Have you ever been cruising down the highway or making a turn in your car when suddenly you hear an unusual clicking, popping, or grinding noise coming from the wheels? As annoying as it is, that rhythmic knock knock knock sound is trying to tell you something – and it’s usually not good news for your CV joints.
But what exactly causes that obnoxious CV joint noise, and how do you make it go away? This drivel aims to get to the bottom of the perplexing pops and pitter-patter, yo. We’ll break it down from A to Z:
- What are CV joints and why do they make noise?
- Common causes of CV joint failure
- How to diagnose the problem
- Steps for fixing noisy CV joints
- Preventative maintenance tips
So rev up your engie and throw this bad boy into park while we investigate those vexing vehicular vibrations. Peace out to noisy CVs!
Table of Contents
A Crash Course in CV Joints
Constant velocity (CV) joints are intricate mechanical wonders encased in rubber boots at the end of drive axles. They transfer power from the transmission to the wheels while accommodating the up-and-down motions of front-wheel-drive vehicles.
CV joints get their name from the constant angular velocity they maintain when turning corners. This means smooth, uninterrupted power transmission – no lurching or jerking. Good stuff, dude.
Each wheel has an inner and outer CV joint. The outer joints handle higher loads and do most of the mechanical dirty work. They’re also more prone to wear and tear.
When functioning properly, CV joints operate almost silently. But when they go bad, like all good things, they turn annoying real quick.
The clicking or popping noises signal excessive wear, lack of lubrication, or damage. It’s the CV joint’s way of crying for help before total failure occurs. Listen up when it starts making a racket, homies.
Why Does My Car Make Clicking Noises When I Turn?
Like an overly flirtatious cowboy at last call, excessive CV joint noise while turning or accelerating usually means something’s loose. The medical term is “joint instability.”
The clicking happens when worn out CV joints develop excessive play. Damaged bearings and race surfaces cause the joint to rattle around while transmitting torque.
Picture an old door with loose hinges creaking loudly. Same squeaky joint principles apply. Tight tolerances keep things quiet.
But the noises go beyond just annoying clicks and pops. Here are some other common sounds that signal CV trouble:
- Grinding, crunching, or growling when turning
- Rhythmic clicking while accelerating
- High-pitched squeaking when cornering
- Knocking or clicking when going over bumps
So now that your ears are tuned, let’s break down the usual suspects behind these unholy noises:
#1 – Worn Out CV Boot
The CV joint boot is a thick rubber sleeve that encapsulates the joint and holds in grease. It keeps dirt and moisture out while retaining lubrication.
Over time, especially on cars with high mileage, the CV boot naturally degrades, cracks, and leaks grease. The rubber hardens and splits open.
Once compromised, contaminated road debris, water, and grit quickly infiltrate the joint. This causes accelerated wear and deterioration of the internal moving components.
Without sufficient grease inside, the joint dries out and grinds itself to bits. The clicking and popping noises start soon after. Consider it the audible onset of arthritis in the joint.
Replacing torn CV boots can stop the noises if done promptly before major damage occurs. But left unchecked, the entire CV joint unit will eventually need replacement. Don’t delay, fix that boot, dude!
#2 – Lack of Lubrication
Even an intact CV boot can’t protect the joint if the grease inside dries up.
CV joints are precision components that require a constant film of high quality grease during operation. It provides lubrication to minimize friction and prevent premature wear.
Over long periods of use, the factory grease breaks down and gets depleted. This causes metal-on-metal grinding inside the joint, which makes racket like a middle school garage band.
Re-greasing the CV joints every 30,000 miles or so keeps things nice and quiet. It’s cheap preventative maintenance.
Pop the hood and use a grease gun to pump fresh, high melting point CV grease back into the boots. Do this BEFORE noises start for best results. Stay greasy!
#3 – Excessive Wear and Tear
CV joints are mechanical components with a finite service life. After enduring thousands upon thousands of miles of driving, they naturally wear out.
It’s especially common on older vehicles over 100k miles. The internal bearings, races, and surfaces inside the joint simply deteriorate with use.
Excessively worn joints start rattling around while turning. The sloppy clearance creates vibrations and clicking sounds.
If the degradation is severe, the only remedy is full CV joint replacement. Don’t bother adding grease – it’s too far gone, man. Time to get a new OEM or high quality aftermarket unit.
#4 – Damaged Joints
Potholes, curbs, debris, and accidents can dent, bend, or break CV joint components. Sudden impacts commonly damage the outer CV joint boots and assemblies.
The joints get literally knocked out of shape, causing the internal geometry to be out of balance. Damaged bearings will make rumbling and grinding noises.
Inspect the rubber boots for rips or holes. peer inside for any damaged rollers, bearings, or races. The joints may be bent or just look funky.
Replace any damaged CV joints right away. A compromised joint will quickly fail once you start driving on it. Safety first!
Alright, now that you know why CV joints make such unholy noises, let’s move on to diagnosing and solving the problem…
How To Diagnose Noisy CV Joints?
