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Seattle Subaru CV Boots And Axle Problems Explained

One of the more common repairs we make to Subaru’s are CV (Constant Velocity) boots.   Pictured below is a CV or Drive axle on a Subaru.  Subaru actually calls the inner joint and boots DOJ (Dual Offset Joint) and the outer joints and boots CV.  The typical industry term is inner and outer CV boots and joints and CV axle.  A CV axle being a complete assembly consisting of the inner and outer joints and connecting shaft.  There is one CV axle per drive wheel.  On a modern Subaru there are 4 CV or drive axles.   For the purpose of this article I am going to refer to everything as CV.

 CV Axle

Whichever name they go by, the joint’s job is basically to allow flex or movement out of the drive axle and pretty much every front wheel drive or in the case of your Subaru, All Wheel Drive utilizes this design.   The job of the CV boot is to keep the lubricating grease inside the joints and the environment out of the joints as well. 

Subaru Outer CV Joint 

 

The boots are made out of rubber and do not last forever just like belts and hoses wear out, crack or become weak with age and time so do the axle boots.  The right side CV boot on the front of most non turbo 4 cylinder models is the most prone to failure as it sits very close to the exhaust and heat plays a part in the failure.   Typically when this boot fails grease is sprayed onto the exhaust and causes a very strong smell.    There are many different ways in which a CV boot can fail from clamp failure a full rip or tear of the boot.   The single best way to approach this repair is to re boot the existing O.E. Subaru axle prior to the CV joint failing.  Repairing the boot failure prior to the joint running out of grease, or dirt and grit entering the joint will allow a more economical and a better, longer lasting repair than what I am about to talk about next.

 

A very typical thing we see is a tire or general repair shop taking out an axle for a CV boot failure and installing a “Brand New made in China” axle.  This can start a lot of trouble in many cases.  The quality of the CV axles made in China is very suspect to say the least.     We have seen everything from vibrations at idle and very pronounced vibrations under load to boots that last just a year before they tear open again as compared to the original boots that lasted 5 to 6 years on average.     Now as the suspension ages the boots may not last as long as the first set of boots but a boot that won’t make it a year without issue is really low quality.   Vibration problems can be a biggie with aftermarket axles as well this can be under acceleration, turning or even just at idle.   Excessive play in the inner joint allows the inner portion of the joint to move back and forwards within the inner joint housing is typically the cause of this. 

 

Next is the one size fits all axle we see so often, with the incorrect inner sealing ring installed.   We have seen this cause premature failure of wheel bearings by not providing the proper seal where the CV axle fits into the wheel bearing, seals and hub.    Aftermarket parts vendors try to keep costs down by eliminating part numbers and providing one axle that can be used in both ABS(Anti Lock Brake System) and Non ABS both.  The difference being the Toner ring installed on the axle outer CV joint.  The toner ring spins with the axle; a sensor interprets this as a speed and inputs information back to the ABS module.  By coming up with an axle that can physically be installed in either application the Aftermarket parts maker has reduced its inventory and production costs, good for their business but not so good for your Subaru.  A large supplier of axles has also decided that because the older 2 wheel drive axle used by Subaru many years ago which was larger in size and believed to be stronger, has decided for you that your newer Subaru should have a 2 Wheel drive axle installed regardless of the fact that this puts the inner cv boot much closer to the exhaust and it will fail very quickly the 2 wheel drive axle in the earlier years was larger in diameter than the AWD axles.

Remanufactured axles have mostly gone away, Subaru has had a here now gone tomorrow Remanufactured axle program that has had some quality control issues as well and they are a bit pricey.  A new axle from Subaru is typically over $500.00 and not always available.  There used to be better solutions but the flood of cheap priced aftermarket parts brought down the price to repair but really brought down the quality of the repair with it.

It is much easier to just swap out axles and there are plenty of shops that employ Tech’s that may be scared of taking apart the axle or may not have the right tools to do the job.  Or a shop may look at the potential profit of installing a low cost axle and not care that much about how long the repair lasts.  Another real possibility is just plain lack of understanding.  The O.E. Subaru axle that came in the car when it was new is much superior in quality to anything that can be purchased in the aftermarket and much better than a Subaru Remanufactured axle as well.  Catching the boot failure early when the boot is starting to crack will keep the costs down and yield a much better repair. 

This is another reason to not take your Subaru to a quick lube center for an oil change, while they  will always catch a dirty air filter and suggets a transmission flush,  but since they can’t repair cv boots, they won’t know what to look for, if they look at all.

Below are some pictures of some axles.

Subaru Axle 

This is an AWD axle next to a 2WD axle, you can see the difference in size.

New CV Boot 

New Cv boot on an original Subaru axle

Subaru Inner Boot & Joint 

A torn open inner boot and a joint that has grit and grime inside of it now.

New CV Boot 

New Cv boot installed on the inner joint of an O.E. Subaru axle 

Thanks for reading

Justin

About the Author

All Wheel Drive Auto is a unique independent Subaru service & repair facility. We combine years of dealer experience with a local neighborhood shop atmosphere. We use Subaru parts & test Equipment and have the expert knowledge to fix it right the first time.

Comments (164)

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  1. Angie Adamec says:

    I wished I’d read your article on Subaru Boots and axle problems awhile ago. I had one of those “aftermarket” (unknown to me) axles put on my cars front right and although it seemed to aleviate the immediate problem, more problems are arrising. I then had to have a new bearing (probably the original problem) and now the wheel makes little rubber squeaky noises and tends to grab when I turn it sharply. I feel like I need to start over from scratch!

    • Reena says:

      We also replaced our front right side axel and now have bearing issues on the left wheel.

      I am wondering if there is a connection. I am no car techie so have to rely on the folks unfortunately

  2. Don Christensen says:

    No problems yet with my 2003 outback, but now I know what to watch for.
    Don, Salem, OR

  3. John says:

    Have had boots replaced twice on my ’01 Forester. The first time it was caught by the strong smell of burning grease. The second time there was an engine noise that sounded like a spark plug miss firing. It only happened on acceleration under a load. Turned out to be dirt in the axel after the boot failed. My repair shop in Califoria now routinely replaces boot AND axle as needed. And they only use Subaru parts.

  4. bob b. says:

    just this week the right side inner boot cracked, and i,m on a fence post about which way to go ,lucky for me i caught it when the smell started. Am i better off to replace the whole axle or since i did catch it early just replace the boot i have put more grease in through the crack and will do everyday until i make the repair 2003 outback wagon with 70,000 miles–BOB

    • axel says:

      its not really up to you to decide… if the shop removes the axle and prepares for a new boot, if there is wear on the inside they should not do anything but replace the axle … anything less would be crappy busines!!!

  5. Ian says:

    thanks for the tips my forester had ripped both front boots @110k miles was putting grease in them for 2 weeks until i could change them used duralast reman axles @ about 125k miles rf wheel bearing failed on a trip from brooklyn to florida damaged the hub too fixed that with the help of some friends had this popping sound until i changed them the out for another set now the rf is making clicking sounds under light braking i know why now going to get genuine oem from now on out thanks

  6. gary says:

    Great info..I rate it an 11 on a 10 point scale!

    I have just obtained a 2005 Baja stick(74K miles) from a brother-in-law and he told me he put the china “Garbage’ CV boots/axles on the car and I should replace them in 10K miles. In second gear from 2000rpm to 3000rpm, there is a quite noticable shudder vibration, and a longer range if under a load going up a hill. ALso, with the let up of the accelerator, there is a looseness in drive train…are these from the driveshafts or something else??? Thanks

    • zac says:

      Gary did you find a fix to your vibration issue?

      I have had the same issue arise with my Subaru 2005 legacy.

      Thanks

      • Aaron says:

        I just bought a 2006 Subaru Legacy and experience a very slight but noticeable vibration every 25-30 miles or so. It doesn’t seem to matter how fast I’m going – sometimes 30 mph or 60 mph, and it only lasts about 2 seconds then stops. Car only has 37K miles on it – boots look new. Could this be an axle issue?

        • Justin Stobb says:

          Hello Aaron,

          It’s tough to know from here, if the axles are OE, aftermarket or reman, but generally speaking I wouldn’t suspect an axle but a wheel bearing is possible. Usually a Intermittent Vibration wouldn’t be from the axle.

          -Justin

  7. Justin Stobb says:

    Gary

    Get rid of the Made in China Axles, either buy used Subaru Cores at a wrecking yard or Brand new Axles from Subaru.

