Top 5 Inner CV Joint Failure Symptoms
If you’re driving along and notice an unusual vibration or clicking sound when turning, you might be experiencing issues with your CV joint.
Given that CV joints usually last between 70,000 and 100,000 miles, how do you know for sure when the inner CV joint is failing and requires repair or even replacement?
This article highlights the common inner CV joint failure symptoms you should know!
Table of Contents
- What Are CV Joints?
- Common CV Joint Problems
- Inner CV Joint Failure Symptoms
- How to Test an Inner CV Joint
- How Does a Bad Inner CV Joint Sound?
- How to Fix a Failing Inner CV Joint
- General CV Joint Repairs
- Best Car Deals by Category
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Are CV Joints?
Most cars (the rear-wheel drive, front-wheel drive, and four-wheel drive) have Constant Velocity joints (CV joints).
Now, there are two types of CV joints: outer CV joints and inner CV joints.
The outer CV joints connect the drive shafts to the wheels, while the inner CV joints connect the drive shaft to the transmission.
The purpose of the CV joints is to transfer the power from the transmission to the wheels at a constant speed. They also accommodate the up-and-down movement of the suspension, and when they go bad, it’ll affect your car's overall performance.
Common CV Joint Problems
A CV joint is filled with grease and is sealed with a rubber boot. These are held in place with two clamps.
A good CV joint can last long time if the boot is not damaged. Many cars with over 200,000 miles still have original CV joints.
If the protective boot gets damaged, the CV joint will fail due to corrosion and lack of lubrication.
In addition, the dirt and moisture collected in the joint will eventually cause it to wear faster.
Most outer CV-joint boots break first due to their hard work to endure the additional movement. Most regular maintenance visits often check for damage to the joint.
Inner CV Joint Failure Symptoms
When the inner CV joint fails, there are telling very noticeable signs. The inner CV joint failure symptoms include the following;
1. You'll notice a clicking sound which is hard to miss.
If the CV joint has failed, you may hear loud noises while turning the car's steering wheel. Also, the clicking noises can be caused by the failure of the joint.
Shift the gears to reverse to confirm if the clicking sound came from the car's faulty CV joint. The popping sound is usually louder when you reverse the car—turning the wheel on one side can imbalance the wheels, especially if the CV joint has failed.
This sound can also trigger clicking noises if the wheels are not evenly distributed.
If the car's acceleration is not good enough, you might want to increase the gas pedal to test if the CV joint is defective. This will trigger a clicking sound when the vehicle accelerates.
Since you're testing the car, you must do it in an open space. Doing so could allow you to avoid getting into an accident.
If the clicking sound continues, it could mean that the car's shaft assembly or the entire CV joint is defective.
This is an inner CV joint failure symptom you should be mindful about.
2. You might experience vibrations.
Another inner CV joint failure symptom you should not overlook is vibration.
As the car accelerates, the vibrations will increase as the CV joint does not have enough balance.
The vibration can make it hard to control the car and make you unsafe and less comfortable. Having a faulty CV joint could also cause other issues.
3. You might also experience some bouncing.
While driving on rough terrain, your car might bounce. However, if it happens on a flat surface, this could be the result of the underlying failure of the CV joint.
Repairing the faulty CV joint could be the best solution. This is another common inner CV joint failure symptom you should note.
4. You'll observe grease on the car wheel rim.
If grease is present on the car's wheel rim, it could be a symptom of inner CV joint failure.
The grease on the rim could indicate that the car's inner CV joint is not working correctly.
It's essential to contact a mechanic immediately if the tire's grease flow is severe.
Although damage to the surface of the wheel rim could be minor, the presence of dark grease could signify severe damage to the inner CV joint.
5. You'll also hear knocking sounds.
A worn-out or damaged inner and outer CV joint will often produce a knocking sound that can be heard from the front and rear wheels.
The knocking sound could emanate from the inner or outer rear wheels.
If the knocking sound continues, it could indicate that the car's inner CV joint is not working correctly.
It could also be a sign of affecting the car's acceleration and deceleration.
