If your vehicle is riding unevenly, you’re getting uneven wear on the tires, or you’re hearing grinding noises when you turn, you might have a bad CV axle.
The CV axle or half-axle is part of a Macpherson suspension system and consists of the inner and outer ball joint and the half axle connecting them.
Often, if something goes wrong with one, your mechanic will likely want to replace the full axle. That’s because if something goes wrong with one, it’s likely to go wrong with both.
The average cost of replacing a CV axle is between $250-$800. These costs depend on whether you have just the half shaft (CV axle) or the inner and outer CV joints replaced as well. In addition, much of the cost will include labor. The CV axle itself normally costs around $100.
The table below shows a quick price comparison of CV axle replacement cost estimates from reputable suppliers:
|Supplier||Labor||CV Joint Cost|
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How Much Does CV Axle Replacement Cost?*
You can normally expect to spend between $300 and $800 to replace a CV axle. This includes an average of $100-$200 for labor and $100-$200 for parts. However, prices can go up significantly higher.
For example, a high-end or performance CV axle can run well over $1,000. In addition, mechanic’s rates vary.
In most cases, you can expect to replace a CV axle on one side of the car in about an hour. If your mechanic charges $200 per hour, you’ll pay a higher rate.
The other largest cost is the make and model of your vehicle. For example, some vehicles are easier to take apart. Others are more common, so parts are cheaper. And, others use less expensive parts.
We put together the rough estimates of the cost of replacing the CV axle for 10 popular vehicles below.
|Vehicle||CV Joint Cost||Labor Cost|
*Note: Prices are estimates and were correct at the time of writing (March 2022). Cost estimates may have changed since, our figures should be used as a starting point for your own research.
CV Axle Replacement Price Factors
In most cases, the largest aspect of replacing the CV axle other than the vehicle is the cost of labor. That’s because you have to take the wheel, the CV joint, and the inner CV joint off to replace it.
However, other factors like which parts you’re replacing, the condition of the parts, and even placement are important.
CV Axle Placement
Most modern cars have two CV axles on each side of the front of the vehicle. These connect the outer ball joint to the inner ball joint and then connect that to the transaxle.
If you have a vehicle with independent rear suspension, you’ll have four CV axles.
In most cases, it’s cheaper to replace the CV axles in the back because you have to go around less of the steering to remove the axle.
However, it’s also generally more expensive to buy parts, because they’re less common.
Parts Being Replaced
While the CV axle is often confused with the CV joint or the CV assembly, it’s actually the metal rod connecting the two. It’s also known as the half axle.
It’s also extremely unlikely to fail on its own. In fact, if your half axle needs replacement, it’s probably because there’s been significant damage to the full assembly, because it was bent or damaged during an accident, or because the parts were stripped during a ball joint replacement.
In many cases, it’s also likely that it’s just cheaper to buy a full CV axle assembly including the new axle than to buy the ball joints and sleeves separately. That’s especially true if it comes pre-assembled.
So, chances are high that if you are replacing the CV axle, you’re replacing the full CV assembly. That includes the inner and outer ball joint, which will increase the total cost of parts for the job.
However, it won’t increase the cost of labor very much, because the time to take out one extra ball joint is not much. So, if you’re replacing one, it’s highly likely you have to replace the rest as well.
Make and Model
The make and model of your vehicle significantly impact costs. This is especially true if you’re buying Original Equipment Manufacture parts.
However, the make and model affect the cost of parts in several ways. For example, the difficulty of taking off the wheel and accessing the parts, the quality or performance of the parts, and therefore the price, and the availability of the parts.
E.g., if you have a very common vehicle, your mechanic is very likely to have a CV axle or at least the CV boots in stock. Therefore, costs will be lower.
If you have a less common model, your mechanic might charge more for the work, just because they don’t know what they are doing. And, parts might be harder to get, which will impact costs as well.
Cost of Labor
The cost of labor is also significant. Here, your mechanic will normally charge a rate based on the estimated number of hours to do the job. In most cases, you’re looking at 1-2 hours to do the work of replacing a CV axle.
If you’re replacing the CV axle on both sides, it’s probably going to be 2-3 hours of work. They’re also likely to round up in case your vehicle takes longer than expected, e.g. if the bolts are seized.
If you know your mechanic’s rates, you can likely calculate this fairly easily. However, if you don’t, you’ll want to call and ask.
Mechanic’s rates range from $15-$205+ on a national scale. In most cases, you can expect to pay around $60 per hour.
If you go to PepBoys, YourMechanic, or another similar chain, it’s more likely to be around $95 per hour.
Finally, the cost of labor normally includes a shop fee. Sometimes this is a flat rate. Other times it’s 10-25% of the total bill. Mechanics use this to pay the customer service staff etc.
5 Symptoms of a Bad CV Axle Joint
If your CV axle is going out, it’s usually ani issue with the CV joints on either end of the axle. In most cases, that will be the lower ball joint, which connects to the wheel and bears most of the weight.
Normally, you’ll see issues like uneven wear on tires, clunking and knocking noises when you turn the wheel, and your tires pulling.
The Wheel Clicks and Thuds
If you turn the wheel and hear clicks, knocks, and thuds from the wheels, the CV joints are a likely cause.
Whether that’s because one of the ball joints is going out, the axle is out of shape, or the joints are loose because the axle isn’t holding them anymore is difficult to tell without an inspection.
However, if you hear these sorts of noises, it’s almost always because of the CV joint assembly, the tie rod assembly, or the steering rack.
