If you have a front-wheel-drive car, then you might hear a knocking or popping noise as you drive if your car is getting a bit old. This doesn’t happen very often, but if your car is getting old or the mileage is getting high, then you might be due for a CV joint replacement. We’ll be discussing more about what a CV joint is, how it works, and of course, the CV joint replacement cost should you need one.
- What’s a CV Joint?
- Types of CV Joints
- CV Joint Replacement Cost
- Tips And Tricks
What Is A CV Joint?
Before we discuss the CV joint replacement cost, let’s take a look at what a CV joint is. CV joint stands for constant-velocity joint, sometimes called a CV axle or half-axle. It sits at both ends of the driveshaft, there’s an inner CV joint that connects to the transmission, and an outer CV joint that sits close to the wheel. The CV joint is essential for a front-wheel-drive car to operate. However, some rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive cars will also have a CV joint on their driveshafts.
The CV joint is responsible for transferring power from the transmission to the drive wheels at a constant speed while limiting friction. It also accommodates the up-and-down motion of the suspension while delivering power. As a result, they make driving smoother for your car and reduce wear and tear to the driveshaft.
As mentioned, there are two CV joints: one on the inside (inner joint), which is connected to your car’s transmission. While the outer joint sits closer to your wheels. However, in a rear-wheel-drive car, the outer joint sits closer to your car’s differential. While the inner joint is the one that sits closer to your wheels. In any case, they’re typically encased in a corrugated piece of rubber over the shaft called a CV boot. Which is all you will see when you inspect the car.
The CV joint is essential to your car’s operation. If your CV joint is starting to wear out, then you might see some worrying symptoms. Worst-case scenario your car might not move at all. You can learn more about CV joints in this video below about how driveshafts and CV joints work:
Types of CV Joints (Which Are Most Commonly Replaced)
1. Plunge/Fixed Joints
Most front-wheel-drive cars would use a plunge and fixed joint. The plunge joints usually sit on the inside, while the fixed joints sit on the outside. Most of the car’s operation is done by the fixed joint, such as when you steer around corners. However, rear-wheel-drive cars utilize the plunge joints more for their operation.
2. Tripod/Ball-Type Joints
Front-wheel drive cars can either have a ball-type or tripod joint for the inner plunge joint. The tripod joins are shaped like a tripod that has 3 trunnions, hence the name. Each trunnion would have a spherical roller that’s connected to a needle bearing.
Meanwhile, ball-type joints have either a cross groove or double-offset style. However, the tripod joints are usually more popular and more often used for the plunge-type joints.
When you install an inner plunge joint in a front-wheel-drive vehicle, it can be a ball-type joint or tripod joint. Tripod joints basically have a tripod, or a spider, which has 3 trunnions. Each trunnion has a spherical roller that is connected to a needle bearing. Ball-type joints feature a cross groove or double-offset style. The tripod joint is the most popular type of plunge joint.
3. Rzeppa Joints
These joints have been used regularly in cars since the 1920s, invented by Alfred H. Rzeppa and named after him. Ever since then, a lot of cars would use this type of joint and it changed the way cars function. The Rzeppa joints are outer CV joints that consist of an inner shell with six grooves that guides a ball each.
The input shaft would fit in the center of a large steel star-shaped gear that’s encased by a circular cage. The Rzeppa joints allow more wheel articulation, allowing your drive shaft to operate at more angles.
4. Fixed Tripod Joints
The fixed tripod joints are outer joints, which sometimes you will find in front-wheel-drive cars. The trunnions are mounted on the outer housing. Then the input shaft would have an open tulip in which three roller bearings will turn against. The joint is then held together by a steel spider.
Bad CV Joint Symptoms
If you’re worried that your car might have a bad CV joint, be on the lookout for these signs as they might be caused by a bad CV joint:
1. Grease Leaking On The Inside Of Your Tire
The CV joint is a moving part, therefore they have to be lubricated with grease or oil. If it suffers from a tear or tiny cracks, then it may leak oil out. As a result, a dark-colored oil or grease may run down on the inside of your wheel and tire. This may be caused by other things as well, such as a bad differential. In any case, you should get it checked as your wheel assembly really shouldn’t be leaking oil.
