CV Joint Maintenence
Constant Velocity Joints (CVs): Diagnosis, Maintenance and Replacement
By Ben McCafferty
If you're a gearhead like me, CV joint maintenance may well be one of
your favorite jobs on a vehicle. If not, you may fear them as a mysterious,
devious and generally evil force to be reckoned with. Either way, I think
you'll find that they are easy to service, and fun work with. They are
from the days of gears and ball bearings, and feel good in your hands.
When you replace them, an old CV joint on your desk at work is a great
conversation piece. When you're on the road, having four (or eight, for
you syncronauts) perfectly maintained CV joints brings a great deal of
peace of mind. So let's jump in, and see what all the fuss is about.
Anatomy of a CV
CVs solve one main problem in the automotive world-keeping the drive
wheels flat on the ground, while allowing them to travel up and down with
the suspension. When the wheel moves up or down, the axle making it turn
needs to lengthen and shorten, while still delivering smooth power to
the wheel. CVs make this possible. Essentially a CV joint is a large bearing
that is attached to the axle, and allows the axle to move in all directions,
all the while absorbing the change in length mentioned above. In your
Vanagon, there are four CV joints in the rear, as well as four in the
front for Syncro Vanagons.
Photo 1 shows a CV joint in assembled form. There are four main components
of a CV joint (L to R in photo 2): outer ball hub, inner ball hub, ball
cage and balls (six balls total). When properly assembled, these components
form a strong unit that performs the functions mentioned above. Assembled
incorrectly, a CV joint can self-destruct in a matter of minutes. CV joints
have two main enemies: water and dirt. Once installed, a CV joint gets
sealed in a rubber boot, and if that boot is torn or cracked, it will
allow moisture and/or dirt to enter the joint. If this happens, it is
only a matter of time before the joint is destroyed. When you're under
your van, take a look at the boots, and promptly replace any that are
damaged. I make a habit of inspecting them whenever I do an oil change,
and before and after long trips. This is also a good time to check the
bolts holding the CVs in place for proper torque.
or Worn CV Joints
If you suspect your CV joints are worn or ruined, you can do a couple
of tests to check them out. First, go to a parking lot and roll down your
windows. Turn off the radio. Turn your steering wheel all the way to the
left steering lock and start driving in slow circles (mall security is
likely to come hassle you, you hippie freak.). What you're listening
for is a "clack, clack, clack" or "clunk, clunk, clunk" sound. This is usually
an indicator of a failed joint, and will usually require replacement. But also keep in mind this can indicate that the CV bolts have come loose so it is a good idea to check torque on the bolts before assuming that it is a bad joint.
Then turn the wheels all the way to the right steering lock and repeat
the process. Another test you can easily perform (thanks to Mark Drillock)
is to park on level ground, tranny in neutral, parking brake off (wheels
chocked, please!) and try to manually move the axle from side to side.
When the CVs are badly worn, the axle will move quite easily, and may
even hit the flange plug/cover on the transmission side (clunk). This
is another indicator of worn or failed joints. The third test you can
do is actually remove the axles from the van and feel the joints by hand.
If you've never removed CVs before, please read the section below entitled
"CV Joint Removal and Replacement" before you begin. Once they're out
(still attached to the axle), place the axle on a hard, stable surface
(corner of a workbench works well) and hold the axle in place with one
hand (a vice works well, too). With the other hand, make sure the outer
ball hub is in the center of its range (end-to-end), and try to twist
it back and forth on the axle. If the joint is badly worn, there will
be quite a bit of play. If there is just a slight amount of play, you
can probably clean and repack the joint and get some more mileage out
of it. Finally, if you are hearing the clack or clunk when driving, you
can swap the axles side to side, and see if anything changes. If it does,
you have a bad joint, and the noise will probably reappear in pretty short
We frequently get the question, "How long do CV joints last?" With proper
maintenance, CVs can easily go 50-100,000 miles or more. With poor maintenance
or torn boots, they can easily fail in 2,000 miles. So it's really up
to you. OK, so you've decided your CVs are in good condition, or you've
just replaced them. How, then, to keep them that way? There are a few
simple procedures you can use to ensure maximum life from your CV joints.
Items in blue are sold by Van-Cafe.com
1) Inspect your boots regularly, and promptly
replace any that are torn or damaged. This is the single most common cause
of CV joint failure.
