In a front-wheel drive car, the axles are connected to the wheels with CV joints. These allow the axle and wheel to flex as the car drives (to account for turns, uneven surfaces, and more). However, the joint itself is a weak point in the system. It needs lubrication, and it needs to be protected from dirt, dust, rocks and other debris. If the boot that seals the CV joint is damaged, the grease will leak out and contamination will set in, eventually causing the joint to fail. Is it safe to drive with a damaged CV joint?
Some things to watch for include:
Busted boots: If the problem is just a busted CV boot, you might be able to drive for some time before having work done. Here’s the thing, though – the longer you drive with the boot busted, the more dirt and grime contaminates the joint, and the more grease leaks out. If caught quickly, you can usually just have the boot replaced, rather than the entire joint.
Clicking/popping/clunking: If you hear a clicking, clunking or popping noise from the front wheels, particularly while turning, it means that the situation has progressed to the point that the CV joint is damaged. These cannot be repaired – only replaced. You can drive on a damaged CV joint for a little while at least, but there’s no telling how long it will last. There are many factors, such as where you drive, the amount of dirt/dust/debris in the areas you drive, how much water gets into the joint, and more.
CV joint failure: In a worst case scenario, your CV joint will fail. Essentially, this will break the axle, leaving you with a car that won’t go anywhere. If this happens while you’re driving, it can be serious, leading to a total loss of control.
If you suspect that your CV joint is damaged, it’s important to fix it as soon as possible. This is a critical component, and if it fails completely, the situation can be severe.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as Is It Safe to Drive With a Damaged CV Joint? and was authored by Valerie Johnston.