    If you allow it to vibrate you take the chance of damaging the drive train.

    Justin

    • Eric says:

      Or just buy American and you will not have this issue!!

      • Justin Stobb says:

        Eric,

        The Cliche “buy american” is great in principle and I am all for supporting American business, but unfortunately in the “Global Economy” There is no way to buy American when it comes to cars. The big 3 US automakers merely assemble components made in other countries and worse many US domestic Vehicles are actually made in Mexico and Canada.

        Justin

        • Louise says:

          Buy American? My truck is a Ford but my car has been a Subaru since 1982 because of the superior quality.

    • phyllis says:

      2001 Subaru outback. Had front brakes fixed. Thereafter had slight vibration when at stop. Irritating and just enough to aggravate me since it didn’t do this before.
      Researched all the motor mounts etc. possiblilities. 1 year later brakes in rear were problem. Same mechanic replaced both rear axles as he said it was cheaper then fixing rotors, etc. So, now I have a car that vibrates horribly with foot on brake at stop only. Subaru says only have replacement full price axles for $357 each, no remfg. for them. Only remfg. for front axles.
      Car is not hardly worth it even though at 100K everything else seems fine. Spent $1300 for a leak and the rear brakes fixed to now have this intolerable issue I believe is axle related.

      • Justin Stobb says:

        Hello Phyllis,

        I am sorry but your post just makes no sense.

        Brakes have nothing to do with axles, so if you had front brakes replaced why are we talking about Axles? If you had the front axles replaced by some hack that used Made in China Garbage then yes you will have a vibration at a stop. The only way to fix it is to buy the part that should have been put in the car to begin with. So then the rear brakes are worn and you let somebody replace your axles because it needs rotors? Either you don’t understand what has been done to your car or something else is way off. Let me try to help, the brakes are the things that slow the car done when you press the brake pedal, the brake rotors are a crucial part of the brake system, the axles are what connect the wheels to the drive train at each corner and apply power to each wheel under acceleration.

        When you say the car is not worth it? Do you really believe that spending $357.00 X 2 plus labor is more money than buying another car?

        -Justin

        • Phyllis says:

          Well, the car is 2001. 100,000K miles. I brought car to Subaru dealership for vibration and they could find nothing related and said the head gasket is leaking! So, the guy that “fixed” the valve cover gasket leak and replaced my rear axles for brake job ($1300) didn’t even find nor fix all causes of leak. So that if it is head gasket leak, isn’t bad as I have been watching and checking all fluids but something surely is still causing burning smell. NO major leaks in driveway but could just be a drip or two.
          I am so disgusted. The car runs just fine, everything works and it looks o.k. But no one that stops at a red light wants to have this vibration. Vibration at red light is only lessened by turning steering wheel right or left slightly.

  8. Bill Daughtridge says:

    I change my own oil to save money and have never inspected my cv joints. Now, with 90k miles on my 2002 Subaru Impreza Outback Sport, I suspect my rear cv joints have gohne bad. The only symptom is that at very low speed – like while slowing down to a stop or backing up – I hear and feel a faint but distinct bumpy, grinding noise. I am living from paycheck to paycheck which means i really need to keep this car in good shape but it also means I have no money to spare. I’m concerned enough now that I’m willing to pay a shop for a diagnosis (cv joints? shocks? differential?): would you recommend the dealer (far away, more expensive, and requirng me to make special transportation arrangementw for getting to work) or a local repair shop that seems to do good work and be honest?

    • Chuckie Speedway says:

      Sounds more like a wheel bearing than a CV
      Problem. I changed mine on my Legacy
      Not a hard job

    • kenneth delancey says:

      when you find out what this is,please let me know because i have the same noise coming from the front end of my 2004 subaru forester.it only happens at very slow speed on a pumpy road.

  9. Justin Stobb says:

    Hi Bill,

    It would be very unusual to replace cv joints on the rear of a Subaru.

    You are actually most likely describing Torque binding, if you have an automatic transmission vehicle.

    You want a Subaru expert to look at it or the diagnoses may be incorrect.

    Justin

  10. Joe S., San Diego, Ca says:

    Great article. I have owned 6 Subarus over the last 25 years, and needless to say, I have gone through my share of CV boots and CV joints. After reading your analysis, I think I know why. My mechanic has been trying to save me money by using after market CV boots.

  11. Cathy says:

    How much should it cost to replace CV boot?? I need one on my front right…

    It’s a 1999 subaru outback

    thanks!!

  12. Chris says:

    So as a mechanic at an independent shop, we just encountered a 97 legacy 2.2 AWD which had new aftermarket axles installed at another shop, and is now complaining of a vibration. What method would you recommend to isolate the problem. We are a little leary to tell the customer to take their car back to the other shop. It would look bad if big $$ was spent on genuine subaru axles and the problem remained.

  13. Justin Stobb says:

    Hi Chris,

    You can take the axles out and inspect the axles for movement if its a vibration its usually the inner.

    As we both know, if it wasn’t there before, than the axles is the most likely cause, but also an iffy wheel bearing can reveal it self during the course of the repair as well.

    But to answer your question, for us here, we know what a “bad axle” feels like VS a wheel or differential bearing.

    Sorry

    Justin

    • Paula says:

      Hi there,

      I just had the left axle replaced (aftermarket), and i noticed the pulling, the cracking noise, and the noise in the engine right the way! The car sounds horrible! The mechanic says that he never heard of this problem before.

      Do you think the noise coming from the engine has to do with the axle? i also had the timing belt replaced.

      I’ve asked him to order a new one from Subaru. How much would that cost?

      Thanks,
      Paula

  14. Tim A says:

    I just replaced my front left inner driveshaft and used a $50 replacement from CostLess to fix the sheared inner CV boot and now less than two days later, I have the exact same problem…what would cause the boot to fail so quickly???

  15. Justin Stobb says:

    Hi Tim,

    You bought a $50.00 Dollar Axle from an after market Supplier, most likely made in China this as compared to $400.00 for a new Axle from Subaru.

    As I have mentioned in the article the Chinese axles in you car leave a lot to be desired.

    When you save money on a part, there is a good chance if you don’t know what you are buying you are buying a very inferior component. You may get another axle and it may last a few months, but there just is no aftermarket axle that will hold up as well as the original axle that used in Your Subaru during the course of production has.

    While I understand trying to save money, there has to be a balance between cost and value.

    Im just not sure what else I can say

    Justin

  16. Patty says:

    Help!
    My 05 Sub Baja check engine light went on. Took it to Prec Tune because they had just changed the oil and I thought the problem may be related. I needed new boots and axels. Done. Next day, while driving I hear a clunking noise that gets faster as accelerate.I go back have another new, aftermarket set put on but same thing happens. Then they think it’s the trans, so I go to trans specialist but they can’t resolve and don’t think it’s trans. Next I finally go to my mechanic and they think it’s a poor axel and I should get another brand. I go back to Prec Tune. Reluctantly they will replace but want to buy the same brand again! I say “No!Buy a different brand.”
    I could use some help here. Subaru parts are so expensive.
    Thx.
    Patty

  17. D Windsor says:

    hi,

    Is this a repair that if there’s one bad CV all the other should be replaced?
    thanks.

  18. Justin Stobb says:

    Hello D Windsor,

    There is no easy answer to that question.

    We typically try to catch the boots when they are cracking, So if we see one boot on one axle we at a minimum will suggest both boots on one axle.

    Justin

  19. Kint111 says:

    I have 00′s RS, the dealer told me to get their Subaru Remanufactured one ($148 vs oem new $500) and they told me they are just as good as the OEM.

    Is this true? Is tough because the saving of a brand new oem.

    Thanks,
    Kin

  20. Justin Stobb says:

    Kint,

    The O.E. Subaru Axle lasted 12 years in your RS.

    There is not much chance the Subaru Reman will last that long. They have not been proven too! So I dont know how any one can say that, I will tell you I prefer the Subaru Reman Over a Chinese Aftermarket though.

    It will take a couple of years for me to be right, but the other side of this situation is there can be other issues that pop up as a result of the Reman Axle.

    Justin

  21. Soraya Zahedi says:

    Justin,

    I have a 2004 Subaru Outback with 94000 miles. I had my trusted local mechanic replace the front driver side axle 3 mos. ago upon a loud clunking sound when turning left. The clunking returned, he replaced the axle but to no avail ( i returned the part, he returned my $), I now had clunking on rights, lefts & at hi speed. Took it to the Dealer who replaced both front axles & boots with a non-Subaru part that they have had a good track record with. They assured me this would work. They gave me a one year warranty. I am still experiencing the clunking, now just driving at low speed. This was just done last week. What to do now?

