The CV joint connects the axle to the wheel, allowing the axle to rotate even when you turn the wheel.
The joint works much like a kneecap, transferring torque through a mechanism that can turn to the left and right with a limited range of motion. It’s central to the steering in most modern cars.
And, depending on your make and model, you have anywhere from 2 to 8 in your vehicle. However, most modern cars have just 2. And, often, four-wheel drive pickups like the Ford Explorer will have 4.
When your ball joints start to go out, you’ll experience steering issues, jolts when driving, and knocking or grinding noises. When that happens, you’ll have to replace your CV joint.
The average cost of replacing a CV joint is $250-$350. That works out to between $80 and $150 for the CV joint itself. On the other hand, you’re likely paying around $150-$250 for the cost of labor. Additionally, rear joints are usually easier to access and therefore cheaper to replace.
The table below shows a quick price comparison of CV joint replacement cost estimates from reputable suppliers:
|Supplier||Labor||CV Joint Cost|
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CV Joint Replacement Costs*
You can normally expect to pay anywhere between $150 and $350 to replace a ball joint. If you have a performance car, you can expect that to as much as triple.
In addition, costs vary depending on whether you’re replacing a front or rear CV joint. Costs also vary depending on whether you have an upper or lower CV joint.
For example, to replace the upper CV joint, you have to take the lower one out as well. That means more labor. So, you might pay as much as $100 more in labor costs.
So, the cost of replacing a CV joint depends on where it is in your car. However, it also depends on the make and model of your vehicle.
For example, the following chart outlines the cost of replacing the CV joints (we’ve estimated a front lower CV joint as this is present in almost all vehicles) across 10 popular vehicles.
|Vehicle||CV Joint Cost||Labor Cost|
*Note: Prices are estimates and were correct at the time of writing (February 2022). Cost estimates may have changed since, our figures should be used as a starting point for your own research.
CV Joint Replacement Price Factors
The cost of replacing CV joints depends on the make and model of the vehicle, the type of parts, the ball joint location, and the cost of labor. The cheapest jobs are outer ball joint replacements.
Even so, these still require removing everything between the wheel and the CV joint. If you want to replace an inner CV joint, you’ll have to remove the cv axle as well.
CV Joint Placement
In most cases, CV joint placement is one of the most influential factors to costs.
For example, if you have a four-wheel drive vehicle with a rear CV axle, replacing those joints is probably cheaper than front joints.
That’s because you can take off the wheel and access the CV joint without going through the tie rods and steering rack. Therefore, the job is simpler.
Most modern cars only have two ball joints. They’re located in the front, at the bottom of the CV axle, between the control arm and the steering rack.
Other cars have two front ball joints on each side. In this case, there’s a smaller CV axle connected to an inner CV joint which connects to an outer CV joint via a Y or tripod control arm.
In this case, to access the inner CV joint, you’ll have to remove the outer one as well. So, you’ll obviously spend more on labor to have the part replaced.
In most cases, you’ll only ever have to replace one ball joint at once. In other cases, you might be recommended to replace the entire control arm or the entire CV axle.
Most importantly, if you do have to replace more than one CV joint, it doesn’t reduce the total cost over replacing just one, because you’ll still have to do the same amount of work per wheel.
That is, of course, unless you’re replacing the inner and outer CV joints at the same time.
Finally, it’s often recommended to replace more parts of the steering assembly at once.
If your CV joint is damaged, the problem causing damage might have damaged the control arm or the tie rods at the same time. These can cost anywhere from $20 to $300 each.
Make and Model
The make and model of your vehicle impact pricing in every regard. For example, different vehicles make it easier or harder to replace the CV joints.
Cars like Honda and BMW are notoriously easy to take apart to replace parts of the steering and suspension assembly. Vehicles like Ford and Infiniti require much more work.
The make and model also impact how many CV joints your vehicle has to begin with.
In addition, the make and model and even year of your vehicle directly impact the cost of the parts. Part of this is how cheaply the parts can be made and how cheaply the manufacturer retails them.
Another aspect of this is how common your vehicle is and how easily your mechanic can get ahold of the parts.
This factor also impacts labor because mechanics are more likely to charge a lower rate if they know how to take a vehicle apart and how much work it will be.
If they’ve never tried with your vehicle, they might include room for the job to be more difficult or more complex than estimated.