2) About every 10,000 miles, remove the clamp or zip tie on the small
end of the CV boot, and use a needle-type grease
injector to inject additional CV joint grease into the boot. Massage the boot to work the grease into the joint as much
as you can. If you do this one maintenance item, your CVs will be receiving
more attention than about 90% of the CVs out there.
3) Rotate the CVs at about 25,000 miles (more frequently if you like).
NOTE: This is not possible on automatic transmissions, as the axles are
different lengths! (You can accomplish this by moving the CVs to different
axle locations, but this takes more effort.) ADDITIONAL NOTE: Please understand there are differences of opinions on the value of this procedure - some feel it is unwise to make an axle rotate in the opposite direction, resulting in any twist that has developed in the axle will then be challenged to reverse itself. This may be more of a concern with Syncros, vehicles with higher than stock horsepower, or when using Chinese axles (which we discourage).... Next if you decide to do this please see the section on removal
and replacement below. CVs take wear on one face of the ball hubs only
(except when you drive in reverse), so they can be made to run in the
opposite direction to extend their life. There are two ways you can accomplish
this. Assume you're looking at the back of the van, and the CVs are labeled
with letters, like this:
A------B Transmission C------D
You can move the axles so that the letters now read:
C------D Transmission A------B (option 1) OR
D------C Transmission B------A (option 2)
These two configurations will result in the forces being applied to the
CVs being reversed. Note, however, that the following configuration will
NOT reverse the forces applied to the CV joint rotation:
B------A Transmission D------C
In other words, if you move the axles to the other side of the van, the
forces being applied to the CVs will be reversed. If you keep them on
the same side of the van, they won't. On a Syncro Vanagon, since the outer
front CVs are not interchangeable with the inner front CVs, the front
axles must be rotated according to option 2 above.
As long as you have the axles out of the van, you may as well repack
the CVs-you can remove the clamp on the large end of the boot, and really
work them over, or at least pack grease in from the exposed side of the
joint. Whenever I have the axles out of the van, I make a habit of putting
a plastic sandwich bag over the exposed ends of the joints, as well as
the exposed flange on the transmission/front differential. Remember that
dust is an enemy, so keep it out.
Again, remember that automatic transmission-equipped vans have different
length axles on the left and right sides, so rotating the CVs is not possible
unless you remove them from the axles and reinstall them in different
CV Joint Removal and Replacement
You've discovered a bad CV joint or two. Undoubtedly, the previous owner's
negligence led to this situation, and your attentive maintenance has lengthened
the life of the CVs considerably, but you can't put it off any longer.
Now you'll call me a gearhead dweeb (or worse), but this is one of my
favorite jobs on a Vanagon. Whenever I get a new van, I do a full service
on all the CV joints, whether they need it or not. For me, this includes
removing, dismantling, cleaning, repacking, and replacing with all new
boots and grease. And I love every minute of it.
Working with CV joints is a messy job, and here are the things I'd recommend
you gather before you start this job:
--Box of disposable gloves (100 or so, I like the Glove Plus brand for
their strength. Also good for water balloons and for scaring the neighbors
when you show up wearing latex exam gloves.)
--Two rolls of paper towels
--Trash can, lined with a plastic bag
--Newspaper for the floor
--Masking tape and pen
--Ice pick, awl, or small bladed screwdriver (scare the neighbors even
more by taking the ice pick with you while wearing the gloves)
--6mm Allen bit and/or 6mm tri-square bit for removing CV bolts (Note:
do not use the Allen bit for tri-square bolts -- you will strip them
--Ratchet and extensions
--Drill and bits (disaster recovery)
--Vise grips (disaster recovery)
--Retaining ring pliers and/or circlip pliers (borrow them, or get them
at a parts house such as Napa
--Brass punch (mine is about 1/2" in diameter, available at Napa or hardware
stores for about $15-you'll wonder how you ever got by without one)
--Gear-type puller tool (nice, but not absolutely necessary)
--New CV joints, as needed
--New CV boots, as needed (CV boot kits combine
boot, clamps, bolts, grease and retaining ring)
--New CV bolts, as needed (replace any that
are stripped, or beginning to strip)
--Conical lock washers, as needed
--CV joint grease, as needed (included in
many CV boot kits, but many of them don't
have quite enough-buy an extra tube and be generous. Bentley calls for
90 g per joint, and many kits come with 80 g packets. Hmmm.)