    • Justin Stobb says:

      May be its not the Axle?

      Usually the way it works is you take the car in, someone diagnoses the noise, gives you an estimate on what it will take to correct the vehicle, you authorize the repairs, the car is repaired you pay the bill and drive away with a repaired vehicle.

      Our shop just like all of my local competitors offers a warranty so would a Subaru Dealer, I would start with inquiring there.

      Justin

  22. Soraya Zahedi says:

    Of course the independent mechanic and the Subaru dealer who have worked on the car have diagnosed the problem as worn out axles. My feeling is that the non OEM axles are just not machined to the exact size of the Subaru parts resulting in too much play and thus the clunking. The problem is that neither mechanic or dealer take the car for a test drive after the repair. I have also recently rotated the tires and had the wheels balanced and then front wheels re-balanced upon the second axle repair. At this point I am about to give up on the car and buy new. The problem is that I really like my car and would prefer to fix it. Should I just have the axles replaced with Subaru parts?

    • Justin Stobb says:

      We dont use Aftermarket Axles unless their is no other options such as the customer cant afford the new ones from Subaru.

      I prefer to purchase wrecking yard cores and put together our own axles as we can, this always depends on availability of good cores, right now for example we are having a tough go buying 1995 to 1999 axles from the wrecking yards.

      If you dont mind the cost and really want the BEST repair you can buy I would purchase 2 brand new axles from Subaru , Not the Remanufactured by A1 Cardone versions but actual new axles which are also becoming harder to locate, for us they always seem to be on the East coast and we have to wait for days.

      I have been as we speek been working with a parts supplier on a new Japanese made axle for the Subaru, the situation in Japan will cause a delay, the axles we demoed were good replacements s s except fot the outer boot material wasn’t up to our standards, we replaced the boot and put the axle in most of the loaners cars at the shop and have really put them through the paces and the axles so far have proven to be finally a good quality no vibration solution. The axles will cost about 65% of what a new axle from Subaru costs but more importantly will be available which the new axles from Subaru will not be for much longer only the Reman ones.

      I would for now so you dont do any drive train damage go with 2 new Subaru Axles.

      Justin

  23. carole bailey says:

    Can you provide info on the Japanese made axle- i.e. where can they be obtained, cost, etc. I am on east coast (Maine) and apparently in need of axles for a 2005 Forrester XT.
    Thanks so much for this thread- it has been a life saver for me, as I had no knowledge of this repair, even though this is my 5th Subaru. Have replaced CV boots on previous cars, but this is new to me.
    Carole Bailey

  24. rouel says:

    hey…
    ive been ignoring this problem of my car for years. im in the military and always busy at work. now i have a chance to fit it or get it fix. i have an 04 STi and i think i have a problem on my CV joint also. I was reading all the threads in your website and they are all very helpful. So you are advising everybody to get the Subaru OEM axle which as around $400.00 better that the china made one. I probably agree to that one also… Now if i have to get that fix, how much approximately would be the cost to get it installed by a professional. If i am doing it my self, where can i buy besides the dealer an OEM Subaru axle for my car? If i have to do it, is there any website or instructions that i can follow that you can recommend so that i can install it myself the right way?
    Your thread is really helpful and i appreciate your help..

    • Justin Stobb says:

      The New Subaru Unit is the best way to go, We dont have a Do it your self guide published any where for this, but if you head over to some of the Forums you may find what you are looking for there.

      Justin

  25. Mike says:

    Justin,
    Thanks for the thread, this kind of stuff has been helping a lot lately with maintenance. I am with Carole Bailey from Maine in wanting to know more about the Japanese axles, as I am from the mountains of Pennsylvania. Subaru driver for 27 years, 27 years of taking care of my CV boots. I just had my wheels aligned at a local shop. 2 weeks later I went to change my oil, lo and behold there is grease sprayed about the wheel well from a small hole in the boot. Bastard probably had a wrench slip. Hope he got a bloody knuckle… I’d like to tackle replacing the boot myself. Please point me in the direction of the best replacement boot and advice on the technical part of the replacement. Really appreciate your time on these things…..Mike

  26. JBC says:

    Own a 1998 Subaru Impreza Outback. The passenger side DOJ boot just went at 115k miles. Smoked and smelled real bad, but you could look down and see the crack in th boot and the pile of grease on the car frame. Sprayed around inside the engine compartment a bit. Subaru dealership quoted $320 to replace and repair.

  27. Stephen says:

    Justin, I replaced the cv boot on the left front. No problem. While I was in there I noticed a slight leak in the axle seal. I’ll be the first to say it… I did what should never be done, I moved the plate to replace the O-ring but forgot to mark it (or count the turns for that matter) I know, I know. I’ll wear the hat of shame for a few weeks… Now what do I need to do to fix it? Is there a torque that the axle should rotate at? I would love to bring it to you but I think the shipping charges would be a little high from TN. lol Any help would be great (or even a point in the right direction) lol Many thanks, Stephen

    • Justin Stobb says:

      That’s a tough one, there is a pre-load that needs to be established, that’s not one that I can guide your through I am afraid. I would buy a one day pass at all data or the like and down load the differential section of the service manual.

      Sorry I cant offer more

      Justin

      • Stephen says:

        Actually, That is just what I needed to hear!!! I was headed to buy a factory manual but thought I’d give you a shout just in case there was a magic number I needed to obtain… Every place I have searched on the web says “Don’t do this” but offers no fix if you have gone past that point. A few of your posts have saved my bacon in the past. Thank you for being such a valuable asset to the Subby lovers. Many thanks again! On a side note, how can I get one of your shop stickers? I would GLADLY support your business (even from the deep south). lol

  28. Mike says:

    Hi Justin,
    Your article is great. I have a 1984 GL 4X4 wagon that is in really good original shape and low orig miles but, I too have had the axle problem just recently. I’ve replaced 4 sets of front axles with the cheap aftermarket ones only to experience all of the simptoms that you have described or others have mentioned. Do you know where I can buy the OE Subaru axles? I’d gladly pay the $400-$500 dollars to get them rather than continually replace aftermarket junk with more junk. Please let me know. I’m in the Tacoma area. Thanks, Mike

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Mike,

      There are no Subaru axles available for the Older GL’s I am afraid. I have had few readers tell me good things about Raxles.com but I to date have not used any of their products its just an option you might want to explore.

      I have seen some old stock of Subaru parts show up On E-bay every once and a while but do have to stress that you really need to get the Chinese axles out before they damage your drive train.

      Sorry I cant offer more, there just are not that many options for an almost 30 year old car.

      Justin

  29. Jon says:

    I have a 2001 Forester S, and I recently went on a 800 mile road trip with a heavy friend of mine in the passenger seat. Halfway into the trip, the car just starting making a humming sound that starts getting audible around 40 mph and gets louder the faster you go. It seems to be coming from the back, though I can’t tell which side. Sounds like I’m driving with oversize tires. I suspect rear wheel bearings, side unknown. Should I take it to the dealer, or is this an easy fix for most shops? Should I ask the shop to lube them first and see if that helps? Any chance this is a rear differential problem? Thanks to anyone who responds.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Jon,

      The wheel bearings are not serviceable and if the have started to make noise they instead will need to be replaced. With out hearing the noise its not possible to advise on the component affected but will add that the wheel bearings are common and the differential not.

      Justin

      • Jon says:

        It was the wheel bearings, the left rear. Replaced it with a genuine Subaru bearing and the car is quiet again. Thanks much.

  30. Paul says:

    I have a 97 Outback, auto, AWD with 152k miles. I replaced the front right cv shaft and transmission mount which was broken. The cv shaft was a cheap chinese replacement.

    Unfortunately the car now makes so much clattering noise from the cv shaft that I have to put almost a half an inch of spacers on the transmission crossover to drop the transmission down just to eliminate the cv clattering. I also have to run the car in FWD mode otherwise I get the same cv clattering from the front and rear shafts,like I have a bad cv joints. I am stumped, any ideas ???

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Paul,

      If you have a cheap Chinese axle in it and now have symptoms, the place to start is by taking the axle back out shipping it back to mainland China or throwing it away (You can decide which).

