Dear Car Talk: I've got a 2009 Toyota Venza. The right front likes to vibrate a lot. I've tried a lot of things over the years: New tires, rotating the tires, rebalancing the tires, new brakes, checking the wheel bearing, checking the ball joint, checking the flatness of the wheel against the hub, new tie rods, checking the steering system. Shops can't figure it out.
It comes and goes as though there's something harmonic going on. The only thing I haven't looked at yet is if the axle is slightly bent. This issue has been going on for as long as I've owned the car. I bought it with 60,000 miles on it, and now it's got 215,000.
Obviously, it's more of an intermittent annoyance than anything else. But it's still annoying. Especially when I go on road trips. Otherwise it's been a very solid vehicle. It'd be nice to finally get that sorted out. You guys have any ideas? -- Paul
Well, you'll be glad to know that after checking and replacing almost every other part of the front end, you're finally getting warmer with the axle. It sounds to me like a bad constant velocity (CV) joint.
At the end of each axle is a CV joint. It's a sealed connector that allows both flexible movement of the joint and the transmission of power through it. Your car has two axles up front. At one end of each axle is an inner CV joint that connects the axle to the transmission. And on the other end, a second, outer CV joint connects the axle to a wheel.
Gradually, those CV joints wear out. And when they wear out, they can occasionally bind up and vibrate. If your mechanic removed those CV joints and flexed them manually, he might notice that one of them -- probably the outer right one -- sometimes binds up or "catches." Those CV joints should flex perfectly smoothly. If there's any "catch" or rough spots at all, that could cause your problem.
So, what do you do? You replace the whole right-front axle. A new axle comes with two new CV joints. And the whole thing pretty much bolts into place.
By the time you're done, with parts, labor and the waiting room May 2014 People Magazine reading fee, you're probably talking a good $400. But if the vibration is really bothering you, and you're certain that all those other parts you mention check out, the CV joints would be the next thing I'd ask my mechanic to look at.