--Large zip ties (boots may come with metal clamps-use them if you like,
but the zip ties are much easier to use, don't require a special tool
to use them, and are less likely to cut into the boot)
Removing the axles from the vehicle can be really easy, or really hard,
depending on your frame of mind and method. Here's what I do: (Bentley
1. Chock the front wheels, and take the van out of gear. Release the
2. Jack up the vehicle in the middle, so both rear wheels are off the
ground. Use a jacking point that won't damage anything, i.e. not on the
oil drain plate! Place the jack stands so they will support the vehicle
should the jack fail. I usually lower the van again until it rests slightly
on the jack stands.
3. Use masking tape to label the axles, i.e. "left inner", "right outer"
or whatever makes sense to you.
4. Use the ice pick to clean out the dirt and grease from the bolt heads.
You can also use a bit of carb cleaner with the long red straw, but I
personally prefer to avoid solvents when I work around CVs.
5. Place the appropriate allen bit or tri-square bit into the bolt (with
extensions as needed) and give it a good solid whack with the hammer.
You want to be absolutely sure that the bit is seated all the way into
the bolt head.
6. Loosen all six bolts on one CV, then all six on the other CV. Be sure
to keep the ratchet and bit square to the bolt-it's really easy to smear
the inside of these bolt heads if you get crooked. Turn the tire as needed
to access each bolt. I prefer to remove the inner CV first, then the outer.
Watch out when the last bolt comes out-the axle and CVs are heavy, and
will drop on your finger!
7. Repeat for the other axle.
8. Remove the jack and jack stands. Remember that you no longer can use
the transmission to hold the vehicle in place, so use the e-brake and/or
9. If you strip a bolt head on the inner CV, you can use the vise grips
to grab it and loosen it. If you strip one on the outer CV, you will need
to drill out the head until it falls off, leaving just the bolt shank
behind. Once the CV is out, you will be able to remove the shank.
10. Inspect all bolts, and replace those that have even slightly stripped
or damaged heads. Trust me on this one-the next time you have to pull
those bolts, you'll thank yourself.
11. Use a solvent to clean up the good bolts as needed, as well as the
three long, thin metal pieces per joint, with two bolt holes each. These
act as a washer, and get reused.
12. Count your conical lock washers, and be sure you have six per joint,
twenty-four total. Note: many mechanics now say these are not necessary.
Given the number of stories on the lists about CV bolts coming loose,
I consider it very cheap insurance. I have never had a CV bolt come loose
when using conical lock washers. I also tend to re-use these (within reason)
as long as they have some "tooth" left, and aren't totally flat.
The next step is to remove the CV joint from the axle so you can service
it or replace it. Note that it's usually a good idea to work one joint
at a time, i.e. remove, repack and replace one joint before moving on
to the next one. (Obviously if you're rotating CVs on an automatic, you'll
have to remove at least two at a time-just tag them or place them in such
a way as to keep yourself from getting confused). Head to your workbench,
and do the following: (Bentley 42.7)
1. Put on a pair of latex gloves
2. Wrap a rag around the axle about midway, and place it in the vice.
Really crank it down tight.
3. Remove the clamps from the boot on the CV, and slide the boot out
of the way, or cut it off with the knife. Most newer boots have no large
end clamp; rather, the rubber is attached to a metal piece that is secured
by the CV bolts. If this is the case, you will need to use your punch
to knock it loose (gently) from the CV, and slide the boot down the axle
and out of the way.
4. Using paper towels, clean off the excess grease from the CV. On the
topside of the joint, clean around the end of the axle until you can clearly
see the retaining ring holding the joint on the axle.
5. Change your gloves, and use the retaining ring pliers to remove the
retaining ring. There are two types of retaining rings in use. One type
has small holes that accommodate the circlip pliers perfectly. The other
type just has ends that are cut at an angle. The retaining ring pliers
will work for this type, or you can use the circlip pliers, but the clip
will want to fly away once you get it off the axle, so cover it when you're
removing it. Many CV boot kits come with this type of retaining ring as
well, so you may have a replacement. However, I have found that some of
them are too thick, and you may need to reuse the old one.
