Thursday, September 6, 2012

Should I Worry About That Clicking Noise?

I recently had someone ask me about a clicking noise that they heard when they turned to the right. They didn’t hear it while they were driving straight or when making left turns. Of course this made them think that there was something wrong with the right wheel and they wondered if it was anything to worry about.
From their description, I had a pretty good idea what the problem was, most likely a torn CV joint boot. So here’s the scoop. At the end of your axle, where it connects to the wheel, you have a joint that allows you to turn the wheels. Because many vehicles today are front wheel drive, we need to have a flexible joint at the tire that can rotate and make turns. This joint is called a constant velocity joint, or more commonly, a CV Joint.

Because this joint is flexible, it is covered with a rubber boot. This boot allows it to move in all it’s angles and keep dirt and debris from damaging the joint. It’s also important that the joint stay lubricated, so the rubber boot is attached at both ends with metal bands to keep it tight and hold in the grease.

The noise that most people hear when they are making a turn is usually the gears rubbing together without grease. This happens because the rubber boot rips or a band comes off. If you don't fix this problem, you can actually break the joint and cause the wheel to break off the axle. Not a good scenario if you’re driving down the road at the time.

The best thing to do is to have the vehicle looked at as soon as you hear the noise. At this point it’s early enough in the game that you may be able to re-pack the joint with grease and have a new boot installed, before the joint is damaged. Because the boot is only open at each end, you would need to remove the axle from the wheel to install it, so this will cost you more in labor than parts. 

In other words, I would not recommend the boots that are split to wrap around the axle, they could separate and create a leak, even though they are cheaper to install. If you have to replace the axle, you can ask for one that has been re-built. This will be cheaper than buying a new one.

So, again as I often tell people, don’t turn the radio up to drown out noises that you’re hearing, get them looked at. Many times you will stop damage from becoming a costly repair down the road by catching it early.

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