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July 20th, 2005

A Site That Should Exist (But Doesn’t, Right?)

Here’s a site that should exist: a Wikipedia-like site for cars.

Think about it. If a mechanic tells you that your CV joints are in trouble, what are you going to do? You might Google “cv joints” and then filter through the results. But it’d be a hell of a lot nicer if there was a site that acted as a car encyclopedia and told you what all of those parts did, how often they should be fixed/replaced/maintained, and – ideally – the average cost of repair.

It’s something that would be way too overwhelming for one person to do, but throw a large community of people at it and now you’re talkin’.

Incidentally, if this already exists, please let me know.

Posted in Cars

FROM: Chris [E-Mail]
DATE: Wednesday July 20, 2005 -- 8:01:24 am
It's not wiki like, and it's only for Mazda MPVs, but the people at have helped me out several times. I suspect most major car models have a similar club somewhere online.

FROM: Aanen
DATE: Wednesday July 20, 2005 -- 9:33:08 am
This could help:

FROM: Paul
DATE: Wednesday July 20, 2005 -- 9:35:01 am
That's pretty close, Aanen, but not quite what I had in mind.

FROM: jk
DATE: Wednesday July 20, 2005 -- 10:30:53 am
My first Golf had really bad constant velocity joints. is full of forums with helpful information.

FROM: Joseph
DATE: Wednesday July 20, 2005 -- 3:51:20 pm
This isn't really what you're asking for, but the recommended interval for most CV joints is 60,000 miles.

But, first of all, when a mechanic offhandedly talks about a CV joint, he/she is usually referring to the outboard CV joint. Typically, cars have four CV joints, two inboard joints that, compared to the outboard joints, don't get much wear, and two outboard joints that wear out relatively quickly. The outer joints wear out more quickly, generally, because they must operate in an extreme variety of positions as they are nearer the road wheel. They have to constantly turn with the wheels, bounce up and down, and transmit rotational force from the tranny to the wheel. The inboards don't have to deal with the turning wheels, but they do, depending on design, have to slide in and out as the axle shortens and lengthens as the wheel turns.

Now, who changes their CV joints every 60k? No one. Usually what happens is the rubber boot surrounding the CV joint tears and allows water to contaminate the joint. Allowing the water to corrode the steel inside the joint will cause premature failure of the joint. In the 1980s, when most people were introduced to front wheel drive, CV joints failed a lot, and the only way to have them repaired was to go to the dealer. Since then, you can now get rebuilt CV joints at reasonable prices that last long enough. Also, the build quality of the Porsche type (Rrzeppa) is far better than the tripot type, at least for the outboard CV. Tripots are still common for inboard CVs.
Also, I've noticed that CV boots have gotten thicker and thicker. Drivetrain warranties are now up to 100,000 miles on some cars, which suggests that CV joints are now supposed to last 100,000 miles.

I think this has more to do with the better boots, which tear less and so less often allow water contamination. However, some CV joints are better than others: my sister drove her VW Jetta after the boot tore off (it was totally gone) for the four or five years she had the car. I kept telling her to replace the boot (and offered to do it myself) but she never bothered. When she got rid of the car the joint was still doing its job. Of course, she only drove around in the city on very short trips, and never on the freeway, so that may have kept the joint from heating up so much.

My Renault, on the other hand, had tripot type outer CV joints and I had to maintain the boots religiously. Any small hole and that would be it.

So, the bottom line is this: if the boots look okay, you probably don't need new joints. If the boot is torn, you can often just replace the boot (and all the grease--get the joint squeaky clean with brake parts cleaner). Most mechanics won't want to just reboot the CV joint because that would actually take longer to do than just replacing the old joint with a new one. In the end, if a mechanic does do the job, it just makes more sense to replace the joint since you'll only save probably $50 at most on the bill. But if you do it yourself, you'll save about $350 average. A new joint from the dealer is usually about $150 to $450 depeding on the car, boot, grease & clamps is another $30-$50, a new axle nut might be $5 to $25. Installation is usually at least an hour, so another $40 to $80 there.

A boot, grease, clamp and nut kit is $10 to $25 at the auto parts store and you don't need any other parts.

Of course, you need a good CV clamp pliers for $25, usually you also need a snap ring pliers for another $10 to $20, and a cloudy afternoon to do it yourself. But the cost of the tools diminishes with each one you do.

A good way to find out what parts on your particular car do is to buy a Haynes manual. Chilton's are also good, but they are written more for someone who is already a mechanic--they tend to leave out details, or paint complex procedures with too broad a brush.

