November 20

2012 Volvo C30, Axle Shaft Repair



Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert. I'm here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience. 25 time winners of best auto repair in Vancouver is voted by their customers. And we're talking cars. Bernie, how are you doing? 

Bernie: Doing very well today. 

Mark: So today's victim is a 2012. Volvo C30. What was going on with this vehicle? 

Bernie: This vehicle came to our shop. The owner had a really bad shutter on acceleration, especially more noticeable at like 70, 80 kilometres, you know, the 50 mile kind of speed. Really bad shutter in the vehicle. They'd had some other work done on it to look at it, but they brought a test to figure out what was going on because no one else had solved it yet.

Mark: So what sort of testing, this seems very concerning. What sort of testing and diagnosis did you do? 

Bernie: Well, first thing, of course, the road test to verify the client's concern and we noticed it for sure. Almost immediately when you would accelerate at a low speed, which wasn't the area of the complaint, you could feel something a little jerky and it wasn't an engine misfire, is definitely like a rotational kind of jerky sort of feeling.

And once you get up to highway kind of speeds and go to accelerate, the whole car would shutter. Was pretty concerning for sure. So the road test is a first step. Verified that. Then we did a hoist inspection to look for issues, you know, front end parts, loose things, engine mounts, drive axles, transmission, that sort of issue.

And you know, nothing really looked abnormal. I mean, we kind of suspected it might be a drive axle issue because it had that feel. And these are the things you get to learn when you work on cars for a long time is, you know, certain things you feel like, okay, that's probably an inner CV joint that's bad. You know, that kind of had that feel to me. We looked at it and the only thing we could see is on the right side axle, the inner boot was seeping a bit of grease, which isn't a big deal in and of itself but there was also some play and clunkiness in the joint. Not a lot, but enough to think, okay, maybe that's where we should start with the problem because it had the feeling of an inner CV joint.

So at that point, we said to the customer, Hey, I think this is where we should start. And you know, that's where we proceeded. You know, if that joint doesn't do it, we're going to have to do the other one. Now on some cars, axles are not too expensive, being a Volvo of this type, they were unfortunately not a lot of cheap alternatives available. 

Mark: So the CV joint, I'm assuming this is a front wheel drive car? 

Bernie: It's front wheel drive car. Yeah. It's not an all wheel drive model, it's a front wheel drive. So a CV joint, it stands for constant velocity, kind of like a universal joint. It allows for flexibility. You have a drive shaft that comes off the transmission or an axle shaft, I should say, goes out to the wheel. Of course, the wheel turns. So if it was a straight rod, you wouldn't get much wheel turning. And of course the suspension bounces up and down. So, the axle has to have flexibility.

So the CV joint accomplishes that. Universal joints are used on, you know, say a lot of sort of American four wheel drive trucks, Jeeps, certain Ford trucks, GM. Various trucks will use universal joints, but they only really engage the front four wheel drive when you're on a gravel road or somewhere where it's crude and you don't need that sophisticated drive line transfer. 

But on a car that's front wheel drive, you need that smooth transfer of power. And so a CV joint does that. And basically there's a couple of different designs. The inners are often a different design than the outers. And so the failures on those are a little different.

Mark: So you mentioned that parts weren't readily available, what kind of parts did you have to go with?

Bernie: Yeah, the only part we could go with was the actual OEM Volvo part. There's no aftermarket axles available. Not sure why. But certain brands a car you can get everything aftermarket, but these ones, the only place we could get it was through a Volvo dealer.

So that's what we got it. So that being said, it wasn't particularly cheap. But that was the only alternative we had. So you can get into a picture right now. 

There's our C30. You know, we do get winter around here. So a lot of people put their winter tires on winter wheels and it's not the most attractive look, but it's practical for the winter. So there's the car. 

2012 Volvo C30, Axle Shaft Repair

And there's a picture of our two drive axles. So there's our replacement unit. There's the old one. These are the only two pictures I have, the one of the car and these axles. 

2012 Volvo C30, Axle Shaft Repair

So this axle on the right hand side has an extra shaft, with a bearing mounted on a bracket to allow the axle to have the same sort of length as the axle on the right hand side. Apparently it prevents torque steer issues. You get some vehicles and they have a very long axle on the right or the left, depending on the car configuration. It'll have a very long axle on one side and a very long distance between the CV joints on one side and very short on the other side. And that causes issues in the feel of the car when you drive. So if you use this configuration like they do in the Volvo, it gives for a much smoother acceleration and less torque steer. Torque steer is when you accelerate and the vehicle wants to pull one direction, if you accelerate hard. 

