Do you know where your CV joints are?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Oct 01, 1989

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a 1982 Ford Escort with 72,000 miles on it. I was recently told that I need new CV joints. Can you explain what happens when CV joints go bad?

RAY: CV joints are intricate ball and socket joints used primarily on front wheel drive cars to connect the axles to the front wheels. Your CV joints do two things. First, they transmit power from the transmission to the front wheels. And second, because the "driven" wheels also steer the car, they allow the wheels to turn left and right without interrupting power.

TOM: There are four CV joints in the front of your Escort. Two near the wheels, and two in the middle near the transmission. They're packed in grease and housed in a rubber cover that looks something like the shift boot at the base of your stick shift--unless you have an automatic in which case it looks like your grandfather's concertina. When that boot rips or even gets a small tear in it, the grease leaks out, road dirt gets in, and the intricate joint starts to self destruct. The telltale sign of bad CV joints is a rapid "clicking" when you make turns, especially on acceleration.

RAY: When CV joints go bad, they may also start hanging out in sleazy honky-tonks, drinking beer, and shooting pool. Later on, they may show up late for work.

TOM: Actually, when they get really bad, your car will sound as though it's about to erupt and spew out molten lava. It won't. Although the sound may be frightening, the worst that will happen when CV joints fail is that the car won't move. I'd still recommend replacing them. I'd hate to lose power in this Escort just as I was making a left turn in front of an 18-wheeler.

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