Pinpointing which CV joint is bad takes a little DIY investigation. But fear not – with the right approach you can zero in on the problematic part.
Here are tips for diagnosing that annoying CV joint noise:
Listen Closely to Identify Location
- The noise is most prominent when turning and accelerating. Pay attention to when it occurs.
- Crawl under the car and have a friend turn the steering wheel. Listen for clicking at the front wheels.
- Try to localize the noise to the left or right front wheel area. This indicates if the inner or outer joint is bad.
- Rear CV joints can also go bad. Check by having someone accelerate from a stop and listen at back wheels.
Inspect Both CV Joint Boots
- Crawl under the front of car and examine rubber boots on inner and outer CV joints.
- Look for obvious rips, holes, cracks, or compromised seals. Leaking grease is a dead giveaway.
- Torn boots should be replaced ASAP before grit damages the joint.
Check Lubrication Levels
- Pry back the boot clamp and inspect the condition and level of grease inside.
- If the grease is depleted, dirty, or dried out then lubrication is likely the cause of noises.
- Re-greasing may quiet the joints if they aren’t too far gone already.
Test for Excess Play
- Have a helper rotate the wheel back and forth while you check for excessive joint looseness.
- Grip the inner and outer joints. They should have minimal play or lash.
- Too much movement signifies worn components that need replacement.
- Compare play against the other side. Uneven wear indicates issues.
Evaluate Overall Condition
- Visually inspect axle boots, housings, and joints for abnormal debris, staining, or damage.
- Grab the joints and check for severe looseness or rough/gritty rotation.
- Assess the vehicle’s age and mileage. Higher mileage increases likelihood of wear.
- Bad joints will have obvious damage upon disassembly. But noise alone means trouble is brewing.
Regularly inspecting your CV axle boots and joints gives you the best chance of early problem detection, homies. Now let’s get into the fixes…
How to Fix Noisy CV Joints
The exact CV joint repair method depends on the root cause of noises. Here are the main options:
Replace Damaged Boots
- If the rubber boot is torn but the joint is otherwise sound, just swap the boot.
- Use a special CV joint tool to remove the clamp and pry off the old boot.
- Clean any debris out of the joint housing.
- Coat the new boot seal with grease and install using a boot clamp tool.
- Pump fresh grease inside until the boot is full.
Re-grease the Joints
- If the boot is intact but lubrication is low, just lubricate the joint.
- Use a grease gun to inject new CV grease through the boot nipple. 5-6 pumps is usually sufficient.
- Repeat for all accessible CV joints. This may quiet mild clicking noises.
Replace Damaged Joints
- Excessively worn or damaged CV joints need complete replacement. Don’t waste time re-greasing severely degraded joints.
- Buy new OEM replacement CV axle shafts with joints. Quality aftermarket parts also suffice.
- A shop press helps remove and install the axle shafts. Or pay a pro for replacement.
- Always replace inner and outer joints on the same side simultaneously. This prevents uneven wear.
See a Trusted Mechanic
- For complex CV joint diagnoses, let an experienced technician inspect. They can pinpoint issues and suggest the appropriate fix.
- A pro mechanic has the skills and specialty tools to replace CV joints efficiently.
- Get a second opinion if you’re unsure about suggested repairs.
- Ask about warranty coverage on parts and labor. 12 months or 12,000 miles is common.
Be patient during troubleshooting. Noisy CV joints takes some investigating to properly diagnose. But identifying the root cause is the key to the right repair, bro!
Preventing CV Joint Noise and Damage
Want to avoid that obnoxious clicking and expensive CV joint repairs? Here are pro tips for keeping your joints quiet and reliable for the long haul:
- Inspect axle boots regularly. Look for cracking, looseness, holes, and leaking grease. Fix any compromised boots immediately.
- Re-grease the joints every 30k miles or 2 years. Use quality high-temp CV grease. This prevents inadequate lubrication and wear.
- Listen for noises during turns and acceleration. Address slight clicking sounds right away before major damage occurs.
- Avoid potholes and curbs. Sudden impacts damage axle components. Take speed bumps at an angle to reduce jarring force.
- Check suspension and alignment. Worn ball joints and bad alignment accelerate CV wear. Inspect tie rods, control arms, and struts too.
- Service the transmission. Bad mounts, engine torque, and dirty ATF cause extra stress on axle joints.
- Buy quality replacement parts. Cheap aftermarket joints wear out quicker. Stick with OEM or reputable brands.
With vigilance and preventative maintenance, your faithful CV joints will go the distance without much drama. But when that knocking sound starts, take action to preserve your sanity, save the CVs, and silence the squeaks. Your tuned ear and these tips will have you rolling quiet in no time, homie!
So there you have it friends – the full decode on CV joint noises, causes, diagnosis, and fixes. Now you can show those bothersome busted boots and bad bearings who’s boss. No more perplexing pops and annoying clicks while cruising. Drop some knowledge on that clunker!