      Buy a good axle not from China, from Subaru instead install it and take things from there before you tear up your drive train and have to get your wallet out for some serous repairs that can be avoided.

      Or maybe you have something else entirely going on such as an issue with the Transfer clutches if its an Automatic or the Viscous coupler if its a manual? But since in your post it sounds like you are stating the issues happened since the axle I would say not?

      Justin

  31. Roch says:

    Hello, I have a 1997 sub Imp Outback sport, and have a general question about our axles. How can one tell if the axle it’s self is bad upon removing it from the car for inpection, when replacing the CV boots. Thanks Roch

  32. Janet Raines says:

    I have a 2004 Outback with 2.5L engine. I too was blindsided by my local mechanic over worn CV axles and he replaced mine with an aftermarket product. I noticed problems right away including engine vibration and binding when turning the wheels (which evolved to a squealing noise). I returned the car to the mechanic and he agreed that the axles he installed were “defective” and I insisted he replace them with Subaru parts (after visiting this site), which he claimed he did. Unfortunately, I am still having engine vibration when stopped in drive with the engine idling. I am obviously very worried about what damage these axles may have done to my car. Any ideas what could be causing this vibration? The vibration disappears when you put the transmission in neutral or park. There were no vibration issues with this car prior to the axle replacement. They had also changed the oil and added 5 full quarts instead of the recommended 4.2 quarts. I noticed the overfill right away and they drained the excess too. Could this lead to vibration issues? If this isn’t enough, the local Subaru repair shop had pointed out last year some minor seepage with both head gaskets. The car only has approximately 29,000 miles now and I have kept up with all maintenance since the car was new. They said they would monitor the situation. They also added Stop Leak earlier this year. I have not had any actual leaking, no stains on the driveway, etc. I know the older models had head gasket issues, but have you seen it in a car with such low mileage. Anyway, I need to address the vibration issue with the local mechanic; any ammunition you can arm me with?

    • Justin Stobb says:

      An 04 with 29k will be more likely to have a HG issue than an 04 with 100k.

      Is it possible they are just seeping oil, that’s the typical on a 2003 and newer, and if that’s the case coolant stop leak wont help an oil leak.

      As far as the axles go, unless you paid $450.00 to $500.00 a side you don’t Have new Subaru Axles.

      If the boots are replaced on your original axles prior to joint failure you wont have any problem, if not and the axles are replaced with made in China, or Subaru Reman in Mexico you will have a problem.

      There really isn’t any thing else I can say about the axles its cut and dry in my opinion. I feel bad that you have had to deal with the Vibration issue I dont know if your axles had questionable joints or if the shop has a ” afraid to take axles apart mentality”.

      I will tell you its a very competitive business with low customer loyalty, do to price concerns the shop may have a “replace the axle with made in china” policy to be competitive with what everyone else quotes out, save for a few top tier shops. I know this doesn’t completely excuse the chines axle in place of a made in Japan component but i am merely trying to provide some insight into the industry.

      Justin

  33. Nicole says:

    Hi Justin! First, many thanks for your site. I’ve bookmarked you and made you my new best friend. I recently acquired my beloved ’99 Forester who was having the right rear wheel bearing issue when I got her. My mechanic replaced it and she was great. Then the front left axle started clicking at left turns. I got a new axle from the parts store that I haven’t had the time to put on the car yet. I wish I’d have thought of just replacing the boots and regreasing the joints sooner so I could have avoided further damage. Just yesterday it started clicking while traveling straight. Does it sound like my Subaru axle may be too damaged to repair? Well, I’m going to look at it once it’s off the car anyway. I’m definitely not using this most-likely Chinese axle. I’ll return it and hit a few local junkyards to pull another Subaru axle to repair in case I can’t fix the one I have. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge with us and I’ll be reading more soon!

  34. John says:

    hey Justin,
    bit the bullet and bought a 380$ new axle from the dealership for my 05′ outback(last one). For anyone out there who thinks they can go to autozone and buy a 75$ axle and have good luck your crazy. These parts are machined for a precise fit and continued reliability BY SUBARU!!.

  35. Mark says:

    Hey Justin,

    I have an 02 WRX. I had a failure of the driver side inner CV boot, and after reading the forums I feel comfortable that I can get the axle off. You sold me on replacing the boots (not the whole axle) because of the quality concerns. So I plan on replacing all 4 front boots at the same time. But I’ve heard this can get really messy…also, the boots I bought at Napa come with a bunch of little clips and rings.

    Any advice for a first timer like me on how to proceed? Do I disassemble the boots and clean all the old grease out, then regrease with the contents of the grease package provided with the boot? One forum recommended brake cleaner to finish the cleaning job, yes or no? Do I need to pay attention to the re-insertion of the axle with any particular alignment?

    Thanks for any help for a newbie here!

    • Justin Stobb says:

      I would return the Napa boots, and buy Subaru ones.

      It needs to be disassembled, cleaned, re greased. Care must be taken to install the axles properly there is a roll pin to remove to remove the axle form the stub shaft.

      Justin

  36. Russ says:

    Hi Justin,

    Thanks for the informative article. I have an 06 STi and seem to have this problem.

    I’m curious what the clicking noise is from? WHen the CV boot rips or eventually deteriorates what happens that makes the noise people often hear? Is something seizing up?

    THanks for the good info!

  37. JT says:

    My ’03 OB Sedan had 112,000 miles on it when the right front CV starting the ominous “clicking” under power in turns, vibration, and the left front had cracks and grease on the way out.

    Like some others here, as much as I love my Subaru, $500 for an assembly is not just too high, it’s irresponsible to my family to spend. I picked up 2 Cardone complete assemblies and swapped them in myself for $150 My car has several thousand smooth miles in mountainous northern calif (I drive a 17% grade everyday to work) .

    I’m Certain, that a Subaru OEM new axle assy is the best, but the Cardone rebuilt assembly is a good deal – realistically, if the rebuilds were so unreliable Cardone would be out of business, and they operate just 2 hours from me in Sacramento Calif – so I support local economy this way also.

    Anyone with a little auto background can change one out also – don’t be scared off the job so easily. Worst one I ever changed was rusted spline to hub and just took some Kroil, puller and time to soak in.

    Great website and articles, I Love My Car!

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Its $349.99 for a Subaru Axle and it will last the life of the vehicle as long as you take care of the boots before they tear open , loose the grease and the joint becomes damaged due to lack of lubrication.

      The A1 is a cheaper option that someone warrantying the job themselves can take the risk on, I do not suggest anyone buy those parts and ask a shop to put them in or any shop use them. They simply will not last as long as the OE.

      We have seem them break, I have never seen an OE due so under the same type of use.

      I am glad you were able to make your own repair and are comfortable with the outcome.

      Justin

  38. kent says:

    Justin,
    Thanks for all the great info! I recently bought a 04 OBW with very low miles (17,000 FL granny special). I have put 24,000 on the vehicle in the past 20 months (41,000). Last week the fan belts shredded due to the harmonic balancer seperating at the rubber mold. I fixed all of that, thanks to your info! However, the passenger cv boot cracked also at the same time. Fresh grease on the exhaust. Would you recommend rebootng (since the milage is low) or going with a remanufactured?

  39. Deborah O'Bryan says:

    What a awesome site! Your information is really helpful. But at this moment a little scarey. Our 2nd vehicle is down for the count and my subaru has 265,000. miles on it. The back right hand side is making a sound similar to a cv going out but above you mentioned its most likely the tranny. I’m bringing it in to my local shop fri. to check but with my mileage. is a rear cv possible? Thanx

  40. Dan says:

    I got around to replacing my drivers-side axle this week in my 2003 Outback. I figured out why the old axle was leaking cv grease – not cause the boot was bad, but because the previous owner installed the wrong axle!

    Wrong length and very poor construction such that the metal cup/receiver on the inboard side which holds the joint had a break in it. There was a little metal disc floating in the cup and the cup itself was wide open on the differential side. This allowed grease to come out and made it look like the differential seal was leaking. I took apart the inner joint and it was the wrong kind of joint. Instead of the very robust OEM tripod-style joint, it was a 6-ball-bearing style, but with very small bearings and a terrible cage. As soon as I pulled the thing apart, all the bearings fell out. The outboard joint was very notchy and sticky too – probably from overheating. There was evidence of the wheel bearing grease flowing on that side due to improper sealing as well, so I will probably need a new wheel bearing at some point. So far no symptoms.

