The rear CV joint anatomy

What is a CV joint? (drive axle, universal joint, velocity joint or whatever you want to call those)

They are drive shaft with 2 flexibles universal joints at each end that goes from the transmission to the wheel. They transmit engine power to the wheel. They are found on any independent suspension car / van. If a 4 x 4, you will have at least 4 of them + 2 more similar one between the front and the rear (those one donít need as much attention and servicing)  

Why doing a job like that?

  • Intelligent periodic maintenance: Itís a dirty job but you will save money and never you will be stranded in a remote place. Donít worry, an axle will give wear sign (noise) long before it failed, sometime it can be noisy for a year!!!! (Sometime not)
  • Broken protective boot: The boots keep the needed grease inside the joint and dirt outside. If broken; dirt will come inside, grease will go outside and the joint need clean grease to work properly.
  • Harden grease:  Grease loose viscosity with time and will become more hard so it will not cope will all the demanding movement of the shaft.
  • Noisy joint: Not good, for sure now you will need at least a complete new joint or more.
    Noise: grinding noise from the back when climbing or when at full stop and starting to go forward. The Vanagon is a rear wheel drive van so they donít flex with the direction (steering). It is easier to detect a worn axle on a front wheel drive car. Reason: the joint goes up and down with the suspension and also pivot with the direction (steering). So on a front wheel drive you will start hearing grinding noise when you make hard turn (like a U-turn).
Fist if you have money just buy 2 new complete drive axles, a lot cleaner, simpler to do.

The down side: most drive axle that you will find at any auto parts are rebuilt one, sometime cheap or even partially rebuilt joint will be put on the so call new drive axle, so know your part dealer and ask for a good rebuild company. (Even VW use a rebuilt company) The VW drive axle, good news and bad news: The bad new is that they are quite expensive. (About 180CAD + core for 1 complete axle / $100USD + core) EX: I pay $60 ($45USD) for a Honda Civic axle.

The good new is that they are serviceable and you can buy each velocity joint / universal joint (or complete kit with boot) (2 per axle) separately. About $100 CAD ($50USD) each. You can also buy single boot or single boot kit (include grease, 6 Allen bolt, c-clip retainer)
(all pictures are from, a good and reliable parts suplier)

Unless you have a perceptible drive axle noise, there is no way of knowing the condition of each joint before you carefully cleaned them.

The Vanagon axle is well design and of very good metal quality. If properly maintain it should outlast the vanís life.

I would recommend a 50k km (30k miles) servicing, new grease & boots


CV joint maintenance page