Service Shop's Games has Ridgeline Owner Rethinking Repair

Dear Car Talk:

The left CV boot on my 2007 Honda Ridgeline is leaking. There's a 3-inch-diameter spot of grease on the garage floor. There's no noise coming from the front axle and no difference in the performance.

A shop quoted $870 to replace both boots and axles, and said they would not do boots only. The dealer quoted $400 per side to replace the boots and axles, $300 per side boots only. The service adviser also indicated that there would be some labor savings for doing both at the same time.

I made an appointment with the dealer. On arrival, the same service adviser told me it would be $1,066 + tax and fees = $1,200. I backed out of the deal, even after speaking to the general manager and receiving a lowered price of $1,000.

The truck is a spare vehicle used for only 4,000 miles per year. Is it OK to drive for a while? I would appreciate your comments. -- Bill

I wouldn't drive it for too long, Bill. The CV boot covers the CV joint, which is part of the axle. And if you keep driving it without proper lubrication, you will ruin the axle.

But given how little you drive this Ridgeline, I would fix only what's actually broken right now. While it's fairly common to replace the axle along with a torn boot, it's not necessary. The reason we do it is because we make more money that way.

No, actually the reason we do it is because the extra labor involved in replacing the axle, once you have the boot off, is trivial. And for people who drive 15,000 miles a year, it makes sense to preemptively replace the axle rather than have to duplicate the labor six, 12 or 18 months later. But since you're driving 4,000 miles a year, you might not need an axle for five years. Or ever.

What you want a mechanic to do is remove that outer CV joint whose boot has torn open. You want him to soak that CV joint in parts cleaner and get all the gunk out of it that he can. Then he can examine it. It's possible that the joint is damaged now, due to driving it with the damaged boot. But if it's not making a clackety noise on turns, it's probably just fine.

If it looks OK, he can then put a new boot on it, and then repack the new boot with grease. And it should be as good as new. That should cost you $200-$300.

But before you go back to the dealer, look around for another shop. They were clearly playing games with you -- manipulating the price and telling you there's some efficiency to doing both sides at the same time. There's not. They're separate jobs.

So go to, enter your ZIP code and look for a highly recommended shop in your area. Give them a call, tell them you need one CV boot replaced, that the axle seems fine and ask them for an estimate. When you find a shop that says they'll do that at a fair price, go there.

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