I have a 1993 Camry with 200k + miles on it. So far, engine and tranny
are fine but the rubber boot for one of the CV joints has cracked
open. At this point, I'd rather not spend money on maintenance unless
necessary, since with such high mileage there's a chance (even with my
dear Camry) that the engine or tranny could fail -- with my luck, that
will happen the day after I spend the $600 on new CV joints.
My question is: can a CV joint suddenly fail in the same way that a
timing belt can, rendering the car inoperative? I'd be much more
willing to spend the money if there's a risk the car will die in the
middle of a road trip. From what little I know, I think the answer is
"No", and that the CV joint will simply get worse over time -- but
I'd like to hear from others.
Many thanks for your input.
In my experience, CV joints will not have a sudden catastrophic failure,
they will fail slowly and give you plenty of warning. One warning is that
they make a clicking sound while turing in a tight circle. Go to a parking
lot, or cul de sac, and turn the steering wheel to full lock and listen for
clicking noises while driving at about 3 to 5 mph. Turn the other way and
test again. If you hear clicking sounds in either direction, you have
failing CV joints.
Torn boots are a bigger problem in parts of the country where there is
significant wet weather -- snow and salted highways being a very bad set of
They make a replacement boot that can be installed without pulling the
half-shaft out of the car. The strategy here would be to cut the old boot
off, pack the joint with a qualified grease, and put a new boot on. This
won't fix any damage that's already been done, but it will help to slow the
ongoing damage or prevent damage that hasn't happened yet.
I once removed my half shafts and disassembled the CV joints and cleaned and
relubricated them, and gave them new life. I doubt that a mechanic would
invest the time to do this, but if you have a reasonable set of mechanical
abilities you can do this at home. As with anything, the success depends on
the existing damage -- lower damage giving higher success rates.
Usually there will be some warning, like a noise while you turn the car.
However, it can fail suddenly, too. And you don't want that to happen
while that big 18-wheeler is right behind your back bumper.
I would think that getting the joints evaluated by a
mechanic competent in such things would be the first order
of business. If he/she doesn't detect any existing
contamination, then getting new boots on them would be the
minimum consideration. Just leaving them open is asking for
pre-mature failure, whether it's relatively slow, or
catastrophic. Toyota didn't spend the engineering and
manufacturing money to put those boots on because they
thought they looked sexy!
But you should know that my knowledge of CV-Joints stops
shortly after the "general concept". But I'm guessing that
they are not very tolerant of contamination (I think they
share some design concepts with ball-bearings, which are
notorious for their inability to tolerate contamination). It
would be a shame to have to junk your Camry because a torn
rubber boot. Damn fine car for that kind of neglect!
Actually, you might even be able to patch the boot--I've had
some great results bonding rubber to rubber using
cyanoacrylate (sp?) adhesive (super-glue). Hack up an
inner-tube from a tire, and experiment with the glue to see
if it bonds well. With care, the patch could mimic the
bellows of the original boot. If the original boot tore
simply from age, then that's another story.
Like they said, they will start to click on turns when they
flake out. And you should have plenty of time to deal with it.
But if the joints seem OK, and don't click, I would not wait
to get that boot replaced. You have to keep the crud out of
those, or it will soon be toast. Often, it's a torn boot that
starts the process of one flaking out.
It's best to get an OEM style boot. But they do make
some that you can install without removing the axles.
They split apart, and use screws to seal it back up when
installed. I would prefer the OEM type, but using one
of those clamp on type would be better than having a
If you did use one of those, make sure all the clamps
are on correctly, and tight, otherwise they can creep
off the ends and come loose.
Of course, if it's clicking, it's near toast and needs
to be replaced.
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