    I don’t know what brand axle this bad one was, but I swapped it with what I think is a Cardone (my old passenger-side that I rebuilt with new boots) and it works great now. This axle has the proper tripod-style inner joint at least. The passenger side on my car was already swapped with a RockAuto/Cardone axle which is still working after a year.

    With the bad axle gone, there is no more vibration at idle and no leaking grease!

    I would prefer to have OEM axles, but luckily the Cardone ones I have are working OK. Hopefully they will last more than a year or two. If not, I’ll just get the OEM axles.

    Thanks again to AWD Auto!

    Cheers,
    Dan

  41. Kirsten says:

    Hello,
    I have a 2005 Subaru Outback 2.5i. A bit of a long story here…just looking for some advice. Back in February, I had my car in for an oil change and was told that an axle boot was cracked and that both boots were needing repair. I got that work done. I stupidly did not ask what side they repaired. Fast forward to May. I got new tires at a tire shop and they did a check and found that I had a torn boot on the passenger side of my car and recommended replacing the axle. I called my dealer back and they said they replaced the driver side axle. (One of my questions is, can a boot completely tear within just a 3 month period?). So, me not knowing the difference until seeing this forum, had the tire place replace the axle on the passenger side. I have been having problems with vibration at idle ever since. I brought it back and they did not believe me. I brought back paperwork from this forum and they replaced the axle today with a Subaru reman, but they said the vibration is still occurring. (I am picking up the car later today.) So, is my only option left to get an OEM axle? If so, where would be the best place to get one from? I am kind of tied to the tire place to do it as they will not charge more labor since they originally replaced it. It’s so frustrating…I was just trying to do the right thing and take care of a car problem and instead have come in to more problems because of it. I just want my Subaru to drive the way it used to. Any advice you have would be much appreciated.
    Thank you,
    Kirsten

  42. Wendy says:

    A Subaru mechanic told me I need to replace my front CV boots; they’re torn. How many hours does it take to replace both boots? I was quoted a price of $715.00. Is this reasonable? What should it cost?

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Wendy,

      If you think you are being given a questionable price you should check around in your part of town to see what the going rate is.

      We dont charge anywhere near that.

      I would also suggest that you develop a relationship with a good shop, so when a repair comes up you dont question it so much.

      Hope that helps

      Justin

  43. Dfminnesota says:

    Excellent site and information. Based on your expert info I got my timing belt replaced (2006 Baja Sport 5spd, 122,000), along with the tensioner and idlers (the dealer balked a bit but when I asked for a lifetime warranty as you suggested, they complied)….they mentioned that the “left front axle boot is significantly torn” and should be replaced….I have 2 questions: 1. how long can I wait ? (I have to wait at least a week to get another paycheck to pay for it)….2. Is it best to just have the boot replaced and keep the original axle if possible ?
    If I lived anywhere near WA I would bring it to you guys
    Thanks !

  44. Jayson says:

    Justin, Great Info Here.
    I have a 04 Forester 156000 miles, and need to replace the cv axles.
    I am a DIYer and read your article and posts in preparation to do this repair. I have located some OEM axles and also in my search I found after market EMPI axles. You mentioned earlier you like the EMPI boot kit.

    “I like the Empi boot kit or The O.E. Subaru boot.

    As far as a Japanese axle the Tsunami put that on hold there is no supply as of right now.

    Justin”

    Would EMPI axles work or should I go ahead with OEM?
    I also don’t know if the axles on this have been changed out with the cheapies prior to me.

    Thanks in advance
    Jayson

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Jayson,

      You are better off with the OEM.

      Empi for their reasons uses the larger 2WD style joints as they consider it a heavy duty design, we have found this to cause all sorts of trouble.

      Justin

  45. D.griffis says:

    Have 2005 Outback. Both front axles and left rear axle have been replaced. They are NOT Subaru OEM. Having most of the problems stated above. Dealer has reman axles, but cannot get new ones. Should I trade, take my chances with what I have, or replace with reman?

  46. Daniel says:

    Justin-

    The joint on the Drivers side front completely broke apart at the wheel. I had checked the boot recently and it wasn’t torn or anything. I don’t think I can just reboot it because it must have failed for a reason. Now I’m stuck having to buy a new axle. I was going to spend the $170 to buy a reman Subaru axle from the local dealer until I found this blog. It seems that you don’t really recommend them. I don’t want to pay a premium price if it’s not worth it. For someon like me where a reboot is not an option, what do you suggest? Subaru reman or some other aftermarket brand. I can get a used one off of eBay for about $50 also. What would you suggest?

    • Justin Stobb says:

      We would suggest a new axle from Subaru if the car was here, the axle should be around $380.00 plus labor.

      Typically a good new Subaru Axle will last the life of the car.

      Justin

  47. [...] that Justin Stobb at All Wheel Drive Auto claims that the Subaru remans are not dependable: Seattle Subaru CV Boots And Axle Problems Explained – Seattle Subaru Repair I read on here that Cardone does the remans for Subaru. Does anyone know if this is true or not? [...]

  48. kristine t says:

    I have had both front CV’s (Chinese) and ball joints replaced four months ago in 99 Legacy SUS, and the front left has been clicking again when I turn left, and seems to be getting worse as the weather gets colder. It seems to be when i first start the car, but not necessarily if it is driven a bit and “warms up”. I brought it back to the place that did the work, they said it has no play and is very tight. They told me it is the transmission, and that I don’t have to worry. I am EXTREMELY wary of this diagnosis, and am searching for some insight! Aside from putting on the actual Subaru axle, which I intend to do after reading this thread, have you ever heard of a transission clicking?

  49. Hi,
    great information here…I agree with a few who wrote here…wish I had read this BEFORE I had my front axles replaced at a Tune Up Masters shop (bad idea). I had them replaced there to immediately eliminate the origination of smoke that was coming from under the hood, since the boots were torn. Check. Then it was determined that it was actually the head gaskets that were leaking and causing the smoke. I took it (Subaru Forester 2002, manual) to the Subaru dealership: head gaskets, clutch plate (because I told then I was feeling a “gripping” when starting to move the car, after the axles were replaced at Tune Up Masters), timing belt, break pads, alternator (because they blew it out when mis-connecting the wiring after re-installing the engine) and…what else…?…that was all. So then (1 month after axle install) I start to hear a clicking from the wheels with acceleration and turning left. I knew it was the axles as I sensed were wrong the instant I drove it with the new axles (which I now know are some knock-off axle company called Under Car Parts, not OEMs). Tune Up Masters replaces the left axle…next day, clicking. Engine is humming great when disengaging the transmission/axles. So the Tune Master guy is perplexed, “never happened before” etc. Talks to his “master mechanic friend” who says it can’t be the axles. Perfect. So now he is discussing with his boss about what to do, etc. I just want the OEM axles put in and I will pay the difference in the cost. Question being, what if the OEMs are installed and there is still a clicking noise? Could there be ANY other reason other than the axles? These crappy axles have got to be it, especially from what I have read here. Thanks!

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Isaac,

      Without driving it and hearing it I cant answer that Question but most likely its just poor Quality Axles, and I will leave this information as well, the longer a poor Quality Axle is left in your Subaru the better the chance of it damaging the transmission. That’s the part that a lot of shops just don’t understand

      Justin

      • That’s what I figured, since it is all connected. Makes sense. I will get on it with these guys and for the education of all who are reading your forum, I will write in the future the outcome of all this.

        Isaac

  50. Doug says:

    At what average mileage should a person with a new ’13 Outback begin to expect boot issues. I live in Arizona. Also are there any preventative measures I can take to prevent boot failures? Sounds like regular routine (@oil service) inspections in order to head off axle problems. Do the axles just fail at some point anyway? Thanks.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Doug,

      Thats a great question and something I have not brought up until now, the newer Subaru models have the Catalyst closer to the cylinder heads to help maintain higher exhaust temperatures, as such the right side inner CV boot should theoretically last longer.

      I would say that the 2010 to 2014 Legacy and Outback should require CV boot replacements as maintenance every 100k or so rather than the right front inner at 60k, its possible to get more mileage, and its also possible that a boot becomes torn earlier especially if used on forest service roads. I am basing this on the current expectations of the boots on the left side of an older NA 2.5l Outback

      The Axle itself should last the life of the car if the boots and thus the grease inside are maintained.

