Car Talk — Greasing torn joint on axle can work as makeshift repair
•Q. I have a 1987 Honda Accord, and the right front CV boot on the drive axle is torn. Mechanic said it would be about $250 to replace, but then said that the tie rod must be removed and needs to be replaced, so it amounts to $500 to repair. The car has 198,000 miles and is not worth too much more than that. Should I repair, or find another beater? Meanwhile, I wrapped the boot with plastic bags from the grocery store and wrapped duct tape around the bags and then used wire to hold it in place. I did squirt some grease into the boot before I did this. Can I get along with this for a while? Is this safe? I’m afraid to go too far from home.•
TOM: Fears often are irrational and misplaced. Not yours – your fear of not straying too far from home in this heap is entirely justified. And we’d encourage you to abide by it.
RAY: I’m actually less worried about the CV boot than I am about the tie rod. Long before the CV joint fails, the car will make a terrible clacking noise and eventually stop moving. But that’s it.
TOM: On the other hand, if the tie rod breaks, you suddenly won’t be able to steer the car.
RAY: So if you trust your mechanic, and believe the tie rod really does need to be replaced, I’d spend the $250 on that. That’s a threat to your existence; the CV boot is just a threat to your transportation.
TOM: Eventually, the CV joint will degrade and fail due to lack of lubrication. The repair you did with the plastic bags and duct tape won’t help. As you probably know by now, the centrifugal force of the spinning wheel will make that stuff fly off. Or even if it doesn’t fly off completely, it won’t do much to keep the grease packed into the joint.
RAY: There IS something that does a very good job of holding the grease in there. It’s called a CV boot. And it costs $250.
TOM: But if you’re willing to put in a little more time maintaining it, you can pick up a tube of CV grease from your Honda dealer, and then once a week get under the car and squirt some grease into the joint.
RAY: That would push out all the water, rocks and pedestrians that the joint accumulated from the road during the week, and replace it with life-sustaining lubricant. And if you were diligent, and did that once a week or so, the joint could soldier on for a long time.
TOM: It’ll take you five minutes every weekend. Well, five minutes to grease the joint, then 15 minutes to clean your hands and two hours to go out and replace the clothes you stained. But that’s a safe, acceptable, midrange solution.
RAY: But you can’t Mickey Mouse the tie rod. If that breaks, you’ll lose control of the car. So get that fixed right away. Good luck.
•Q. I am fast approaching my midlife crisis and want to buy a Jeep. I have wanted one for decades, but I am very cautious and always purchased autos with high reliability ratings. I don’t want to completely throw caution to the wind, so I really want to know how old of a Jeep (Wrangler/Rubicon) I can get and still have the reliability factor?•
RAY: You’re completely misunderstanding the whole concept of a midlife crisis.
TOM: It’s supposed to be when you do something stupid, like buy an old Jeep. It’s about doing something you’ve always wanted to do but been heretofore restrained by your good common sense!
RAY: So, buying an impractical car is exactly what you need to do. The whole idea is to see what you’ve been missing all these years.
TOM: So if you’ve been lusting after Jeeps for decades while living in your practical world of ultra-reliable Hondas and Toyotas, you need to buy one of those Jeeps and see how the world looks when your head is bouncing against a canvas roof.
RAY: My guess is that, since you appear to be a logical, intelligent person, you’ll love the Jeep for about three weeks. Then you’ll get tired of the noise, the barbaric ride and the lousy handling. But that’s fine. A midlife crisis is about exploring your own personality and why you’ve always made certain reasonable choices. And in most cases, it’s about realizing that those choices were pretty good all along!
TOM: And that’s fine! What’s the worst thing that happens? You buy a Jeep, you have fun with it, you get sick of it, you sell it and you buy something else. That in itself may be liberating.
RAY: Maybe what you need to learn in midlife is that making a small mistake is not the end of the world. Unless you flip your Jeep over, in which case it is.
TOM: So be careful out there, and try not to make any mistakes that are irreversible, like investing your life savings in corndog futures. But on small, insignificant things like cars, go ahead and have a little fun.
Got a question about cars? Write to Click and Clack in care of this newspaper, or email them by visiting the Car Talk website at www.cartalk.com.