6. If you have a puller tool, you will now use it to remove the CV joint.
Note that you MUST pull against the INNER ball hub. If you pull against
the outer ball hub or ball cage, you will break the ball cage and will
need a new CV joint. I use a gear puller, and a u-shaped piece of metal
that fits around the axle to pull against the inner ball hub (photo 3).
If you meet lots of resistance, go back and make sure you remembered to
remove the retaining ring (I've forgotten this many times). The puller
will build lots of tension, then there will be a "crack" sound as the
joint starts to move. It will then progress up the axle until it comes
7. If you don't have a puller tool, turn the axle over in the vice so
the joint is now facing down. Using the large hammer and the brass punch,
drive the CV joint off the axle by striking the INNER ball hub only. You
will need to work around the hub, i.e. don't just pound in one location.
This will take quite a bit of force, and the axle may start to slide down
in the vice. Have something on the floor if possible (cardboard, etc.)
to catch the joint when it comes off.
8. An alternative to number 7 is to open the vice just a bit larger than
the axle. Place the axle in the vice, CV up, but don't clamp the axle.
Be sure the inner ball hub is supported by the vice, and using your brass
punch and hammer, drive the axle down and out of the CV. NEVER hit the
CV or axle with the hammer directly-if you peen the end of the axle, you
may never remove the CV again.
With the CV off the axle, you can now clean it up, assuming you're planning
to reuse it. If not, you can also follow these instructions for disassembling,
greasing and reassembling a new CV. (Bentley 42.8-9)
1. Clean off more grease, and take a good look at the CV. Notice that
there are six channels in the outer ball hub for the balls, and that they
are grouped in pairs. In other words there are two close together, then
a space, then two together, then a space, and then two more together.
2. Position the CV so that one pair of the channels is towards your body.
Now push down on the ball cage at the point closest to your body, and
push up on the ball cage (under the CV) at the point furthest from your
body. You will notice that the balls emerge from the two channels on top
that are furthest from you, and from the two channels on bottom that are
closest to you. In both cases, the pairs of balls come out of two channels
that are not paired, i.e. not close together (photo 4). I want you to
notice this, because it makes reassembly so much easier. You will be unable
to disassemble or assemble if you try to push the balls out through two
channels that are close together (photo 5). If you are working with a
new CV, it will be very stiff, and may take some work to get it apart.
3. Now that the inner hub and cage are rotated to vertical, you can slide
the whole assembly out of the outer hub, either from the top or the bottom.
If the joint is very loose, the balls may fall out and roll to the most
inaccessible part of your garage. In the case of a new CV, the balls will
be held very tightly in the cage, so you needn't worry about losing them
4. Do not mix the parts with parts from another CV-each CV makes a tolerance
group, and they wear in together. Clean all parts thoroughly with paper
towels, and place them on a clean paper towel as you complete each piece.
You can use solvents (i.e. kerosene, etc.) and or a brass-bristled brush
to get the really crusty stuff, but I prefer to do everything without
solvents. If you do use a solvent, be sure to get all of it off the parts
when you're finished (hot soapy water will remove most solvents, but be
sure to dry the parts immediately or they will rust very quickly)!
5. Check for pitting on the inner and outer ball hubs, and the balls
themselves. Polished appearance is normal, as well as being able to see
the ball track (the shiny spot where the ball rides in the channel). Pitting
is when big chunks of metal are missing in the ball track itself. CVs
frequently have what looks like pitting around the ball track, but this
is normal and not cause to replace the joint. If the track itself if pitted,
you probably will need to replace the joint.
6. Reassembly is easy, but there are a few things you must pay attention
to. Look at all the clean parts. On the outer surface of the outer ball
hub, you will see a groove (to the left in photo 6). That groove goes away
from the axle. On the ball cage, you will notice that one circular edge
is chamfered more than the other (photo 7 shows the larger chamfer). The
side with the greater chamfer goes towards the axle. On the inner ball hub,
you will notice that one of the circular sides has a grooved surface, and
sharp edges, whereas the other side has no grooves and more rounded edges
(photo 8 shows the rounded edge). The side with the rounded edges goes towards
the axle. On some CVs, this side will be the only side with a chamfered
edge on the spline edge, though most newer CVs have a chamfered edge on
both sides on the spline edge. Finally, put the inner ball hub into the
outer ball hub. Notice that between the channels on both hubs, the metal
is wide, narrow, wide, narrow, wide, narrow. When assembled, the wide parts
of the outer ball hub MUST align with the narrow parts of the inner ball
hub, and vice versa (photo 9 shows PROPER alignment with the cage and balls
removed for clarity). Note that it is possible to assemble and install a
CV with the narrow parts aligned with narrow, and wide aligned with wide
(photo 10 shows IMPROPER alignment, with cage and balls removed for clarity).
