CV axles are most commonly used on front-wheel-drive vehicles to transfer engine power to the front wheels. Some all-wheel-drive vehicles and rear-wheel-drive vehicles with independent rear suspensions also use CV axles to transfer engine power to the rear wheels.
CV axles have an inner joint and an outer joint. Either of the two CV joints on a drive axle can be replaced separately, if necessary. That involves removing the axle, removing the axle boot, and then the joint; installing a new joint, new grease, and the boot; and then reinstalling the axle in the vehicle.
For cost reasons, this is almost never done!
Most of the time, if a CV joint has failed, replacing the axle assembly will be recommended. For whatever reason, whether using OE parts or aftermarket parts, pre-assembled CV axles generally cost about the same (or often less) as single CV joints.
General Cost of CV Joint Issues
It’s not hard to give an average cost for CV axle replacement, as most axles are built about the same and cost about the same, and the replacement procedure for most vehicles is also pretty similar. Many shops will use a standard charge for axle replacement rather than come up with specific estimates for specific vehicles.
On average, it costs about $350 to replace a CV axle on most vehicles. That’s without a wheel alignment, which might or might not be necessary depending on how the work is done.
An experienced mechanic can usually do the work in a way that doesn’t disturb the wheel alignment, though that offers no guarantee that the alignment was good before the work. It’s customary to at least check the alignment afterward, and there’s usually no charge for the check.
Some more specific examples of the cost to replace a CV joint or axle on some common vehicles using a $150 per hour labor rate are as follows:
|Car Model||Labor Time & Cost||Aftermarket CV Axle Cost (Excl. Labor)||Factory CV Axle Cost (Excl. Labor)|
|2007 Honda Accord Automatic (3L engine)||$195 (1.3 hrs)||Cardone for $160||$672 for the right side and $339 for the left|
|2006 Volkswagen Jetta||$195 (1.3 hrs)||APWI for $97||$320|
|2009 Dodge 1500 4WD||$135 (0.9 hrs)||Cardone for $140||$700|
|2004 Toyota Corolla||$360 (2.4 hrs)||Cardone for $140||$582|
The above CV axle estimates rely on book time; many shops will replace axles at a standard charge on most vehicles rather than book time, which is usually calculated at a flat hourly rate.
PRO TIP – Most of the time, axles are sold with a core price attached (about $40 or $50), which is returned when the old part is turned in. Usually that is taken care of by the shop, and it is only an issue if the old axle is damaged in some way that it can’t be rebuilt.
New Versus Remanufactured CV Axles
For many years, depending on the vehicle, new axles were only available through dealer sources, and only remanufactured axles were commonly available in the aftermarket. Most of the time, a new axle is the best choice, but looking at the CV joint pricing differences above, many times it comes down to cost.
In the last few years, there has been much better availability for new aftermarket axles on many vehicles. Most mechanics prefer to install new axles if possible. The parts warranty is usually about the same either way, but problems are slightly less likely with new parts.
Other Cost Things That Might be Recommended
On most CV axles, there is an axle seal at the juncture where it slides into the body of the transmission. In general, if that seal wasn’t leaking before the axle replacement, it probably won’t leak after.
But the seal is easy to damage during installation and is usually pretty insignificant in cost, especially when compared to the cost of a double axle joint replacement.
PRO TIP – The cheapest time to replace an axle seal is when the axle is out, and it’s not a bad idea.
Often, a wheel alignment will be recommended after the axle replacement. There is a general rule that if any part of the suspension between the wheels is removed or replaced, the alignment should be checked.
On most vehicles, to replace an axle, you have to disconnect a lower ball joint. Sometimes the whole knuckle has to be removed, and sometimes the knuckle is disconnected at the strut. In any case, if an alignment is recommended, it’s probably a good idea to have it checked.
The main sign of a change in toe angle (the primary angle involved in tire wear) is a change in the position of the steering wheel when driving straight down a flat road. If the steering wheel was level before and level after, there was probably no change.
PRO TIP – If the CV joint failure was due to the inner joint, engine mounts should be inspected and addressed as necessary.
If an inner joint has failed, it should be kept in mind that these are sensitive to the engine position. The engine mount holds the engine in place and absorbs vibrations; if one is worn out, that changes the angle of the engine and, therefore, the angle of the CV joint.
If the engine mount that resists engine movement under force wears out, then the engine can roll forward or back too far. This can put the inner joints at a more extreme angle than they were designed for, causing wear and failure.
How CV Joints Fail
CV joints use a rubber or silicon boot to hold the grease in the joint. Most CV joint failures begin with a split or torn boot, whether from ordinary wear and tear or getting torn from road debris. At that point, the grease slings out and road grime can enter.
In some cases, if a torn boot is noticed soon enough, it can just be replaced. More often, the joint has run too long without grease to be trusted, or the joint has enough mileage on it that replacement is warranted for age and wear regardless.
PRO TIP – If a CV boot tears on an axle that has more than 100,000 miles on it, it’s usually most economical in the long run to bear the cost to just replace the whole CV axle.
Joints can also wear out if the boot is intact. On an outer joint on a front axle, what is commonly noticed is a clicking noise when accelerating with the wheel steered fully one way or the other. At that point, the outer joint is under the most stress and wear, which will show up as noise following the wheel’s rotation.
The inner joint is under the most stress when accelerating; regardless of direction. Sometimes, wear patterns can develop in the tripod joint that prevent the smooth transmission of power.
Under heavy acceleration, a worn tripod joint can feel like a front end vibration, or a distinctive oscillation in the engine position, pushing and releasing the engine side to side in rhythm following the wheel’s rotation.
As with many things, it can vary a great deal depending on how the vehicle is driven. The axles transfer engine power to the wheels, and are more or less highly stressed depending on the driver’s relationship with the gas pedal. As a ballpark figure, if an axle has trouble after about 100,000 miles have passed, on most vehicles, we’d say that axle has had its full life. On a lightly driven vehicle, it’s not unusual to see axles last 150,000 miles or more.
No, you do not. A new CV axle on one side will work perfectly well with an old CV axle on the other side. There is no overlapping labor or typical discount for doing both axles instead of one. However, some argument could be made if one axle wore out and the other wasn’t far behind, and doing them both could save an eventual trip back to the shop.
One of the reasons that mechanics are very conservative on this point is that the bearings in a clicking CV joint have already failed. In the worst case, a clicking axle can break, stranding the vehicle and potentially doing collateral damage as a broken axle spins. This writer had a Caravan towed in years ago with a broken axle that had beaten a hole through the transmission case, for instance. Therefore, it’s difficult to find a mechanic who will tell you a clicking axle is OK to drive on.
But, liability concerns aside, it’s not uncommon to see a CV boot start to leak grease, and be OK for a few thousand miles before the joint starts to make noise. And then it’s not uncommon to see that axle get very slowly and progressively louder over 10,000 miles or so, without breaking, as long as the driver is easy on it. It’s still a problem best taken care of when it is noticed, but it is possible to nurse things along for a while.