2. CV Joint Noise When Driving Straight
Bad CV joints can often cause knocking sounds as you drive along, even at slow speeds. In a front-wheel-drive car, it’s usually the inner joint that has gone bad. While in a rear-wheel-drive car, it may be caused by both the inner and outer joints.
To test this, try putting your car in reverse, accelerate and then brake. Try this a few times and listen for the knocking sound, if you can hear the sound, then it’s likely you have a bad CV joint. This sound can also often get worse if you’re driving on rough or bumpy roads, as your CV joint has to work harder in accommodating the up-and-down motion.
3. Popping Or Clicking Noises When Cornering
The popping or clicking noise is different from the knocking sound, and it usually only happens as the car tries to negotiate a sharp turn. To diagnose this, find an open space where you can maneuver the car freely, such as in an empty parking lot. Then turn in a full circle and listen if there’s a popping or clicking noise as you turn.
If the sound is present as you try to corner to the right, then it’s likely the problem is your right CV joint. The same is true if you try to corner to the left. Keep in mind that noises can be caused by other things in your suspension assembly, such as the strut bar. In any case, popping or clicking noises is not normal for a car to experience under any conditions. If you hear weird noises, it would be wise to take your car to a mechanic to diagnose the problem.
4. Vibrations While Driving
Damaged CV joints will cause your car to vibrate while you drive as they couldn’t balance properly as your car is moving. The faster you go, the harder the car will vibrate. This can be dangerous as the car can be more difficult to control, putting you and everyone around you at significant risk. Needless to say, it will also make driving uncomfortable.
Vibrations in a car can be caused by a variety of things, such as bad wheel bearings (such as a loose wheel bearing) and unbalanced tires. Be sure to check if all the other symptoms match up to determine the cause of the vibration. However, excessive vibration in a car is unnatural and unsafe. If you do experience it, be sure to diagnose the problem and fix it to avoid further damage and accidents.
5. Bouncy Ride As A CV Joint Replacement Reminder
The CV joint is responsible for accommodating the up-and-down motion while delivering power. If they’re damaged, then it can affect their ability to accommodate this. Needless to say, a bouncy ride can make your car unstable and put you at significant risk while driving
Keep in mind that a bouncy ride can be caused by a bad shock absorber. However, if the other symptoms above are present, then it’s likely the bouncy ride is caused by a bad CV joint.
How Long Do CV Joints Last Prior To A Replacement?
The CV joints in most modern cars typically last for around 180,000 miles. So, if you see any of the symptoms above and your car is near that 180,000 mile-mark, then it’s likely you have a CV joint problem. However, CV joints in older cars can wear out more quickly, usually at around 60,000 – 80,000 miles. Meanwhile, if your car has had its CV joints replaced with a non-OEM part, then it may wear out at around 50,000 miles if it’s a lower quality part.
That being said, your car may experience premature damage to the CV joint if the CV boot which encases the joints is damaged. The CV boot is there to prevent dirt and debris from getting into the joints, but they can crack due to aging and excessive dirt. When they crack, they let dirt in, causing damage to the CV joints. They may also let the grease out, reducing lubricity which leads to damage as well as grease leaks on the inside of your wheel.
How Much Does A CV Joint Replacement Cost
The thing with CV joints is that there’s more than one of them in a car. If you have a front-wheel-drive car, then there’s a total of four joints, two on each side of the axle or driveshaft. Therefore, when one of them goes bad, you might be wondering, should you replace the other one as well? We’ll discuss this further later on, but first, let’s discuss the cost to replace it:
CV Joint Replacement Cost
As with most major car parts, the CV joint price varies between car make and model. However, to give you a general idea, most cars will cost you around $190 – $600 to replace a single CV joint, not including labor costs. For example, a 2010 Toyota Camry with the 3.5L V6 engine will set you back $441 for one CV joint kit. Meanwhile, a CV joint kit for the smaller 2.5L version of the Camry is around $280.
As for the labor cost, it usually starts at $110 to as high as $260 for a single CV joint replacement. While a double replacement can cost you as high as $360 for the labor cost. This brings your total upwards of $860 for a single replacement and around $1200 for two CV joints replacement.