If your car starts vibrating, especially when you take turns, it’s a good sign that something is wrong with the suspension. That might be the CV axle and joints. It might also be any other part of the steering and suspension.
However, it’s always a good idea to get an inspection or to inspect the steering and suspension assemblies yourself. This is especially true if vibration actually gets worse when you’re rounding corners or curves, or otherwise turning the wheel while driving.
Cracked CV Joint Sleeves
If you have visible cracks or damage in your CV joint sleeves, it’s time to replace them. Here, you might be able to get away with replacing just the sleeves instead of the full axle or assembly.
However, it might be time to replace everything. That’s especially true if your vehicle’s parts primarily come in a full set – e.g. the cheapest way to replace both ball joints is often to replace the full axle.
If you can wobble your tires, it means the CV joint, the CV axle, or the tie rods are bad. Here, you can jack up one side of your car and deliberately wobble the tire. It shouldn’t have any play in it.
Unfortunately, if you do have play, it could be from the steering arm, the tension bar, or the CV axle. There’s no real telling without inspecting the assembly.
If your car is pulling when you’re driving straight or when you take turns, it’s time to get the steering and the suspension checked.
This could be an issue with the tension, with the ball joints, with the CV axle or any other part of the system. However, it should be checked and as quickly as possible.
15 Steps CV Axle Replacement Process
Replacing a CV axle yourself can save you over half the cost of the total replacement. However, you will need some tools that you might not have lying around. That’s especially true if you want to re-use ball joints.
However, if you’re putting in a fully assembled CV axle assembly, that won’t be the case. You’ll also want to check to see if your vehicle requires a front-end alignment after replacing the CV axle.
- Floor jack and jack stands
- Ball joint press if you’re putting in ball joints that haven’t been pre-assembled into a CV axle (you can rent this)
- Lug wrench
- Torque wrench (you can rent this)
- Ballpeen hammer (small-to-medium)
- Breaker bar
- Needle nose pliers
- Drain pan
- Wrench and ratchet/socket set
- Penetrating fluid
- Brake cleaner
You might want to start by taking off the wheel and thoroughly soaking everything in penetrating fluid. The suspension and axle bolts can seize up, which makes them significantly difficult to take off.
Using penetrating fluid the day before you intend to do the work can make your job significantly easier.
- Take basic safety precautions for your vehicle. This includes parking your vehicle on a flat and level space. Turn your vehicle off and take the key out of the ignition. Then, remove the battery terminal from the left ignition. You’ll also want to chock the wheels that are staying on the ground and set the parking brake.
- Loosen the lugs on your wheel and then jack the car up. Use a jack stand to stabilize it.
- Remove the wheel and roll it out of the way.
- Take the axle nut off. Normally, you’ll need a 30 or a 32mm ratchet for this.
- Remove the cotter pin holding the tie rod end to the ball joint and lower control arm. You’ll want to use a pair of needle nose pliers.
- Take off the nut connecting the lower CV joint to the tie rod. Then, use a tie rod puller or a wrench and hammer to knock the tie rod off. If you’re using a hammer, be careful not to damage anything.
- Remove the bolts connecting the strut to the CV assembly. Then swing the wheel assembly off.
- Use a hammer and a chisel to knock the CV joint out of the wheel.
- Use a wrench or a CV joint puller to pull the inner CV joint out.
- Use a drain pan to catch any leaking fluid.
- Inspect the seals to make sure you don’t have to replace those as well.
- Apply grease to the end of the new CV axle.
- Slide the CV axle into transmission and then hammer it until the clip snaps into place.
- Then, slide everything back together and put the bolts back in place.
- Tighten everything and replace your wheel.
This guide assumes you’ve purchased a new CV axle pre-assembled and that you don’t’ have to press the joints into place. In addition, you’ll want to re-check the cotter pin, the axle nut pin, and the transmission fluid. Then, do a test drive in your yard or on an empty street to make sure your steering is working as expected.
If your CV joint is out, you likely have questions. Hopefully, these help.
Can I drive with a bad CV axle?
It’s usually a bad idea to drive with a bad CV axle. However, you can do so for a limited period of time.
Here, the CV axle will start to pull. It will also increase wear and tear on other parts of the suspension and the steering.
Over time, a completely broken CV axle can also cause your transmission to grind or slip – which can significantly increase the cost of repairs when you do get it fixed.
Can a bad CV axle mess up your transmission?
Normally the CV axle won’t mess up the transmission unless it’s physically broken.
However, over time, extra vibration from a bad CV joint or axle can cause damage to the transmission and increase wear and tear.
How can you tell the difference between bad CV joints and bad wheel bearings?
Normally, you’ll want to inspect the CV joints to see if there’s damage.
In almost every case, CV joint damage is accompanied by breaks in the sleeve or boot. This means you can almost always physically see damage to the joints.
Do you have to replace both CV axles at the same time?
It’s usually a good idea to replace both CV axles at the same time because the facts that cause wear and tear on one are likely to cause wear and tear on the other. However, it’s not always necessary.
You can do a full inspection of your CV joints to be sure.
What is the difference between a CV joint and a CV axle?
The CV joint is the ball joint at either end of the CV axle.
The CV axle assembly consists of two CV joints and a metal half axle connecting the two and connecting the wheel, control arm, and transaxle.
If your CV assembly is having issues, replacing your CV axle will fix it. The CV axle consists of the full assembly and usually comes pre-assembled. That also removes most of the difficult aspects of replacing CV joints.
That’s also why many mechanics will choose to replace the full CV assembly all at once. It’s faster, easier, and doesn’t require that they press the CV joints, which might save you money because you spend less on the mechanic.
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