      Thanks

      Justin

      • Doug says:

        Thank you! I am seriously considering a ’13 Outback and just trying to know what I might see down the road. Leaving a 05′ Passat wagon tdi with 130k+. Every 50-60k I’ve had to replace cv boots & a axle. Don’t want or need another maintenance queen, which I feel the Passat has been to some degree especially in this area.

  51. ampsucker says:

    my mom has 05 subaru outback wagon. i have been watching both front inner CV boots leak for about 7K miles. (only 49K on car! – she drives it about 6K miles per year). i originally suspected the metal bands were not tight enough and the boots were leaking out thin grease which was heated to drip point by close proximity to the hot cats. this last inspection, both boots have large rips/cracks in the accordian area. all other boots (6) appear pristine and normal. so, i conclude, it is in fact the proximity of these front inner boots to the hot exhaust which results in premature failure. and, it is not just thin grease but an actual degradation or “cooking” of the rubber boot material.

    we are currently looking for a local shop to replace just the boots with OEM subaru boots i will be ordering tomorrow.

    my question is this: has anyone explored having an exhaust shop move the cats back a few inches to keep this problem from happening again? say it costs $500 to have both boots repaired every 50K miles, it might make sense to pay an exhaust shop a hundred or so to have the cats cut out and re-welded a few inches farther away from the boots.

    any thoughts or experience with this approach?

    thanks for your site and your time.

    ampsucker

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Forget about the Exhaust thing you will affect how the Catalyst perform and possibly set a check engine light. The Cats need to be close to the Cylinder heads to reach light off.

      The car is also 8 years old which makes the boots 9 or 10 years old, rubber only lasts so long.

      Justin

  52. eric says:

    Have a vibration on my 2000 outback. Feel it through the whole car as opposed to just the front and its most noticeable at highway speeds. Mechanic who did not have a lot of Subaru experience thought the vibration was coming from the main drive shaft. He said they have to be replaced as one complete the unit and are around 900 hundred dollars. Does this make sense to you. Thanks eric

  53. terry says:

    I just got done replacing my left inner axle boot on my 99 outback. the boot had been torn for a while but the inner joint showed no signs of wear.Im getting a vibration from 25 to 35 mph.is it possible to over tighten a front axle nut? I didnt use a torque wrench. and tighten it till the nut bottomed out on the axel shaft.

  54. terry says:

    thank for not answering my question

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Truly sorry fo the slow response

      I am really busy this week at the shop with one Tech on Vacation and having to fill in for him, as such the web questions have to wait until I have time like at 8:52 on a Wednesday after helping my son with his Science project, who by the way has been sick all week and its due tomorrow.

      So your welcome, and ill answer the other 73 questions around yours instead.

      Im always here to help, but on my terms and when I can.

      Justin

    • Mikey says:

      Thanks for being an assclown, TERRY!

  55. Dan Broeckling says:

    Hey Justin.
    my question is will front axles from a 2005 legacy gt fit a 2004 baja. both are the 2.5L turbo w/ 5 speed manual transmission. Thanks for your time.

    Dan Broeckling.

  56. Rick says:

    My kid has an 02 outback with 4 cyl and auto trans… lots of miles. It was doing fine till Sat. when making a 1 mile trip to the store, all of a sudden it started clunking in forward and reverse and is undriveable. The clunking comes with vibrations but isn’t quite constant as to how far the wheel spins. It feels almost like its a gear skipping a tooth.
    Anything else you need to know just ask.
    Thanks,
    Rick

  57. Seth M says:

    i have a 2000 outback ltd and recently i get a loud vibrating/rattling sound whenever i slow down or idle. it gets louder when i have to slam on the brakes. my actual brakes/pads are fine thouh. Any idea whats causing the rattling noise?

    thx in advance for any help

  58. Shaun says:

    Hi, great read and wish I’d come across this earlier. I have a 2006 Outback 2.5 with 138,000kms on it (live in Australia). Couple of months ago, noticed the burning grease smell and had a look, sure enough the drivers side boot was split. Took it to a mechanic for new discs and rotors and replacement boots. Soon after, the car started vibrating on acceleration and at around 80kms/hr, and felt sluggish. Worked out the drive shafts needed replacing so I had it done this week at Pedders Suspension (a nation wide suspension franchise).

    Picked it up Friday, immediately noticed the car sounded like the exhaust was loose and when in drive, vibrated badly. Driving was much better, car felt responsive again. But the vibration is not normal. I took it back saturday, the technician first tried topping up the tranny fluid, then checked codes, then suggested the car was relearning after having the battery disconnected. I’ve maintained I think it’s the driveshafts, as it was simply not there when I dropped it off. They use Whiteline shafts rebranded as their own.

    I still have the old shafts, is it too late to get them rebuilt, or have I left it too long? Does my symptoms sound like this problem using non oem shafts?

    Thanks for your time
    Shaun

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Shaun,

      If the original components vibrated on acceleration the inner joint was most likely failing, which would make it tough to “rebuild” as the individual components are not really readily available.

      Whenever there is an axle related issue I generally suggest new CV axles from Subaru, its a one and done kind of a thing.

      Justin

  59. Brad says:

    When replacing a CV Joint boot, aside from repacking the bearing, how much grease should be put in the replaced boot ? Pack full of grease? … Fill 1/2 way with grease ? Any help appreciated. Thanks … Brad

  60. Tony Mwanakambwa says:

    i experienced a diff seizure and so i organized a new diff and prop shaft. after replacing them when testing the vehicle, it was vibrating just for take off and became more at speeds of 40km/h. checked again we discovered a worn out gear box mounting. i replaced that as well but there was slight improvement though the vibration was still there. what else can we check i have used 2 repair shops and we can’t resolved the issue. please help

  61. Tony Mwanakambwa says:

    i experienced a diff seizure on a Subaru Legacy B4 1999 Model and so i organized a new diff and prop shaft. after replacing them when testing the vehicle, it was vibrating just for take off and became more at speeds of 40km/h. checked again we discovered a worn out gear box mounting. i replaced that as well but there was slight improvement though the vibration was still there. what else can we check i have used 2 repair shops and we can’t resolved the issue. please help

  62. Brad Page says:

    Justin, I do find your blog site info very valuable.

    RE: MY question about how much grease goes into the reboot of an axle …
    My local Mpls. MN Subaru dealers do not sell reboot kits. They sell boots and clamps as separate items. They do not sell grease packets. They use bulk barrels for their needs.
    The service tech guys are somewhat less than forthcoming with info as to how much grease to use.
    I will just use my best estimate of how much grease to repack based on how much is in the boot when I remove it and hope for the best.
    Thanks … Brad

  63. Haley says:

    HI Justin,

    great article. We replaced the boots and bearings at 100k miles. At about 135k miles, the car started making a clicking noise on hard Right turns. I took it to the dealer and they said it was the boots and bearings again, so we had them replaced AGAIN. However, the clicking did not go away. I brought my car back for another service yesterday at 146k miles and asked them again to look at the clicking and AGAIN they are saying it is the boots/axle and saying both front axles need to be replaced. What is going on? Is it possible that the clicking is not coming from the boot/axle because it didn’t go away with the last replacement?

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Haley,

      I am a little confused by the post.

      If boots only were replaced there is no way the clicking noise would have subsided if the joints are noisy. The axles don’t have bearings, but your Subaru has a Wheel bearing at each wheel.

      So if now the suggestion is the axles due to the joints being noisy that would be correct, the question would be why were just boots done if it actually needs joints?

      Now if Aftermarket axles are being installed at each visit then yes also that would explain the noise.

      The only way to really long term take care of a axle noise issue is to replace the axle with a new unit from Subaru, nothing re-manufactured, nothing aftermarket.

      Hope that helps

      Justin

  64. Dave says:

    I had a 1998 outback sport that I bought new. My first CV went at 18,000 miles and wheel bearings at about 24,000 miles. Both were covered under warranty – so no big deal. Second CV went at 37,000 miles. Out of warranty, but Subaru replaced free of charge. Wheel bearings were again replaced by Subaru at about 50,000 miles. I got no more than 20,000 miles out of my cv’s up until I sold the car at 125,000 miles. All were replaced by Subaru and they weren’t cheap! I never knew what a CV was until I bought a Subaru. Because of my Subaru CV problems I now own a Jeep Wrangler – no CV’s (solid front and rear axles). Of course, now I have a host of other issues, but haven’t had to replace a CV in 100,000 miles!

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Your right the 1998 Impeza did have right rear wheel bearing issues, and add to that the tool Subaru came up with to lesson the time it took to make the repairs resulted in a very short repair life.

