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Bad CV Joint? Or is it?

So, My old VW Rabbit started wobbling recently. I’ve had CV joints go on two cars before and it seemed to be the same problem. So, I started taking it apart with the idea of replacing the CV joint. However, on those other cars, I drove them until the CV joint failed, so it was easy to be sure that was the problem. This one hasn’t failed yet. Now that I have the axle apart and am looking at the CV joint…it looks fine. It’s leaking a little grease, but it certainly isn’t coming apart in my hand like the other two did, and it seems to turn like it should. With my hands I can’t make it do anything that seems un-CV-Joint like. What’s more, there’s a very rusty control arm nearby, with some cracks in the metal, and a whole host of other related steering and suspension components that I’m looking at and wondering…is it that? Or is it the CV joint after all? Is there any way I can be sure it is in fact the CV joint (other than putting it all back together and driving the car backwards in tight circles until something fails completely, and then I know what to replace)?

If the rubber boot was intact, the joint is not the problem. Maybe you should have a front-end shop look at your car before you kill yourself or someone else…

Love to, but driving it to the shop would be problematic (though I suppose if it comes apart on the way then I’ll know what it was) and a tow costs as much as it would cost me to buy a new CV joint or control arm. (about $60). From looking at the control arm I’m sure any shop would say it needs replacing whether or not it’s the root of the problem. On the other hand I said there is a slight grease leak from the CV boot; so I’m not sure if it’s strictly ‘intact.’ But if you’re reasonably sure it’s not the CV joint, my money’s on the control arm.

I’m sure I could find a secluded spot to drive in circles, and I’d go very slowly. Doubt I’d kill anyone. I might attract the attention of the police though, and wish me good luck explaining that one. Ideally there’d be some test I could do that won’t make me look like some kind of drug-crazed psychopath. What would the shop do to test this, anyway?