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The CV joint, along with the CV axle, is what drives the engine’s power, through the transmission, out to the vehicle’s wheels. In it’s early days, CV axles were used primarily for Front-Wheel-Drive vehicles, as both front CV axles drove power to the wheels, and were designed to be able to transmit torque at extreme angles, like steering, bumps, etc. With the rise in popularity of All-Wheel-Drive vehicles, and independent suspension, CV axles (and joints) have made their way into trucks, SUVs, and AWD cars, both on the front and rear in many cases.

A CV axle is composed of 2 CV joints – an inner joint that couples to the transmission/differential, and an outer joint that couples to the wheel hub. Both of these joints twist and turn while continuing to provide constant torque to the wheel, hence the name constant velocity joint. CV joints require good, ample grease to keep lubricated, and to accomplish this, each joint is cased in a heavy-duty rubber boot that flexes with the joint, and looks much like an accordion.

Because CV joints live a pretty rough life, down near the road, water, mud, salt, and grime, these boots often crack and fail, especially along the ribs of the “accordion”. When this happens, the grease that keeps this joint lubricated spews out, and eventually the joint fails.

It’s important to note that the historically, CV axles were often rebuilt by the mechanic by replacing one of the 2 failed CV joints, putting on a new boot, and putting the axle back in. Over time, the cost of new CV axles being massed produced became a better, more cost-effective option than simply replacing the joint, as the axle was ready to install, saving time and money. The term, “I need a CV joint replaced” has continued on, but in general terms, replacing a CV joint really means replacing a CV Axle, so moving forward we will refer to it as such.

CV Axle Replacement Expenses

Replacement axle shafts can be bought for between $60-150.00 each, and labor is generally between 1.5-3 hours to replace, bringing labor to around $150-350.00. Replacing a CV axle yourself is an intermediate job that does require some specialty tools, all of which can be rented through AutoZone’s loan-a-tool program for free. If you have done brakes, struts, or other undercar repairs similar to this, you can probably tackle a CV axle replacement without issue. If you need help with the repair, check out one of our Preferred Shops in your area that can help assist with the repair.

What Are the Symptoms of a Bad CV Joint?

Before you worry about the CV axle replacement cost, pay attention to the signs that you need a replacement in the first place. When your CV joint is experiencing some issues, there are a handful of indications that will alert you that you have a problem. Keep your eyes open for any of these, and they’ll be an excellent indicator that there’s something incorrect with the CV joints in your car and truck. 

1

Noises when Turning

Popping or clicking noises, especially when turning, are a tell-tale sign. As the joint wears, especially without grease, it will pop and click.

2

Cracks on the Boot

When doing an oil change, check your CV boots carefully by opening up the ribs of the “accordion” and looking for cracks. A broken boot will fling grease anywhere it can, so look for signs of grease around the joint. If you see any, it’s only a matter of time before the joint fails.

3

Wobbly Axle

A failing CV joint will wobble out of balance. This becomes very evident if the wobbling happens when you press on the gas, as the engine torque causes the axle to wobble. While under the vehicle, you can usually find out which axle is producing the wobble by grabbing the axle near the joint on both sides and push up and down, and side to side. If there’s any slop or movement in the axle, the axle is suspect.

4

Bouncing or Vibrations

Bouncing is often a step worse than vibrations, and at this point, the car should not be driven. If an axle completely fails and breaks, it can become a rotating projectile and harm other items in its way – exhaust, struts, brake lines. It’s not worth risking.

How Long Can I Go with a Bad CV Axle?

In the simplest terms, it is risky to drive with a bad CV joint on an axle. If you discover your vehicle is suffering any of the signs of a bad CV joint, the best thing you can do is get it to a mechanic as quickly as possible or replace the joint itself.

Remember that once the CV boot gets torn, it’s only a matter of time before the axle fails. Failing to address the situation can lead to catastrophic failure of the axle, which as stated above, is a part that is in rotating motion. When it breaks, it will continue at its best to try to rotate, knocking into anything it can. The best method of prevention of CV joint / axle failure is to inspect often. If you take your car in for oil changes, ask the oil tech if he can quick the CV boots for you for issues. It’s often not on a normal inspection, but while they are under-car, it takes less than 2 minutes to look each one over carefully.

For answers to more specific questions or for recommendations, visit your local AutoZone and our friendly professionals will be able to help you with all of your concerns! 

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