      One glaring example of why the Dealer should never be your choice when paying for repairs, as they will fix it the same way when you pay for it as when Subaru does.

      The cv axle thing puzzles me a bit but because you are not stating what happened to the Cv axle its hard to comment on, if you used it off road and the boot became torn, thus allowing the joint to fail that all makes sense and yes you would be better off if your Jeep if thats how you use the car, but I would rather be in the Impreza in an accident.

      Justin

  65. Jeff says:

    Both my front boots are torn and I just bought the car (96 Legacy, 2.5L, AWD, Auto). There isn’t any knocking at all yet so I don’t know how bad it really is. Had the exhaust replaced as it was all rusted out and the mechanic wants to replace both front axles (285ea parts & labor–this is Brooklyn, NY so prices are higher). Clearly he’s not thinking about installing OEM axle assemblies. If I purchase a new assembly (looks like I can get one for $400) I’d need two to replace both, right? So $800? Is there any way I can independently assess whether or not the whole assembly actually needs to be replaced or if I can just do the boots (w/a good cleaning and re-grease)? I am taking it to another shop for a second opinion.

    Incidentally, is there any simple way that I can tell if my subaru has OEM axles or not?

    Thanks!

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Subaru OEM axles will have green CV Joints, that’s the only way to Identify them.

      As far as can the y be rebooted, that’s best left to a Subaru Tech to determine, many Techs for some reason unknown to me will gravitate to just installing a Axle rather then re-booting.

      Justin

  66. Rob says:

    Hey Justin,

    I have an 02 Outback Wagon, 2.5L Auto. A few months ago during normal oil change, the tech noticed my front left inner CV boot was ripped and grease was sprayed everywhere. Not knowing any better, I had them replace the CV Axle. A couple weeks went by and started getting clicking/clunking when turning sharp left. Eventually it started happening more often… even while driving straight. After more trips back to the shop, they finally agreed to replace the CV Axle with a brand new one. This one makes this noise even worse. It clicks only when I’m accelerating while turning left or driving straight. It makes no noise with my foot of the gas, in reverse, or neutral. I found your site yesterday and realize my ignorance… will no replace with OEM CV Axle. Should I be worried about damage to my differential?

    • Rob says:

      I meant to say it only makes noise with my foot on the gas… while accelerating. No noise when I let up on the gas.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Rob,

      Sorry to hear about all of the trouble. But I am glad you found this post.

      As long as you get the made in China Axle out soon and replace it with a New unit from Subaru you should be just fine, its when the faulty axle stays in for a long period of time is there going to be an issue.

      Hope that helps

      Justin

  67. ray says:

    Thanks for making the WWW beneficial, your information is always enlightening!
    Can you post what conditions the joints would have to be in to replace vs new-booting? Obviously my ignorance here…can the split in the boot be separated enough to identify the color of the cv joints…eg green is genuine???
    Thanks very much in advance
    ray

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Yes the Green joint would typically signify its Still OE.

      And no the joint needs to come apart and to look at all of the components of the joint to see if they have become compromised.

      -Justin

  68. Christa says:

    This articel explains a lot of the problems we’ve been having, but it also kind of make me feel like our car might be approaching the age of unfixable! We have a 1991 Subaru Loayle Wagon, 4WD. We bought it two years ago and first thing we’re told the axles are broken and need to be replaced. At this point we hadn’t done any work on it, so we trusted our mechanic “friend” to do the job. The replacements lasted for less than a year before we started hearing a knocking sound when we turned. My husband is a decent hobby mechanic, so he took out the axle himself this time and it was broken at the CV joint already. He replaced it with a cheap remanufactured one, and then a month later the other side broke. Same story, replaced it with a remanned. Went about 3-4 months, then they both went out. This time we took it to a mechanic to make sure it was installed right, mechanic said it looked good it was just a cheap part. He replaced them with slightly better ones, and they lasted another 2 months. Both were replaced, lasted about 2 months again. So my husband broke down again and replaced both of them, this time they lasted 3 weeks!! Granted, our commute has increased in the last few months so we’ve been putting more miles on it, but we’ve got to find a better solution than new axles every month!

    We’ve tried parts from O’Reilly and Napa, same results from both. We called a Subaru dealer and they wanted $400 for each axle, which we can’t afford right now. Long story short, is there any axle we can put in this car that will last?! It’s currently our daily driver right now, but we’re restoring a 1981 Toyota Land Cruiser BJ60 that we want to use as our daily once it’s finished. We’ve put a lot into keeping this Subaru running and want to keep it running as a second car for a few more years at least. Any suggestions would be incredibly helpful!!

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Crista,

      Thats awful!

      Any Subaru loyale axle from 1985 to 1994 will interchange as long as its not 2WD, or Turbo and there are some variables with the Turbo models that get complicated to explain so I just omitted them all together, I mention this for the enthusiast that wants to post that this one year turbo axle interchanges and I am wrong, lol.

      If your car was here we would try the EMPI brand, lets be honest its difficult to locate a new Subaru axle so we are stuck with a Chinese one, I have fund EMPI to be a little bit better than the rest and feel strongly they should last at least a couple of years.

      If you are unable to locate any, email us and my parts manager Ken can take care of you.

      -Justin

  69. Christa says:

    Just a note, after reading through I’m realizing the advice is probably going to be spend the money on a Subaru axle! I looked at their parts website and it seems like they’ve discontinued them for this car. We can go to pick-n-pull and try to get an axle off one in the yard, would we need to make sure it’s the same year and also 4WD? The wider range of cars we have to choose from the more likely we’ll find one in decent shape!

  70. jacqueline says:

    I was just told by my mechanic that the grease spewed over my driver side inner wheel is the result of a torn CV boot, BUT that it is o.k. to drive a 150 miles to take a flight and another 150 miles return. After reading your comments for over an hour, I’m calling him to ask if I am not risking damage to the axle if it isn’t already damaged. I’ve been driving it with the slight smell for up to 500 miles over a month, I would guess. “Thank you,” cannot express the gratitude for the time you take to help us so far from Seattle.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Jacquline,

      While I don’t want you to panic, your right in that the joint should not be allowed to run dry and thus overheat and fail prematurely. It sounds like you are on the right path to getting it repaired properly. The next part is avoiding a chines axle if its damaged already.

      Thanks for your post and kind words.

      Justin

  71. Nina says:

    I, like so many others on this thread, took my trusty 2004 outback to the shop for regular service and was told I had a torn cv boot. So made an appointment with my very trust worth mechanic to have the axle replaced. Lucky me he had the part in stock amd had done 7 already that month… that should have been a sign, one size does not fit all. Got her back and heard the clicking/creaking. Called, returned it, and he checked and saw no problems and heard no noise. I took her back and the noise got worse. So I returnedy xar to my mechanic and put my foot down about the noise. Don’t call me until you figure out what it is. He said it was a defective axel, ordered a new one, and replaced it again. Not even 10 miles down the road this evening and the clicking has returned. I’ve got a trip out of town planned for the weekend, 500 miles round trip. Will my beloved subaru be okay for this length of travel or should I rent a car?

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Nina,

      Yes its the same story we hear about and observe all to often as well.

      I hesitate to give advice about the travel-ability of any car without seeing here at the shop.

      Here is what needs to happen The shop needs to credit you back the money you spent on the Chinese garbage they put in your Subaru, towards the installation of a new Axle form Subaru, do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars and do not try anything else.

      Sorry to be blunt but there are no other options.

      -Justin

  72. Josselyn says:

    I have spent two hours reading all of the comments and I will say you are a lifesaving gentlemen.
    Here is my story: a month ago I bought a subaru Impreza, AWD 1995 manual transmission so the car needs to pass inspection so I took it to a shop in a gas station to do inspection car I bought was from a senior so to be a 1995 he put only 96,000 miles on it but before taking it I asked a friend to tell me of the car would pass inspection, he said YES that the car was in excellent conditions, the guy at the shop takes the car and starts checking the car so I left the for 3 hours when I get back dashboard has a no light every light shows okay but the dashboard light is no longer working(which was when I took it there) then he says that stop lights were not working which I am super sure they were, then he tells me that the rear axles are okay but it would be better to replace them at the end he comes up with a quote of over 900$, so I told him thanks and left, I fixed everything myself(well husband) but we bought aftermarket axles and they didn’t fit and then when to every auto parts in the area to compare the axles with theirs and is the same one I bought I honestly cannot afford OEM as you have suggested.
    My concern is that when I see pics of the axle Same year same model and even go with VIN# it comes up the same part I already bought and is slightly different, but when trying to install it doesn’t go all the way in and a friend told us that if we try to push it, might result damaging something, my question is why this difference and should I leave the new part even though is different, I read your add to late if I had read this before I would have changed the boots only as you suggested, my husband ripped one boot is it to late to just replace the boot now? Thank you so much for your time, we need more people like you around here

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Josselyn,

      Your a little all over the place here, you replaced the rear axles not the front?

