Today: Tom and Ray consider two very different ways to repair cars.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Mar 01, 2011

Dear Tom and Ray:

OK. I have two sons of opposite disposition, but who are great friends anyway. We do as much work on cars as we can to save money and maintain some sense that we haven't been made entirely useless by today's technology. Alexis (No. 1 son) reads manuals carefully. Tad (No. 2 son) uses them as flat surfaces for tools. Recently, we replaced a water pump on Alexis' 1998 Saturn SW. We successfully replaced the water pump after only several hours of struggling with bolts at high torque in small places. But while Alexis was reading the manual, Tad and I punctured his right front CV boot with a screwdriver. A little grease oozed out. The car has 240,000 miles on it. Do we need to replace the entire joint, as some repair shops suggest? How about a little glue, as some websites recommend? By the way, who is correct when it comes to reading manuals? Tad and Alexis would like to know.

-- Larry

RAY: Well, given that the car has 240,000 miles on it and you punctured the CV boot with the tip of a screwdriver, and a not a KitchenAid Heavy Duty Mixer, I'd try the glue first.

TOM: Here's how you do it: First, clean the boot. Use Brake-Kleen (which you can buy at any auto-parts store) or some rubbing alcohol, and with some paper towels, make sure the area around the puncture is totally free of dirt and grease.

RAY: Once you've gotten all the grease off, put a dollop of RTV Silicone Adhesive right over the slit in the boot, and let it dry for 24 hours.

TOM: Put enough RTV on there so that it bridges the hole, but not so much that it will make the CV boot unbalanced when it's spinning at high speeds. And then drive it for a few days, and hope for the best.

RAY: If it doesn't work, you'll know, because it'll sling grease all over the place. If that happens, you'll need to replace the boot. But rather than replace the boot, I'd just replace the whole axle.

TOM: Axles are so cheap these days that you can get a rebuilt one for less than 100 dollars, and that comes with two brand-new boots -- one at each end.

RAY: And in terms of the boys' different approaches, they're both valid. Some people learn by reading, and others learn by doing. For example, by reading the manual, Alexis learned how to replace a water pump. And by not reading the manual, you and Tad are going to learn how to replace his axle. Have fun, Larry.

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