January 15

2013 Subaru Forester, Front Drive Axle

Subaru

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Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert. I'm here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience. Only 25 times, they've won best auto repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers and we're talking cars. How you doing Bernie? 

Bernie: Doing very well. 

Mark: So today's victim is a 2013 Subaru Forester that had some sort of front end problem. What was going on with this vehicle? 

Bernie: So the vehicle came to our shop with a couple of issues. One of them being a very severe clunking sound when you made turns. It's a very sharp clicking sound, pretty distinctive CV joint kind of noise. But very loud and noticeable. Actually, this one was so bad, you almost didn't need to make a turn when you accelerate. So loud in fact, I kind of wish I had a tape recorder to, tape recorder, I'm old, recording device to tape the sound. Cause it would have been a perfect thing to share with our customers who have noises. Anyways, that was the issue.  

Mark: So did you have to do any testing and diagnosis before you start working on it?

Bernie: Well, we always do some level of testing and diagnosis and in this case, it was a road test, which we didn't have to go too far around a block a couple of times. And then we just listened to the vehicle. When it's loud, you can stand beside the vehicle and you can have a listen and the driver's side was the loudest.

There was a little bit of noise coming from the passenger side, but the driver's side was just hideously loud. So very distinct. So we knew what area we needed to be working on. And then of course, then we do a visual inspection on a hoist. Are the axle shaft boots broken, you know, or is something loose or worn besides what we sort of assume it is and then just verify that is there anything else worn? We didn't find anything else. It was basically the outer CV joint that was making the noise. 

Mark: How did you tell that it was the outer CV joint since there's two on these? 

Bernie: Well, inner CV joints never make this kind of noise. And I'm only saying this from experience of working on cars. Usually if there's something wrong with an inner CV joint, it'll cause a vibration. You can reference back, we did one on a Volvo a little while ago, the horrible vibration. But usually you'll get a vibration on acceleration with a bad inner CV joint, but with the outer, the worn joint will actually make a clicking sound when you're in a sharp turn. It's a snapping kind of clicking sound. That's my sort of best description.

Mark: Can you just replace the outer joint or how does the repair work on this? 

Bernie: Yeah, in this case, we just replaced complete axles. It used to be many years ago that you could buy separate joints. For some cars, you probably still can. You can buy separate joints, separate boots, but with the miracle of Chinese manufacturing, I'm saying that a little cynically, but you know, the price of things has come down so low that a complete axle is really the only way to go.

Sometimes the quality isn't quite as good as say an original axle, but they're generally pretty good. They do last a long time. It's an easier replacement, so labor costs are lower and you're getting the whole complete unit inner and outer all at the same time. So you know, cost wise, it just doesn't make any sense to replace just a joint unless that's the only option. And certainly for Subaru, it isn't, you can just buy complete axles from a number of sources. 

Mark: So what part of the CV joint actually wears out? 

Bernie: Well, let's look at some pictures. I actually took the time to dismantle this joint. It was so bad. I figured this would be a good thing to show our audience.

2013 Subaru Forester, Front Drive Axle

So there is the driver's side axle shaft. The actual passenger one is exactly the same size. That's kind of the neat thing about a Subaru being a flat four boxer engine. The way it's designed is the axle shafts are exactly the same length, because the transmission sits right in the middle of the vehicle. So it's part of the geometry of a Subaru makes it work well that way.

So kind of getting the camera a little closer, this is our outer CV joint. So there's the boot. Now frequently the boot will rip or tear or they'll be grease coming out of it and that'll be an indication. Once that happens, water can get in and cause the joint to wear out, but in this case, the boot was in good shape.

2013 Subaru Forester, Front Drive Axle

And I might just make a note here that CV boots used to be something we've replaced quite frequently also because the boots would crack and wear out. But CV boots last a long time. They make them out of good material so they last a long time. And this vehicle, you know, the CV boots were original. 

