CV boot covers replaced, car clicks, do I need to do more

I actually have two cars in the same situation, and a nice independent mechanic who services them for me. Both cars (one a 2001 Passat, the other a 96 Subaru Legacy) had torn CV boot covers, diagnosed when brought in to my mechanic for the clicking sound. Both times he simply repacked the joint with grease and replaced the boot cover. Both cars still click. I read all sorts of stuff about replacing axles, etc - but that’s not what he did. When I took the Passat to the dealer for a recall service, he said I need to replace the axle (a $550+ job at the dealer) or I am at risk of high speed failure and death. When I questioned my mechanic (who I would prefer to pay to do the job) he said both cars are perfectly safe as repaired, and the clicking noise is just an annoyance - I can replace the axles if it bothers me and I want it to go away.

Ok, I am confused here - who do I believe? You can tell I don’t know a thing about cars . . .

Well, both are a bit wrong. The dealer’s trying to scare you, ‘death’ is not a likely result of bad CV joints. They’ll get way noisier before they fail, then they’ll leave you stranded, not dead. But you mechanic’s wrong, too, the repacking/replacement of the boots was too late, some damage has already been done, so you should get the ‘clicking’ axles replaced.

OK, so how do I know it’s time to actually take care of it? Both cars have been driving on the replaced boot covers since late last spring. In that time I haven’t noticed any differences in the clicking sound in the Passat, which I drive. I took it in for the recall service a few weeks ago and was given the scare story then. I am actually more concerned about the Subaru, which is driven by my college aged daughter back and forth about 3 hours at a time to school. What actually happens when the joint fails? And how do we know about the impending doom?

Thanks for your help.

I’ve never driven one to failure, so I don’t know what it’ll sound like, but it will immobilize the car. Given that possibility, and your daughter’s long drives, I would definitely get the Subaru fixed. The mechanic will put in a replacement (likely rebuilt) axle (called a CV half shaft), which includes both CV joints. Autozone lists rebuilt ones for about $80 each, plus a $40-$60 core charge refunded with returning the old part. Ask your mechanic to give you a quote, it should be less than the $550 dealer cost.

All your mechanic did was put new grease in the joint. He should have disassembled the joint first and inspected it for wear, he would have found that the joint was worn out. The joint needs to be replaced and installing a reman driveshaft is the way to go. As mentioned they are not that expensive.

As far as what can happen when the joint fails I can attest to that, it has happened to me. The joint will likely fail when making turns, it probably won’t fail while driving straight ahead because there more force on the joint while turning.

I was driving a Honda, trying to locate which CV joint was clicking. I was making some sharp turns when all of a sudden the right front CV joint broke. There was alot of grinding/crunching because the joint had come apart and there was alot of metal turning on metal. There was no damage to anything else and all I had to do was replace the driveshaft with a reman driveshaft.

I agee the clicking noise is just an annoyance. Once in 35 years have I seen catastrophic failure of a CV joint, and that was a IRS VW Bus,they had service intervals,and it was not followed. All that happened was the bus did not move.

Fairly good advice so far, except that I don’t like those so called “reman’s”. Every one I seen/bought turned out to be junk. Someone did basically what your mechanic did, but to a CV joint in far worse condition and labeled it “ReMan”.

I will suggest an alternative, EMPI sells new axles made in China for about the same price as a reman. They are pretty good quality, not up to OEM but good enough for an older car at about a quarter of the cost. Your mechanic should be able to get you one.

I agree. On a lot of CV joints have hardened seats that get scraped away when they bore them out to put in the oversized ball bearings, so yes, CV-joints are not always good candidates for remanufacturing. I’ve had a pair of cheap new NAPA store-brand axles (undoubtedly made in China) on my IFS 4x4 and they’ve been holding up great on a rig where I really punish them.

If your mechanic removed and thoroughly CLEANED the joints with the torn boots, then yes, the clicking (which should only occur during hard turns) is nothing to worry about and should not get any worse…If the joint was NOT spotlessly cleaned before it was repacked and sealed, wear will continue until the joint fails…This is a slow process…

Most 're-manufacturing" involves disassembling and cleaning the joint, installing selectively fit slightly larger ball bearings to compensate for the wear, repacking with grease and installing new boots. Sometimes, if the axle was badly worn, the new larger ball bearings quickly loosen up and start clicking again as the new balls and worn races get sloppy again…

When you clean them up and inspect you will see the hardened surface pitted and cracked and at times a dent or groove is worn into them. Theses are the easy ones to decide to replace. Sure is a real dirty job to do.

Can they make noise but escape visual detection, I have been told yes.

I had one fail on me. It started as a wobble in the wheel on the last 10 miles of my 50 mile commute. It kept going forward until I got to my parking space and needed to back up a little, then the ball bearings fell out and would go no farther. I’ve never done anything except replace the axles with rebuilts for about $70 now. Its not a safety issue like the wheels will fall off, but I guess I wouldn’t want it to go out on my daughter at night. If it were me, I’d be replacing the noisy ones. Correct though, when the boot gets torn, dirt gets in the joint and if you don’t catch it right away it is foolish to try and just replace the boot and add more grease. IMHO anyway.

Thanks for all your answers. I guess the question is how much do I trust my mechanic to have done the right thing, and the answer is - a lot - he’s a real find, the kind of guy who will look at whatever is worrying me and often make some quick adjustment and refuse payment with a wave and a “no problem”. When he says I need to do something I do it, and it seems he is always looking for ways to save me money - sometimes more than I want him to (as in this case I think).

For whatever reason I am far more concerned about my daughter’s old Subaru than my own car - probably typical parental nervousness. So I have asked him to price out the repair for that car. My Passat, which I drive daily, really does seem quite stable to me and the clicking only occurs during hard turns. When he calls me with the estimate I’ll talk to him about whether he is planning to use a new Chinese or a remanufactured axle.

Thanks again!

I must be pretty lucky, I have put in four re-manufactured axles and have never had a bit of trouble with any of them. I even put a used one from a junk yard in a " work car " and it was fine, but I would not pay labor to have someone put in one from a junk yard.

The work to remove the axel,clean all old grease,disassemble and inspect,reassemble,pack with new grease,install new boots,well you can see very labor intensive.

Sorry Keith but you’re wrong. I’ve been in this business for almost 30 years and I’ve installed dozens of reman driveshafts and never had a problem.

As far as getting parts made in China… I’ve never had anything but bad experiences with parts made in China, they’re crap.

Sorry willey, but I have never had a good reman. I take that back, I did get lucky with one one time, but its mate broke (came completely apart) within a couple of weeks and its replacement wasn’t going to last much longer. I’ve heard of problems with some new axles out of China under other brand names, but the EMPI’s are good, not quite OEM, but good enough for an older vehicle, and a lot better than any reman.