Aftermarket and Secondhand Parts
You can almost always save money on parts by choosing aftermarket or secondhand parts. For example, the popular aftermarket or “made to fit” brand MOOG offers CV joints for most vehicles.
These aftermarket CV joints normally cost $30-$75 each, versus as much as $250 for the OEM part. Of course, this isn’t always the route you want to take and you might want to discuss it with your mechanic.
Similarly, you can often save money by choosing remanufactured parts. These are secondhand parts that were removed from a vehicle and then remanufactured or rebuilt to meet the original manufacturer standards.
This is beneficial for the environment and for your budget, because remanufacturing takes about 10% of the resources of making a new part.
Labor will almost always be the most important aspect of cost. Here, you can expect to pay an average of $60 per hour to replace a CV joint.
In addition, your mechanic might spend as long as 4 hours per joint. In other cases, the job is a simple one hour and a bit thing.
So, rates vary depending on your vehicle. But, with mechanic rates ranging from $15-$210+ on a national scale, your actual rate depends on geographic location.
5 Bad CV Joint Symptoms
Bad CV joints normally result in pulling wheels, unevenly wearing tires, and clicking or clunking noises when you turn the wheel. Eventually, you’ll notice more and more play in the wheel and possibly even a wobbling axle.
That can be dangerous, especially if the CV joint actually breaks. Often, you can do preventive maintenance by simply inspecting the boot for physical signs of damage.
However, if you have any of the following 5 symptoms, you may have a bad CV joint.
1. Noises When Turning the Wheel
Clicking, clunking, thudding, and grinding sounds should never come from under the hood. When they do, it may be the CV joint.
Here, you’ll probably notice symptoms when you turn the wheel. And, the faster you drive, the louder it should get.
However, this isn’t necessarily a ball joint issue. Other parts like the control arm, the tie rods, and the steering rack could be the culprits.
In either case, these types of noises are always bad. If you can’t diagnose the issue yourself, take your car to a mechanic ASAP.
Why? Steering issues can be incredibly dangerous when driving.
2. Vibration or Bouncing
If your car is vibrating or bouncing, even on smooth roads, it might mean there’s an issue with the CV joints. Here, CV joints transfer torque between the axle and the wheel smoothly, even when the wheel is turned.
If there’s a crack, the grease is wearing thin, or the mechanism is just worn down, you’ll get an uneven and bouncy ride.
Here, you’ll likely notice that your steering wheel is vibrating as you drive, because the ball joints aren’t transferring force smoothly, so they’re vibrating the steering assembly.
And, the most common cause is that grease has worn off so the ball joint can no longer rotate smoothly.
Axle wobbling is never okay. While it’s a symptom of several issues, including tie rod problems, the axle itself, and the steering rack, you should always immediately have it checked or check it yourself.
Here, you’ll notice the axle is wobbling on one side or the other. If you get out and jack your car up, you’ll probably be able to manually wobble the wheel back and forth.
This is always a sign that the steering or suspension is having issues. It might be the control arm, the CV joint, the tension bar, the tie rods, or even the CV axle itself.
However, it is a serious issue that you should fix immediately.
4. Visible Cracks
It’s always a good idea to inspect the CV joint boot for physical cracks. If there are cracks, you might be able to do preventive maintenance and replace just the boot.
However, if it’s been a while, you’ll likely have to replace the whole joint. Here, you can simply slide under the car and inspect the rubber sleeve at the end of the control arm.
If it’s cracked, broken, or visibly damaged, then you have a problem.
5. The Wheel is Pulling
Steering assembly issues almost always result in either pull or play in the steering. If your steering wheel is pulling in a direction, you should have things checked. The same advice extends to if there’s a lot of play.
But, if the front end is aligned, either of these issues means that you have an issue. And that could mean issues with any of the parts of the steering assembly.
Replacing a CV Joint: 18 Steps
Replacing a CV joint yourself can save you a lot of money, especially if you’re relatively handy. However, it’s important to note that you might need a CV joint press or puller to do the job.
In other cases, a hammer and a large flat screwdriver will do the job.
However, you’re always better off with a puller or even a puller fork. Here, you can often rent the ball joint press from an auto parts shop for free.
Please Note: Some vehicles require a front-end alignment after replacing the ball joints. It may not be safe to drive your vehicle if you do not. Check your manufacturer’s recommendations for more details.
