Constant-velocity or CV joints (sometimes referred to as homo-kinetic joints) allow front wheel drive systems to perform efficiently and smoothly by transferring power through a variable angle, without increasing friction or stress. According to AA1car.com, over 80 per cent of all cars driven today feature front-wheel drive, which means that four out of every five Americans have a vehicle that features four CV joints.
Over time, CV joints (particularly the outer ones) suffer heavily from the wear and tear of use. This means that their deterioration should neither surprise nor trouble an attentive user, provided the user can identify the signs early and deal with the problem accordingly.
Strange Noises When Turning
Strange sounds that emanate when the car turns, particularly clicking or popping sounds, often herald the deterioration of CV joints. Because the joints get so overworked over the course of a car's useful life, the grease that coats them either erodes or becomes contaminated. This reduces its effectiveness as a lubricant. In order to easily diagnose if the sounds are coming from the CV joints, the user can turn the steering wheel completely in one direction and back up slowly. If the noise gets louder and more consistent, the user can safely assume that the CV joints have become compromised.
Abnormal Resistance or Vibrations in the Steering Wheel When Turning
Generally, when the CV joints deteriorate and cease functioning properly, the car's ability to turn becomes compromised. This can in turn cause the steering wheel to feel unduly heavy or difficult to turn. If the user suddenly becomes unable to make tight turns or feels the steering wheel vibrate when trying to turn at a tight angle, it may mean that the CV joints have deteriorated and need replacing.
Strange Noises When Accelerating or Decelerating
If the user experiences a noise closely approximating a clunk when he speeds up, slows down or puts the vehicle into drive, in all likelihood the inner CV joints have suffered excessively. As a result, they soak up undue pressure and clash harmfully with other metal parts. If the noise resembles a humming or growling, it may indicate that the lubricant on the CV joints has deteriorated severely, causing them to grind against the other parts, potentially causing great damage to the car's turning ability.
Visible Evidence of Damage to the CV Boots
When the protective casing surrounding the CV joints becomes worn, torn or loose, the joints within can very quickly become compromised. As the lubricant becomes exposed to external factors, it can bring down the performance of the CV joint. Under each of the vehicle's wheels is a boot. This boot resembles a rubber plunger with folds. Identifying which joints boot is compromised can be an easy way of determining the appropriate course of action for CV joint repair. Damage to the boot can take the form of a tear or holes in the rubber, and in extreme cases may even cause the boot to move from its intended location completely. This will cause the CV joint to be exposed to debris and extreme temperatures, making the probability of suffering an accident skyrocket.