What could cause three axles and three CV joints to blow in three days if it's not the motor mounts?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Sep 01, 1998

Dear Tom and Ray:

Help!! My friend has a 1989 Dodge Caravan 3.0 V6 with an automatic transmission.
The driver's-side axle has been replaced three times in four days. The same
thing keeps happening. The inner CV joint keeps blowing apart within about 250
yards. All three motor mounts have been replaced. The dealer says the side-to-
side adjustment of the engine is not enough to do this. Please help me. My
friend lives only four doors down, and I can still hear all the profanity! --

TOM: Well, good for you guys for checking the motor mounts, A.C. The mounts hold
the engine in place. And if the engine is sliding around, that could certainly
cause the axle to pull out of the transmission and blow apart the inner CV joint
in the process.

RAY: But since the motor mounts are OK, several other things come to mind. One
is that he's put in the wrong axle -- three times. If he's putting in an axle
that's just a little bit too short, it would blow apart just like you describe.
So go back to square one and make sure he's got the exact right axle for this
engine and vehicle configuration.

TOM: I also suppose it's possible that a REALLY badly worn ball joint or strut
mount could cause the geometry to be off by enough to cause this problem, too.
But it would have to be really worn badly, and that should be obvious to a good

RAY: The other possibility is that the car was in an accident. Did he buy it
used two weeks ago? Or does he have a 16-year-old son that drives it? Or has he
been in an accident himself recently and neglected to mention that?

TOM: A bent frame from an accident could do the same thing as bad engine mounts.
It could cause the engine to be shifted out of place and change the distance
between the wheel and the transmission.

RAY: So even though we've given you a few things to check, A.C., this is no
guarantee that the profanity will stop. Whether your buddy's kicking himself for
spending hundreds of bucks on three of the wrong axles or kicking himself for
buying a used car that had been in an accident, I'm afraid that string of foul
language is likely to continue for a while. I'd invest in some ear plugs.

* * *
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