My CV joint was not worn, there was no clicking sound when turning the car. I found the torn boot by looking on the inside of the front wheels at the black accordion- like boot and seeing a tear in it. If you have a torn boot, you will also likely notice axle grease sprayed around on the back side of the wheels and in the wheel well.
This wasn’t a job I was willing to attempt to fix on my own, since I lacked some of the necessary tools and experience, but thankfully I have a friend that was willing to help and instead of paying $160-200 to get this job done – we got to get dirty, learn a bit and go out to dinner later. The new boot cost me about $20.
Replacing the CV Boot
I bought a Dorman Uni-Fit CV Joint Boot Kit; which comes with the boot, two clamps, some axle grease and instructions – then drove to my friends house and we started the job.
First we took off the front wheel. After getting the wheel off, we removed the cotter pin from nut securing the lower ball joint – pliers and a hammer came in handy here. Once the cotter pin was out we loosened the nut on the ball joint.
After getting the nut off we were ready to separate the ball joint. To pop out the ball joint we used a 2/3 jaw reversible gear puller - We could have also used a Ball Joint Separator or a Ball Joint Fork and hammer, however using a fork and hammer would likely destroy the boot on the ball joint and then we would have had to replace that also.
After getting the ball joint separated, the wheel assembly could be moved pretty freely. We needed to get the half shaft (axle) out of the wheel now, to do this had to remove the axle nut. The axle nut was held securly in position by a portion of its lip being bent into a grove in the axle. We use a hammer and screwdriver to bend this out of the way. We then removed the axle nut with a 36mm socket and breaker bar, we didn’t actually have the socket so we had to take a break at this point and went down to an auto parts store and got a loaner axle nut socket tool set.
We used a hammer to knock the axle out of the wheel and then swing the wheel assembly back and set it on a jackstand for support so that the brake lines would not be supporting the weight.
With the axle out of the wheel we were able to start cutting away the old boot and clamps, this is where it really begain to get messy with all axle grease. Once we had the old boot and clamps off we cleaned the CV Joint as best we could. I could feel some grit in the grease – a sign that some dirt had penetrated the boot and would eventually get into the joint and cause wear.
Once we had the joint and axle pretty clean we were ready to put the new boot on. We flipped the new boot inside outwards and greased up the inside to make it a little easier to pull over the axle. This turned out to be the hardest part of the job, and one of the most painful. Pulling, stretching, prying – all sorts of ways were tried to get that boot on there – being carefult not to puncture or tear it. Eventually perserverance ratchets and screwdrivers were able to help us get the boot on. I think I may have put a small hole in it but, that portion was covered up by the clamp, so I wasn’t concerned by it.
Next came the boot clamps. The clamps were strips of metal that are wrapped around the boot and axle, once pulled tight they are crimped down to keep them in place. This involved more pulling and fighting, the clamps did not stay in position easily, plus there was grease everywhere and that didn’t help. This turned out to me the other really painful part of the job. When we finally were able to put on the boot clamps we did this using a regular set of pliers and screwdrivers – doing it this way it was difficult to get the clamps very tight, a better solution would have been to use a CV Boot Clamp Tightening Wrench. When choosing a wrench or banding tool, make certain you get the type appropriate for the type of clamps you have.
Alternate Ways to Fix a Torn CV Boot
This was one of the more difficult ways this job could have been done – I think it took me a week to get clean and nearly two to heal. Having some of the additional tools mentioned in this article would have definatly have made this easier. Another method of replacing the boot would have been to take out the axle and disassemble the joints, install the new boot, reassemble the joints and replace the axle – this would have saved us the struggle of pulling the boot over the axle. I also understand that just replacing the axle is easier, but a bit more expensive – however, if your CV joint is clicking when you turn, you don’t have any other option than to replace the axle.
Another tool that could have made this job easier
This CV Boot Air Tool could have made our job a lot easier by stretching the boot for us and helping us to more easily get it on the axle, but you will need an air compressor to operate it. There is also a manual installation tool made by dorman that seems to use some cones and a spreader. Please leave some comments if you have some experience with any of these other methods or tools.