider? It seem like you are having rotten luck lately.

#15 JohnVT

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Posted 14 February 2006 - 09:57 PM

update -
the CV joint did seem to be causing the 'wobble' in the steering wheel, and it was obviously bad, but there was still some vibration in the rear. Turns out the left rear tire has a separated belt!
SO, the Hakk1s won't finish what was their last season anyway, and the summer (all season) tires are back on. Rides smooth now!!
Funny how a combination of things can make diagnosing problems even tougher!

This has been a mild winter in northwestern Vermont, but it's getting colder again this weekend. Maybe this is an opportunity to take advantage of end of season snow tire sale??

#16 Chef

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Posted 15 February 2006 - 09:01 AM

update -
the CV joint did seem to be causing the 'wobble' in the steering wheel, and it was obviously bad, but there was still some vibration in the rear. Turns out the left rear tire has a separated belt!
SO, the Hakk1s won't finish what was their last season anyway, and the summer (all season) tires are back on. Rides smooth now!!
Funny how a combination of things can make diagnosing problems even tougher!

This has been a mild winter in northwestern Vermont, but it's getting colder again this weekend. Maybe this is an opportunity to take advantage of end of season snow tire sale??


Great news! I hear you on the combination issues, seems I've had more than my share recently...

Cookie -

Man, if I could commute via transit to work every day I would. Unfortunately I drive from a small city to an even smaller one an hour away. I wish I could move there, but I'm stuck in a lease here, and it won't be easy to sublet. PLus my fiance cannot move with me because she goes to university here.

#17 cookie

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Posted 15 February 2006 - 11:23 AM

Been there and done that. I had a farm in the sticks in Maine and had to commute to Augusta for school and work. You are completely dependent on the car at that point. When I was a kid I always had several heaps around to patch together. It took about five to equal one reliable car.

#18 Chef

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Posted 15 February 2006 - 07:33 PM

Been there and done that. I had a farm in the sticks in Maine and had to commute to Augusta for school and work. You are completely dependent on the car at that point. When I was a kid I always had several heaps around to patch together. It took about five to equal one reliable car.


Been considering that route too... I figure with another used car I should always have one up and running ;)




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