You can also call other mechanics and get repair estimates. They all use the same big fat book that has discrete repair jobs listed and the time it takes to do the job. A CV joint will usually be one hour. Then, you just multiply the time by the cost per hour the mechanic charges and add the cost of the parts and off you go. But, different places charge more or less for the same parts--sometimes by a wide margin.

I bought rear brake drums for my 1986 Jetta a few years back. The original equipment manufacturer of the drums were well-known Italian manufacturer, Brembo. The dealer wanted $300 each for his Brembos (which were his basic VW drum stock--these are "nothing fancy" drums). Autozone wanted $40 each for their Brembos. It was the same part. I could have paid $125 each for the same Brembos at NAPA.

When you have your car repaired at a garage, it's the same thing. The labor charge might be similar, but some will really gouge you on parts. You just have to shop around. Don't be afraid to be a pain in the ass. Make it a point to call five places minimum for the same job. You'll be surprised at the range of prices.

FROM: snaily
DATE: Wednesday July 20, 2005 -- 8:23:59 pm
that is a good idea. btw, has anyone been to its really cool. it tells u how todo pretty much nything u can imagine.

FROM: jk
DATE: Wednesday July 20, 2005 -- 11:30:07 pm
Joseph, what kind of Renault did you have?

FROM: Joseph
DATE: Thursday July 21, 2005 -- 9:45:22 am
1985 Renault Alliance.

FROM: Paul
DATE: Thursday July 21, 2005 -- 10:13:14 am
There really wasn't a problem with the CV joint... I was just suggesting that, but thanks for the detailed analysis, Joseph.

FROM: jk
DATE: Thursday July 21, 2005 -- 10:24:36 am
Wow Joseph, how did I miss that post? Yep, my Fuego was gorgeous but unreliable. It started off ok and was a great car to learn to drive stick on. For the past 10 years that I have lived here, a white one has been sitting outside a garage/repair place on route 30. Poor little thing. My dad hated mine so much, he sold it out from under me while I was away at college! I am digressing from the Ping.

FROM: Deeporg [E-Mail]
DATE: Thursday July 21, 2005 -- 10:33:00 am
One of those $250 Starbucks Card For Free sites that actually works. That'd be nice :) (simple, but nice)

FROM: Joseph
DATE: Thursday July 21, 2005 -- 2:44:50 pm

I had a red turbo Fuego. Awesome. Left it behind with the move as well. Too bad. I sold it to a kid named Andrew who worked at the Midas in New Orleans.

Andrew? Are you out there? How's my car?

Sound of crickets

I think the AMC mechanics that worked on the Renaults were more to blame for the poor reliability reputation of Renault. Being that the Alliance was my first car, I quickly learned that I could be a better mechanic than the guys at AMC, who repeatedly screwed up my car and charged me for the work. I bought a Haynes Manual, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Once I started doing the work myself, all I can say is that the car was no problem. More than that, it was a hell of a lot of fun.

But I digress as well. I sure learned a lot about CV joints with that car (and other cars).

FROM: Laurie
DATE: Thursday August 11, 2005 -- 10:34:39 am
I have used the web site called "Ask Jeeves." I have gotten many answers to car problems as well as other issues I have needed information on. The only problem using this site though is that you have to find the right combination of words to use to find the right site that addresses the issue you need information on. Certain words that you may use when entering the question for will pull up sites with words that have nothing to do with your needs for information and it can sometimes take many attempts at wording it right. In fact I came across this site which ended up addressing information about garbage disposals and that is how I became hooked at checking out this site - I didn't get my question answered about garbage disposals, which was this: Is it recommended that you use cold water when running your garbage disposal? I remember long ago seeing on the metal ring that goes around the drain that said "Use cold water only," but how long ago I remember seeing that, I don't know, and I don't see it on the one in my house that I live in now, but I have always made sure that I use cold water all these years since I was a young child. Anyone know the answer to this question?

FROM: Merle [E-Mail]
DATE: Thursday August 11, 2005 -- 8:11:02 pm
I have heard anecdotally (from my mom) that if you use hot water with the disposal on, the motor will burn out.

Since only the blades are exposed to the water, I doubt that.

But I still only use cold water.

Hi-tech voodoo is still voodoo, but until you actually know why, it just seems safer to follow the trends. There may actually be a reason...

On to the OP: yes. This should exist. I want to know how long a television should be expected to last, or a vacuum. Or how often the average person replaces their sofa.

I have never found a source for this. Best was Consumer Reports, which had "average time before repair was needed" for some small number of items (based on manufacturer). If you're likely to discard rather than fix, that's useful. If not, it still does not tell you the average lifetime of an item.

It all goes back to that "bar of soap" ping...

What is this then?

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