Mark: I know it well. 

Bernie: Yeah. It's a distinct feeling. I remember the first time I ever drove a front wheel drive car because I was used to rear wheel drive cars. I go, wow, there's like a weird feeling to it. So anyways, just to go over the CV joint design.

So the outer joints, they have like six huge ball bearings that are held in a cage. And then the inner joint, It's kind of a tripod type of plunger. So it has a, sort of where I have the mouse pointer here, it was a triangular piece and it has three sort of pucks with needle bearings in them, so it can slide back and forth in this area. It's not quite as sophisticated of a joint as the outer, but it doesn't nearly need to be because this one only really moves up and down as opposed to turning. 

So it's a pretty popular design on many cars. As I said, when we grabbed, say this part here, where I have the mouse pointer, that the outer cage and grab the axle, you could hear a little clunky sound inside.

So it wasn't a healthy thing. I never actually took the axle apart. This was, I believe a new axle from Volvo, but there was a core charge on it. They wanted the old one back. So sometimes I just feel like it's better not to tinker with stuff and just give it back because they may just go, well, you've dismantled it. And you know, we're going to, you know, not give you your money back.

So if this is a rebuilt unit, it certainly looks like brand new. It's very high quality, but I suspect it's probably brand new. Maybe they want to rebuild them in the future or something. I'm not sure.

Mark: On other vehicles, you can buy all the different parts to repair whichever bearings and races are worn out? 

Bernie: Not necessarily, you know, it used to be a lot more common years ago to be able to buy an individual CV joint. You could buy a boot. If the outer one was worn out you could just replace the outer one. Thanks to the miracle of cheap Chinese manufacturing, which wasn't applicable to this car, but it is available to many cars. A complete CV axle is not very expensive. And so it doesn't make any sense to buy a CV joint and then go through all the labour process of taking it apart. You can just buy a complete axle.

I assert that they are not as good as an original equipment part, but you know, they're pretty close. They do tend to last a long time and that's sort of the more economical repair. But in the case of this car, they only sell the complete axle, which is sort of the way things go these days. Everything comes in assemblies and makes for more expensive repairs.

But, you know, in this case, if you think, okay, we know the inner joint is bad. You change the inner joint and then you find you have a clunk in the outer one, you kind of wasted the customer's money. We didn't waste the money, but then it's going to need more repairs down the road. So this way the job's done. It's finished. It's complete.

Mark: Did you have to repair both sides? 

Bernie: We only did one. So you know, again, based on the cost of the axles and the fact that we could actually see an issue with that axle, we decided, look, let's do this side first. So we did that and I'm happy to say it was good. 

Mark: So how common is this kind of vibration feeling from a CV joint being worn out?

Bernie: Of all the repairs we do, it's not one we do a lot of, but it isn't entirely uncommon among a wide variety of cars. We don't see too many Volvo, you know, like the extremeness of this vibration was pretty unusual. But you know, we do see them. I mean, I've owned a lot of Subarus in the past and had inner joints wear out and you can feel when you accelerate this as sort of lack of smoothness in the acceleration and this like shutter you can kind of feel it in the front end or feel it in the steering wheel. So that's usually an indication the inner CV joint is worn out. 

Mark: And this vintage and model of Volvo 2012 C30, how are they for reliability? 

Bernie: Yeah, generally pretty good. Volvos tend to have a few more repairs than some other cars, but they're generally pretty good and well made. This one actually over 200,000 kilometres. So that's kind of a fair distance. And you know, for an axle to go, sometimes I look at the distance the car's driven and go, okay, it's got 70,000 kilometres and the oil pan's leaking. That's not so good, you know, on a five year old car, but if it's got like 250 and you go, okay, well, that's all right. So yeah, generally they're pretty good cars. 

Mark: If you're looking for service for your Volvo in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them on their website And there's also hundreds of videos on all makes and types of repairs. We've been doing this for 10 years. Or you can call to book your appointment at (604) 327-7112. You have to book ahead. They're always busy. Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Thanks for watching and listening. Thanks, Bernie. 

Bernie: Thank you, Mark. Thanks for watching.

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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