The first time a CV assembled in this manner rotates in the van, it will
be damaged or destroyed. Additional note - New Lobro CV's will have grooves on the outside of the outer ball hub that may not match this description - we always install these without disassembling them. We do follow this rule that the side with the greater chamfer always goes toward the axle - it helps guide the splines to line up - we always find that the wide part of the outer ball hub lines up with the narrow parts of the inner ball hub, and vice versa.....but lines on the outside of that outer ball hub - not important.
Photo 6 & 7
7. For greasing and reassembly, I use a different method for a new vs.
a used CV. For the used CV, I use what I'll call the "2-2-2" method. For
a new joint, I use the "6 at once" method. I will warn you that this is
all a lot easier to do than it is to explain, so don't worry.
a. 2-2-2 Method
i. Using correct parts orientation as mentioned above, place the inner
ball hub inside the ball cage. Squeeze a generous glob of grease into
all six holes in the cage so the channels on the inner hub are filled.
ii. Put a ball into two opposing channels, and place the inner hub/cage
assembly into the outer ball hub. Double check that you have the orientation
of the parts correct (groove on the outer hub is up, chamfer on the cage
is down, rounded edges on the inner hub and or chamfered spline edge are
down, narrow and wide parts of the inner and outer hubs are in opposition,
i.e. narrow to wide, wide to narrow).
iii. Put two more balls in the cage and rotate it into position-remember
that the two balls need to ride down two channels that are far apart,
not close together (per disassembly instructions above, photo 4).
iv. Turn the CV over in your hands, rotate the cage/inner hub assembly
up partway, and put in the last two balls, again letting them ride down
into the CV via two channels that are far apart. v. Pack all voids with
CV grease. vi. Bag the joint, or reinstall as per the instructions below.
b. 6 at once:
i. Since a new CV joint is very stiff, the balls won't fall out once
installed in the ball cage. Using correct parts orientation as mentioned
above, place the inner ball hub inside the ball cage. Squeeze a generous
glob of grease into all six holes in the cage so the channels on the inner
hub are filled.
ii. Put a ball into all six holes in the ball cage. They will "snap" into
place, since they are barely able to fit into the holes.
iii. Position the outer ball hub so that the groove is up, and two paired
channels (close together) are closest to your body.
iv. With the chamfered edge and rounded edges down, tip the part of the
inner hub/cage assembly so that the part furthest from you is slightly
elevated, and the part closest to you is slightly lowered. Insert the
balls on the left and right sides of the assembly into the outer hub,
then rotate the assembly into place. The balls on the top (away from you)
and the bottom (towards you) will be riding into the joint via two channels
that are spaced far apart, not close together.
v. Pack all voids with CV grease.
vi. Bag the joint, or reinstall as per the instructions below.
Now that the joint has been cleaned, repacked and reassembled, you're
ready to reinstall it on the axle. (Bentley 42.8)
1. Put the axle in your vise, pointed up.
2. Check your CV joint one last time for correct parts orientation, paying
particularly close attention to the wide-narrow issue. It is really easy
to do this wrong, so check it again, moving a little grease if you have
3. Put a little grease on the small end of your new rubber boot, and
slide it onto the axle. If you have a dent in the axle for the small end,
it will seat into the dent. Don't clamp the small end yet.
4. With the groove on the outer ball hub up, place the CV on the axle.
It will not stay by itself, so have tools ready. Note: some older CVs
have a dish washer that goes on the axle before the joint. In my experience,
I have yet to install a CV that used this washer-if I use it, the CV won't
go on far enough. If your CV calls for that washer, use it.
5. Place a piece of wood or similar across the inner ball hub, and give
it a couple of good whacks with the hammer. You just want to start it
onto the axle. Use wood or brass or another material that is softer than
steel, so if any gets in the joint, it won't cause any damage later.