Keep in mind that this is an estimate for most cars. If you have a luxury, performance, or vintage car, then the cost might be higher. Especially with vintage cars as parts can be difficult to find and you might need to import them, making them more costly. Vintage cars can often require specialized shops as well to do the repairs, meaning you might be looking at higher labor costs.
As usual, we recommend that you shop around to get estimates before proceeding with a repair. As your local repair shop’s labor rates can also affect the total cost. Remember to always shop around to get the best estimate for your repairs.
Should Make A Replacement Of Both CV Joints?
As mentioned earlier, your car typically has two CV joints, one on each side. The question: if only one of them has gone bad, should you replace the other one as well? The simple answer is, no. The reason is that a CV joint is not part of a maintenance routine that needs to be replaced or serviced routinely. If it’s not part of a routine service, then you really don’t need to replace a perfectly good and working part.
For example, during a major service, your car might need to replace its spark plugs. In which case, you might as well replace the ignition coils while you’re at it since it’s part of the ignition system’s maintenance. They also wear out at about the same rate as your spark plugs. This way, you save a bit of money on labor costs. Not to mention it saves some time and effort from having to replace the coils at a separate time in the future.
A CV joint on the other hand can usually last quite long and probably won’t break until it has reached the end of its life. If you’re experiencing damage on one CV joint, then you really don’t need to replace the other one if it’s still working. We would advise simply checking the CV boot instead: if you see any physical cracks on the boot, then you should replace it to prevent damage to your CV joint. They usually cost around $50 – $100 to replace each, not including labor costs.
How To Perform A CV Joint Replacement
If the CV joint replacement cost is a bit high for you, then you can replace it by yourself to save some money. Keep in mind that you will need the right tools and it takes quite some time. If you’re not sure about your mechanical skills or you’re not a DIY enthusiast, then we don’t recommend doing this yourself. However, here’s a general guide on how to do it if you want to give it a try:
- Put your car on jack stands and remove the wheels.
- Remove the cotter pin from the axle nut, and then remove the axle nut.
- Remove the brake assembly’s caliper.
- Unbolt the outer tie rod (for more insight, check out our guide on outer tie rod replacement) from the steering knuckle.
- Unbolt the hub from the strut tower.
- Pry out the old CV joint.
- Insert the new CV joint into your transmission housing and then your axle hub assembly.
- Refasten the assembly in the order that you remove them.
To give you a clearer idea of how to do this, you can watch the video below:
It’s important to note that you will need the right tools to do this, and different cars will require different tools. For example, there’s no universal size for the axle nut, which means you will need to find the right socket size for your car. Also, it would be best to try and find a tutorial video for your specific car to give your a clear idea of the steps that need to be done to replace your car’s CV joint.
If you’re not entirely sure about replacing the CV joint on your own, then we recommend leaving it to the professionals. It normally takes no more than six hours for a professional mechanic to replace the CV joints.
CV Joint Replacement Cost Tips And Tricks
1. Can You Drive With A Bad CV Joint?
As with any broken part in a car, we don’t recommend you do this, especially once you experience the symptoms. A car with bad CV joints can experience bouncing and vibration, making it uncomfortable to drive. In addition, the car can become unpredictable in tricky conditions. This affects your car’s stability, leaving you more vulnerable to an accident.
Even if the damage is minimum and the car is driveable, the problem can get worse as you drive along. Worst case scenario it can completely break down, preventing your car from moving. In which case, you’ll be stranded by the side of the road and be forced to call a towing service.
2. Is The CV Joint Replacement Cost Worth It?
Short answer: yes, because the CV joint is crucial for your car’s operation. As soon as you’ve found the best cost estimate from your local repair shops, you should proceed with the repairs. Of course, if you currently don’t have the funds to fix the car and you’ve been planning to replace it, then you can sell the car as-is.
Keep in mind selling a car as-is would reduce your car’s price from the market average. If you’re not planning to replace the car anytime soon, then we recommend that you go through with the repairs as soon as possible.