So going a little further, after taking the boot off and disconnecting the axle, this is what the CV joint looks like. So you have your outer piece here. There are eight ball bearings on this one. Most of them usually have six, but I noticed these ones have eight. So I think this is a kind of a new, been a while since I've taken on a part. This is a new, more robust way to make a CV joint, I think. And it actually took a lot more work to take it apart, trying to get all the things apart. You have to kind of twist things apart, but there's basically an outer race and inner race, which is here. And then a cage that holds all the balls. And so you can see this as twisted quite sharply. This would be how the axle would sit on a very sharp turn. 

2013 Subaru Forester, Front Drive Axle

Next picture, we've got the assembly here. So these are all the pieces. And you'll notice there's, if you're taking time to count, there's seven balls here. One of them flew away along the floor. I didn't bother to look for it. Since we're not putting this joint back together anyways, it was just here for pictures. But there's basically eight balls. They sit in this cage. You can see the inner race and then the outer, race isn't really the right term, but the grooves where the balls ride. 

2013 Subaru Forester, Front Drive Axle

The next picture we have is, here's a closeup of the outer, you can see a little bit of wear. So the balls again, sit in this area here, there's no wear here, but we're going to see the actual wear on this joint. It's very, very noticeable in the next couple of pictures.

2013 Subaru Forester, Front Drive Axle

This one has a slight bit of wear, so you can see where the balls have been rubbing. There's a couple of worn spots here, But the really bad one, and this is where the clicks come in, is this.

2013 Subaru Forester, Front Drive Axle

You can see. I think you can see this like actual, and I'm moving my mouse pointer around, actual chunks of metal that have actually worn off. And this is what causes the clicking sound. The joint sort of shutters or back and forth when it's worn. If you have a bad, clicky CV joint, when you take it apart, you'll always find either the outer or inner race will have this kind of wear. So that's basically our picture show. 

2013 Subaru Forester, Front Drive Axle

Mark: So CV stands for constant velocity. So how often do you see these kind of joints wearing out on any car, let alone just a Subaru? 

Bernie: They don't wear out very often anymore. Used to be very common 20, 30 years ago, especially Japanese cars. They would wear out by the time you hit like 100,000 kilometres, 60,000 miles. A lot of them would be worn out, maybe clicking and clunking and sometimes even sooner. But on modern vehicles, they don't click and clunk very often. It's kind of go, Oh, wow. It's a bad CV joint. I mean, we do a few of them, but it's kind of rare compared to what used to happen.

So as I mentioned, this one had eight balls in it, they normally have six. So I think the eight balls actually spreads the load of the joint out over a bigger area. So that keeps it more durable. Now, I don't know how many other CV joints have eight balls as opposed to six, but I think they just build them out of better materials. 

But I did notice too, like over the years, like old Cadillacs back from the 70s, a Cadillac Eldorado front wheel drive vehicles. They'd have CV joints. It was kind of an unusual thing for an American car with front wheel drive. Those joints never wore out. Like they never clicked or clunk. The boots would break from time to time. Even they would last a long time. So I don't know.

It's funny with cars, you know, some manufacturers, they just do it right and it works. And other cars, it's like, they just wear out really fast. But I think overall the whole industry, the CV joints are actually made much better. Axles, boots, the whole thing. 

Mark: So how reliable are 2013 Subaru Foresters?

Bernie: Yeah, it's a very reliable car. This vehicle had 142, it's an American car, 142,000 miles. You know, we replaced the drive axles, had some rear brake issues, mostly because the owner, I believe had driven with the parking brake on and cause some damage to the back brakes. But other than that, I mean, you know, they're pretty reliable and this generation uses a timing chain engine. So, I mean, there are some issues. And if something goes wrong, it'll be expensive, but you know, very reliable. Very good car. Highly recommended.

Mark: If you're looking for service for your Subaru in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them online at pawlikautomotive.com. You can book your appointment right there. They'll follow up. They'll get a hold of you. They'll find out what's going on. They'll get ready for when you show up for your appointment. You can call them at (604) 327-7112. You have to book ahead. They're busy. They're always busy. Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Thanks so much for watching and listening. Thanks, Bernie. 

Bernie: Thank you, Mark. Thanks for watching.

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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