Reader Question: I have a question about CV joints. I have a '94 Honda Civic with about 50,000 miles on it. About a week ago, my front end started making a noise when I turn. I don't hear the noise every time I turn, just sometimes. What I want to know is how long does a CV joint last once making this noise?
Thank you, Maureen
Hi and thanks for your question. First of all, a quick anatomy lesson so you'll know what I'm talking about. A front-wheel drive car has two drive axles-a left and a right. On each axle there is an inner and outer CV (Constant Velocity) joint, 4 total on the car. Each joint is protected by a CV boot which is made of soft, flexible rubber.
This boot keeps dirt and grime out of the joint, and keeps lubricant in the joint. Over time, the boots split and deteriorate. When the rubber cracks and breaks, the grease that was inside lubricating the joint escapes, and dirt and debris enter through the tear and damage the joint. It is the outer boots that are constantly flexing during turns and require replacement more often. The inner joints just spin in a circle, and their protective boots are not subjected to so much wear-and-tear.
At 50,000 miles, your car is at about the average life expectancy of a CV boot. When the boot cracks, you won't have any indication of the problem. There is no noise and no drivability problems. If you wait until you start hearing a noise, the CV joint itself has already been damaged. A damaged CV joint will usually make a clicking noise on a hard, tight turn like when you are maneuvering into a parking space. If you hear the clicking noise, you should have the joints looked at soon. They will only get worse.
If there is noise present and the boots are broken, the entire joint or the entire drive shaft may need to be replaced, not just the broken boot. For your particular car, sometimes replacing the entire drive shaft with an after-market (non-Honda) part is more economical than replacing just the joint and boot. You should ask your mechanic what your options are.
Inspecting the CV boots is pretty easy (and cheap, if not free). If they are broken, you should have them replaced right away. In my book I spend lots of time on preventive maintenance education for issues just like this one. For example, if you have your oil changed at your mechanic's shop, your car should automatically get a thorough inspection every 3,000 miles while it's there for the oil change.
NOTE: CV boot replacement is not a service usually offered at a quick lube business, so you may or may not get this inspection as part of your oil change service if you use a quick lube. Although using a quick lube for oil changes can be convenient, there is no monetary incentive for them to do a thorough inspection for possible problems outside of their line of expertise.
Catching just this one potential problem early can literally save you hundreds of dollars. We offer comprehensive maintenance schedules on our Website that you and your mechanic can use to help you save money and reduce the chance of costly breakdowns. These schedules tell you when to perform inspection and replacement of key parts. If the schedule indicates that your car is due for an inspection that you can't perform yourself, have your mechanic inspect it for you.
This valuable tidbit is just one of the many cost-saving items you will learn about when you visit our Website TrustMyMechanic.com. I hope this helps.
Austin C Davis
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