6. Once the joint is started, use the brass punch and hammer to drive
it all the way to its stop on the axle. An easy way to tell whether it's
on all the way or not is to try to insert the outside edge of the retaining
ring into the retaining ring groove, and then roll it around the axle
to make sure it clears all the way around.
7. Once the joint is seated, check the wide-narrow issue one last time,
then replace the retaining ring, being sure it seats into the groove all
the way around. Especially if using the conical washers, installing the circlip may be a tight fit. You can use a large socket to go over the axle end and rest it on the circlip and smack it home in one fluid whack. Then use the punch to ensure that the circlip is fully seated
8. Bag the exposed end of the joint, and use two twisty ties through
bolt holes to hold the new boot large end (metal) to the joint until installation.
9. Do not clamp the small end of the boot until AFTER the axle is installed
in the van. There are two reasons for this. First, if the boot has shifted
a little, the holes in the metal large end no longer line up with the
CV bolt holes, and you will need to be able to turn the boot. Second,
the boot may end up with a vacuum in it, which causes the accordions to
dent and wear prematurely. You will need to be able to pinch the small
end and release the vacuum before clamping. Reinstalling the rear axles
is the reverse of removal. (Bentley 42.2)
1. Check the caps on the transmission flanges for leakage, and replace
if needed. If you had lots of runny oil/grease in the old boots, these
probably need replacement, as oil from the transmission was leaking into
the CV boots.
2. Rotate the axles as desired to even out wear on the CVs.
3. Install the outer CV first. It is easiest to start a bolt or two by
hand, then work on the rest. Be sure to use: bolt, conical lock washer,
and long thin piece of metal (three total) with two holes in it. This
last piece acts as a type of washer and spreads load and pressure across
the metal cap on the boot.
4. Tighten all six bolts snugly, then use the torque wrench to torque
them to 33 ft. lbs.
5. Ensure that the boot is not crushed or dented anywhere, and pinch
the small end of the boot to release vacuum if needed. Clamp or zip tie
the small end of the boot.
6. Repeat for the inner CV.
7. Repeat for the other axle.
For syncronauts, you may wish to service the front CVs at the same time.
Removing the front axles is a little trickier than the rears, but still
not a big chore. (Bentley 40.15)
1. Jack up the front end, and place your jack stands for safety.
2. Label the axles "left" and "right" with the masking tape and pen.
3. Loosen the inner CVs the same way as the rear inners (above). Note
when you loosen the inners that there is a spacer between each inner joint
and the front differential. Also note that the bolts for the front inners
are slightly longer than the rear CV bolts.
4. With the vehicle sitting on the ground, loosen the stub axle nut (center
of the wheel on the outside). This one takes 258 ft. lb., so you'll need
a cheater bar or long breaker bar.
5. From here, you'll need to be creative. Chock the rear wheels, and
jack up the front. I usually pop the upper ball joint loose (two allen
head bolts) and remove the three front diff bolts so I can move the front
diff side to side. I have always been able to get the axles out by pushing
the inner CV towards the rear of the van, and allowing the stub axle to
slide inwards. If possible, do not remove the jack and jack stands, and
be sure the vehicle is secure (e-brake on, wheels chocked). Try to set
up your work day so that you don't need your jack for anything else, so
you can leave the front end elevated while you work on the front CVs.
6. Remember that you cannot move a syncro with the stub axles removed,
so don't try to roll it, etc. I ordinarily don't even let it sit in place
for a long time-I try to get the axles out, serviced and replaced the
The front CVs are very similar to the rears. Actually, the front inners
are identical to the rears, so follow the instructions above. For the
front outers, you have a slightly different problem on your hands. (Bentley
1. Remove the outer CV boot, and clean up as much of the grease as you
can. You need to be able to see down into the center of the joint.
2. Take a look at the picture on page 40.29 in the Bentley manual. From
the bottom left, the fourth part up is a small retaining ring that holds
the outer CV in place. This retaining ring, however, works in an unusual
way. Instead of just fitting into a groove on the outside of a shaft,
it also fits into a groove on the inside of the CV itself.
3. Mount the axle in the vice so that the outer CV is hanging down.
4. Using the retaining ring pliers (or any other way you can), expand
the two tabs on the retaining ring inside the joint.