How to Test an Inner CV Joint
Inner CV joint failures generally have symptoms, as we described above.
Still, it can also be tricky to diagnose correctly because inner CV joint failures are often confused with outer CV joint failures.
These are some of the most effective ways to test an inner CV joint:
- Listen carefully to the noise generated by the transmission's CV joint when shifting the vehicle.
- A bad CV joint can make a clunking sound as the transmission engages, indicating that the joint's outer or inner part is failing.
- If the sound persists even after the vehicle has started to move, it could signal that the inner CV joint is in trouble.
- Accelerate the vehicle to 10 or 15 MPH. Keep the car moving at a steady pace and listen for a noise that could be caused by the transmission's CV joint.
- If the car continues to make a clunking sound, it could be a sign that the inner part of the joint is failing.
- After shifting the car into reverse, quickly jab the throttle and let the vehicle run.
- If the car still makes a soft clunking sound, it could indicate that the inner CV joint is failing.
- Also, make sure to listen for a grumbling vibration. This could indicate severe wear or damage to the inner CV joint.
- To further confirm this issue, perform an acceleration test while driving in a tight circle.
- Doing so could help eliminate the possibility of the car having an outer CV joint issue.
- If the pitch of the CV joint changes while the wheels are turning in either direction, then the inner joint is in trouble.
- To confirm your diagnosis, manually inspect the inner and outer parts of the vehicle's CV joint.
Doing so could uncover evidence of excess grease build-up on the components around the joint, as well as cracks and splits in the rubber boot of the inner CV joint. If the inner part of the joint is damaged, try pushing it back and forth to force it back into place.
Most of the time, the inner and outer parts of the vehicle's CV joints have little to no play.
However, any more than 1/8-inch in any direction could indicate that the inner CV joint is in trouble.
How Does a Bad Inner CV Joint Sound?
The bad inner CV joint can produce various sounds. If you notice these, it's important to note them down immediately. Your car may also start to sputter or make clicking noises while driving.
Ordinarily, clicking noises do not prove that the inner CV joint is failing. However, you should check it out by increasing the gas pedal's speed. This will cause the car to produce a clicking sound, which indicates the joint's failure.
If an imbalance in the CV joint accompanies the car's knocking sounds, it's essential to contact a mechanic.
The louder the knocking sounds, the more likely they will get worse as the vehicle accelerates and decelerates.
How to Fix a Failing Inner CV Joint
Before working on your car's inner CV joint, ensure it's experiencing failure. This issue often affects the vehicle's acceleration and deceleration.
If you do not understand how a car works, let a competent mechanic inspect it.
They may be able to fix the issue or replace the entire system depending on the severity of the damage.
General CV Joint Repairs
If a defective CV joint boot is detected early, replacing it and packing it with fresh grease is all needed.
This is cheaper than replacing the entire drive shaft or CV joint. The boot costs about $180 to $350, depending on the make and model. It usually comes with a set of new clamps and fresh grease.
If the CV joint is bad, it will need to be replaced. In some cases, the entire drive shaft will need to be replaced.
This procedure can range from around $400 to $800, depending on the make and model.
If you plan to replace the drive shaft or the CV joint, you'll need to purchase a breaker bar, a strong torque wrench, and a socket that's the right size.
The main component of the joint that's going to be damaged is the lock nut, also known as a hub or an axle nut.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are CV joints?
CV joints connect the drive shaft to both the wheels (outer CV joint) and to the transmission (inner CV joint).
What is a CV axle?
CV axles (also known as half-shafts) are comprised of the inner and outer CV joints. It is the shaft or axle that connects the inner and outer CV joints to one another.
What causes inner CV joint failure?
The most common cause is damage to the boot. This damage causes lubricant to leak out, which allows the joint to become corroded.
How do I know an inner CV joint is failing?
One of the first signs that your inner CV joint is failing is that you will hear a loud clicking sound, especially at higher speeds or in reverse.
Can a bad inner CV joint cause a wobble or movement?
The movement you’ll feel with a bad inner CV joint is more akin to bouncing or vibration.