- Floor Jack + Jack stands
- Ball joint press OR fork OR a screwdriver and a rubber mallet
- Breaker bar
- Lug wrench
- Rubber mallet or ballpeen hammer
- Needle nose pliers
- Wrench and ratchet/socket set (Most vehicles require a 30, 32, 6, and 18mm sizes. If you have an American vehicle, get the standard sizes instead.)
- Penetrating fluid
- Brake cleaner
If you have a torque wrench, it’s obviously always recommended to use one, because you can tighten everything back to manufacturer recommendations.
Please Note: These instructions are for the lower CV joint as it’s the most common CV joint. If you want to replace an upper CV joint, you’ll have to take off the CV axle as well. This entails removing the tension rod and the axle.
- Park the vehicle on a clean and flat surface. Block the wheels and set the parking brake. Then, turn off the ignition and remove the key. Some people prefer to unplug the battery from the negative post, but it’s not really necessary for a CV joint replacement.
- Jack the car up on the side that you want to remove the wheel. Use a jack stand to stabilize the vehicle.
- Remove the wheel.
- Figure out if your car uses a 30 or 32mm axle nut and take it off.
- Get your penetrating fluid. Then, spray the full exposes steering assembly including the caliper bracket bolts, the control arm bolts, and the ball joint. Let it sit for the time recommended on the can. Normally, letting everything sit for a few hours or overnight is the best call. However, if you’re in a hurry, you can try removing bolts anyway. Just keep in mind that you shouldn’t strip them. You might also not be able to take them off without a torque wrench if you don’t let them sit.
- Find the bolts on the caliper bracket bolts and remove them. Then, take off the brake caliper.
- Use a pair of needle nose pliers to pull the cotter pin out of the lower control arm. Then, take off the nut on the upper control arm. You should be able to easily disconnect it from the ball joint. Use a CV joint press or a rubber mallet to knock it loose. Be careful to not damage the part.
- Take the steering knuckle off.
- Use brake cleaner on the top of the ball joint. Then, use the needle nose pliers to pull the snap ring out.
- Apply the ball joint press or the separator and press the ball joint out of the socket. A wrench and a rubber mallet may work as well. However, you’ll have to be careful not to damage the control arm.
- Use brake cleaner to clean the ball joint area.
- Insert the new ball joint from the bottom and press it into place using the tool. If you haven’t rented one, you can always use a rubber mallet. However, it’s important to be very careful as any damage could ruin the part.
- Reinsert the snap ring and grease everything.
- Reconnect the steering knuckle to the control arm.
- Then, slide the control arm back into place. You may have to use your rubber mallet.
- Reinstall the brake calipers and replace the caliper brakes.
- Reinstall the axle nut.
- Put the wheel back on.
It’s always a good idea to check if your vehicle needs a front-end alignment before you drive anywhere. Try out the steering in a parking lot or yard before taking the vehicle on the road.
In addition, you’ll want to make sure the front-end is level. Some vehicles need a front-end alignment after CV joint replacement and in others it is less important.
If your CV joint is out, you likely have questions. Hopefully, these will help.
Can I drive with a bad CV joint?
It’s usually a bad idea to drive with a bad CV joint. However, you might be able to get away with short distances.
Just keep in mind that the ball joint could snap or drop. This could mean you lose control of steering.
How long will a noisy CV joint last?
There’s no set timeline on how long a CV joint will last after it starts to go bad. However, for safety, it’s important to act quickly once your CV joint starts to make noise. It could be fine for some time.
However, the extra vibration and play will cause issues in the rest of the steering assembly. In addition, it could make it more dangerous to drive.
Can a CV Joint make a humming noise?
If your CV joint is humming or growling, it means the lubricant in the boot is worn out.
Chances are, you’ll have to replace the joint. However, you might be able to replace the boot and relubricate the joint.
How do you test a CV joint for play?
Park your car on a flat and level surface and set the parking brake. Jack the car up on the side that you’d like to test and use a jack stand to stabilize the vehicle.
Then, hold the wheel on either side and try to shake it. If you can, there’s play in some part of the steering assembly.
In most cases, replacing your CV joint will cost $150-$300. If you’re using performance parts, that could triple.
On the other hand, if you’re replacing an upper CV joint, it might be about $100 more in labor. However, most modern cars don’t have them and you’re most likely to just have the lower CV joint.
If you do decide to replace everything yourself, you can do so. However, it’s always a good idea to rent a ball joint press if you decide to do so.
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