5. If you're lucky, the CV will just slide off. More likely than not,
however, it will take some coaxing. You will need to find a way to hold
the retaining ring open, and at the same time use your brass punch and
hammer to drive the CV off the axle. I have done it by myself, but it's
easier if you can get a second set of hands to help-have your assistant
hold the pliers, while you give a good whack on the other side of the
inner ball hub. As with the rear CVs, you must apply force to the inner
ball hub only. Note that once the CV starts moving, the retaining ring
will be held open by the axle, and you will no longer need to use the
pliers to hold it open.
Disassembly of the outer front CVs is similar to the others, but there
are a few differences worth mentioning. (Bentley page 40.32)
1. Before disassembly, mark the position of the inner ball hub relative
to the ball cage and outer ball hub/housing.
2. Rotate the inner ball hub and ball cage, and remove the balls one
at a time.
3. You now need to rotate the ball cage until you find the two ball
openings that are rectangular in shape, and slightly larger than the other
four. Turn these two openings so they are even with the sides of the outer
housing, and the cage should come out with the inner ball hub still inside.
4. To remove the inner ball hub from the cage, you just need to position
it so one "tooth" will fit through one of the rectangular openings, then
it should come out.
5. Clean everything up with paper towels, and you're ready to reassemble.
6. As with the other joints, check for pitting. A polished surface is
normal, as is a visible ball track, but pitting is not. If pitting is
present, you will probably need to replace the joint.
Reassembly of the outer front CVs is essentially the reverse of disassembly.
1. Pack grease into the outer hub/housing.
2. Insert the cage and inner hub, paying attention to the marks you made
for orientation to the outer housing.
3. Add a glob of grease in each hole/channel before adding the balls.
4. Insert the retaining ring into the groove in the joint.
5. Lightly grease the small end of the new boot, and slide it onto the
axle. Slide it about halfway down the axle, so it's out of the way.
6. Carefully begin sliding the joint onto the axle, making sure the axle
engages with the retaining ring, and that the retaining ring doesn't get
driven into the joint.
7. Gently work the joint down the axle until the retaining ring snaps
into place in the groove on the axle. You may need to use the hammer and
brass punch on the stub axle or housing to help drive the joint onto the
axle. Be careful not to damage the threads on the stub axle.
8. Pack all voids with grease.
9. Slide the boot into position, and clamp or zip tie the large end.
Again, don't clamp or zip tie the small end until the axle is back in
When reinstalling the front axles, note that if you bend the stub axle
too far (relative to the main axle), it is possible to rotate the inner
ball hub such that the balls can fall out into the boot. Obviously this
is a bad thing. Pay very close attention while reinstalling, and if you
have ANY doubt whether this has happened, remove the clamp from the large
end of the boot, and look inside it for balls. If you find any, you may
be able to replace them without removing the axle again. If not, pull
it out and try again. Clamping the large end of the boot before installation
(per step 9 above) helps keep the joint from bending too far, but it is
still possible. Take your time and be SURE! (Bentley 40.15)
1. The nut for the stub axle is a deforming fastener, and should only
be used once. Most CV boot kits for the front outers will include a new
nut. It gets torqued to 256 ft. lbs.
2. When installing the front inners, remember to reinstall the spacer
between the CV and the front differential. Also note that the bolts for
the front inner CV joints are slightly longer than the ones for the four
rear CV joints. It is very common for mechanics to reinstall the front
inners with the shorter bolts, and it is up to you to get the correct
ones up there. Again, conical lock washers are cheap insurance. The inner
bolts up front only get torqued to 26 ft. lbs.
Well, that about sums up the job of diagnosing, maintaining and replacing
CV joints. I hope you find it to be an enjoyable task. It will increase
your standing in your local circle of VW friends immensely!
Van Cafe strongly recommends that rigorous saftey precautions be implemented
including, but not limited to: Eye protection, skin protection, hearing
protection and general precautions dealing with working on and operating
machinery. Always use jackstands as a backup to your jack, never work
on slanted slopes, be a yell away from someone else in case an accident
does happen. Use extreme caution while testing a Vanagon that has just
undergone service. Most of all, remember you are dealing with lives. Follow
directions, check your work and be sure you are not putting yourself or
some else at risk.
Please send any and all comments and corrections to me at:
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