3. Can CV Joint Replacement Cost Be Cheaper?
Other than doing the repairs yourself, you can save money by using an aftermarket or non-OEM part instead. Aftermarket CV joints can be as cheap as $50 each, reducing your parts cost greatly. However, cheaper parts could easily mean lower quality, which means the part may wear down more quickly.
Be sure to look up reviews if you’re buying an aftermarket part to avoid unpleasant surprises. It would also be a good idea to have a warranty on the aftermarket part. Having a warranty means you can replace it for little to no cost at all if it goes wrong prematurely.
CV Joint Replacement Cost Conclusion
The CV joint is essential to your car’s operation. It’s responsible for delivering power to your wheels while accommodating the up-and-down motion your car goes through while driving. Symptoms of a bad CV joint are fairly obvious: knocking and popping noises, as well as grease running through the inside of your wheel is a telltale sign of a bad CV joint. If you experience any of the symptoms, you should take your car to a mechanic for a diagnosis.
CV joints normally go bad after about 180,000 miles for most new cars. However, they can get damaged prematurely if the CV boot is cracked or damaged. Most of the time they will crack simply because of wear and tear. However, driving on rough roads and excessive dirt can crack the boot. You should check the CV boot once in a while to inspect for cracks. If you do see a crack, then you should replace the CV boot to prevent damage to your CV joints.
Because it’s a major part of your car, CV joint replacement cost can be as high as $1200. Labor can be quite costly as it requires your mechanic to dismantle most of the suspension assembly to replace it. If you’re a bit cash-strapped, you can reduce CV joint replacement costs by doing the repairs yourself and/or using non-OEM parts instead. With a few cautions, of course.
It would be best to leave the repairs to a professional, as it’s quite complicated and will require some tools to do. In any case, whichever way you wish to proceed, you should replace your CV joint as soon as it goes bad. Delaying the repairs can result in an uncomfortable driving experience and even accidents.
FAQs On CV Joint Replacement Cost
If you still have some questions about a CV joint replacement cost, our FAQs here might help…
What Is A CV Joint
CV (constant velocity) joints are a key part of every car. When mentioning CV joints, you may refer to either the inner or outer CV joints. The inner CV joint connects your car’s driveshaft to its transmission. Meanwhile, the outer CV joint connects the driveshaft to the wheels of your car. In both circumstances, the CV joints aid in the transfer of power from your gearbox to the driven wheels of the car. This is necessary, as that power has to be delivered smoothly and at a constant speed. Moreover, your car’s suspension moves up and down constantly, while having to compensate for vibrations in a day-to-day drive. Thus, the CV joints can move in unison with the suspension, steering, and wheels, while also sending them power.
How To Test CV Joints
CV joints are subjected to an enormous amount of strain. Hence, why they often fail and need a replacement more regularly than other components. You can test the CV joints to see if they’re still in working condition. You can start with a visual inspection. If the rubber boots of the CV joint are greasy, then its lubricants have leaked, and the CV joint is now compromised. Make sure there isn’t any physical damage to the boot, as well. Next, we can test the CV joints while you’re driving. Accelerate and decelerate rapidly, and note any shuddering or clunking sounds. You could then turn the steering wheel all the way to either the left or right. And, slowly accelerate within a tight circle. If you hear any loud clicks, snaps, or pops, the CV joint may have failed.
How To Tell Which CV Joint Is Bad
One difficulty in diagnosing a bad CV joint is knowing which side of the car it’s failed on. The most ideal way to find out is by jacking the car up and keeping it steady on axle stands. Now, head to either side (left or right) of the car. Then, grab your wheels with one hand, and grasp the driveshaft with your other hand. Once that’s done, rotate them in opposing directions. If the CV joint for that particular side has failed, there should be a distinct looseness or play.
Can A Bad CV Joint Affect The Transmission
Although it’s not a part of your car’s gearbox, driving with faulty CV joints can easily impact the well-being of your transmission. If a CV joint breaks, it’ll throw the driveshaft (which the gearbox is connected to) off-center. Consequently, power from the transmission (passed on from the engine) won’t be able to be transferred to the wheels properly. Over time, this will cause immense strain on the transmission, leading it to fail prematurely.