      Hard for me to determine what is going on with out seeing it but I am not picturing what you are trying to describe when you say it wont go all the way in?

      Do the new axles match the old axles in length?

      Any CV axle bought at a general parts store any more is going to be made in china and of low quality, I understand budgets but we actually don’t always have the choices we think we do in parts.

      -Justin

  73. Peter Schultz says:

    Just my two cents…
    I don’t understand how we can trust Subaru who is driven to satisfy the Subaru owners is ignoring the axle/boot issue. I have two Subarus (2005 LGT ad 2005 Outback XT) and living in SoCal.
    Both inner boot is torn in every 30000/4000 miles on the clock from the heat of the engine. The rest of the boots are perfect, with 130000 and 180000 miles on them. So why Subaru doesn’t want spend a couple bucks extra to make the front inner boots from a heat resistant silicon based rubber? It is OK to charge for a new axle $399 dollar or go to the stealer ship every 30000/40000 miles to spend couple hundreds bucks on the fixing the boot, right?
    On the other hand the dealers are selling the REMAN axles, which also a POS, so how we can trust them either?
    I don’t know – seeing couple hundred posts on the axle issue – doesn’t make me a happy Subi owner. On the other hand there is not one reputable Subaru independent shop in SoCal and the stealer ships are awful. I love my Subis, nothing make me happier when seeing people fooling with the chains or know I was the last one coming up to Big Bear in a foot of snow, the rest stuck somewhere. I think the parts and dealer situation is destroying the reputation of an otherwise awesome car.
    BTW, I wish I can take my car to service by your shop. I checked you guys are 1100 miles from me(one way)

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Peter,

      So on the Turbo models the drivers side axle is not really affected by exhaust temperature as much as the passenger side is, next every 30k is extreme, I wonder if anyone has inspected for any other causes, or if aftermarket boots are being used.

      Yes the Reman axles are not our favorite and Subaru does go through CV boots more so than most other makes due to the Design of the Boxer engine, its one of three trade offs.

      If the boots were made of something else I fear they would gain in durability as it pertains to heat only to suffer from too rigid a boot to flex when cold and would tear anyways.

      For the record the inner boot is thicker than the outer in most applications.

      Our 2005 XT only had to have the CV axles rebooted once in 150k and even then it was because they leaked at the clamps.

      So the first time this happened to you it should have been covered under the 5 year 60k powertrain warranty? I wonder if OE boots were in fact used or if the Dealer that did the work may have bought them from an outside vendor or if the Tech is not making sure the air is purged out as the clamp the boots to the axle?

      Why I realize to a Customer any Dealership is Subaru, but they are merely franchises some corporate franchises in fact. While the do have some structure in place I have observed plenty at the few I worked at to discourage any from frequenting until the model changes.

      So cal is a huge area and there are a lot of Subaru’s, I promise if you look you will find a good shop the market place demands it.

      -Justin

  74. Sam Bartlett says:

    Very enlightening discussion. I have a 1989 RX All Wheel That has had a click since I got it 30,000 miles ago but never understood what I was hearing till recently. It has gotten bad enough now that I am hearing it even on the straight away, and I am seeing wear on the front driverside tire that I am not seeing on the passenger side. Checking the Subaru site said that the OEM is NLA. About the only sources of supply for anything down here on the Central Oregon Coast is either NAPA or Carquest, or let Les Schwab do it and trust them to try to get something decent or rely on their own warranty. From the discussion above things don’t sound promising, but I can’t really afford to give the car up, either. Besides, I really like it. Despite it’s age, it has less than 120.000 on it. If there are any other better options, I’m open to suggestions.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Sam,

      For the Older model Subaru’s where there is no longer any support from Subaru we have tried the Axles from Empi, the results have been somewhat mixed however.

      -Justin

  75. ryan says:

    I have a 95 legacy awd 2.2l and recently replaced the tranny. About a month later I was coming to a stop and started feeling some heavy vibration from the pass front andas I got close to stopping it felt like the pass front axle had popped out and was banging around. I pulled over and looked but the axle was still in tact amd couldnt see anything wrong. I started to roll the car to see if I could see anything and I could see the motor moving like it was being pushed. Kinda like thw axle was stuck and pushing the motor forward. I replaced the axle n the problem went away for about a month and now its doing it again. Could it be the axle or maybe the tranny is no good? Also I know the tranny mount I bad and causes some vibration and I plan om replacing it as soon as the dealership gets me the part could that cause my main vibration problem

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Ryan,

      Could be the Axles, Could be the Transmission, could be the Mount.

      If replacing the axle seemed to make it go away for a while maybe try and get that axle warrantied as a starting point if you are unable to diagnose the cause?

      -Justin

  76. Hans says:

    It seems that you are the recognized expert for Subaru axle problems. Last week my wife complained of a noise and jerking while driving. I assumed the axle since it had been clicking for a while already. I replaced the front left axle (reman) without incident. The noise is gone but the jerking motion persists. It occurs intermittently only, when decelerating (coasting) but not actually braking. The steering wheel will suddenly jerk to the left for a split second only. Could it be ABS? Brake pads grabbing? Transfer case? I’m stumped. This is on a 2002 Forester.
    Thanks,

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Hans,

      I would start by inspecting the tires for separation or radial tire run-out.

      -Justin

      • Hans says:

        Interesting. I think I will rotate the fronts to the rear and see if that makes a difference. I’ll let you know – thanks.

        • Hans says:

          So I ruled some things out which in itself is progress. Rotated the tires front to back with no change. Only one tire showed signs of wear and that was the front passenger (which is now on the rear passenger side) but the wear was even across the tread – no alignment problems that I could see.
          I then removed the entire ABS sensor from both wheels and tied it out of the way with a zip tie while I made a test drive – no change
          I also don’t think its the brakes as it does not feel like a wheel drag, just a sudden, momentary jerk to the left.
          So now I am thinking steering rack. I did see evidence of some sustained leakage at the rack seals and steering gear. Both boots were torn although the tie rod ends and ball joints were good. Fluid level was good.
          Could an air pocket or a malfunctioning valve inside the rack cause a sudden push or pull to one side?
          The only other possibility is the differential. I checked the runout of the half-shaft because when I replaced the left axle I pulled out the stub shaft along with it. The retaining ring seemed deformed slightly. I measured slight lateral movement of no more than 1/8 inch at the differential but I noticed the same amount of play with the right axle which I had not touched.
          Looking forward to your comments!

          • Justin Stobb says:

            Hello Hans,

            If you have a rotational type issue It cant be the Rack, the next thing that comes to mind is either the Wheel bearing or Hub, if the Axle it self is okay, have you tried swapping the Axles left to right?

            -Justin

  77. Hans says:

    So why did my previous submission not get posted?

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Your last post just like your first post are moderated.

      If you saw the type of things that came in behind the scenes you would understand, non moderated blog sites lead to Viagra sales posts from China, links to porn sites, Get rich from home posts and more than I could possibly ever comment about. If you spend enough time on the Internet you will see what I am talking about.

      -Justin

  78. Matt Dominish says:

    Left front (drivers side) makes a slight grinding noise or rumble when I drive on bumpy or humping type pavement. as the weight is taken off and put back down on the front end I hear the noise. Is this a CV issue or wheel bearing.
    Thanks for any advise!

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Matt,

      Just not sure without hearing it my self, it could really be either. Does the noise gain with speed, is it obviously rotational or is the grinding the same pitch regardless of speed?

      -Justin

  79. Matt Dominish says:

    It is the same pitch,
    After letting a friend test drive it with me in the passenger seat, I was wrong in the drivers side being the area of the noise. It is right at the passenger front side were I changed the CV-axle with a aftermarket. Now I am really leaning to the aftermarket CV being bad.
    The pitch-groaning is constant or equivalent do to speed.
    After it sits for a while (night) and I pull out in reverse it sounds to me the grinding of the CV joint as if it failed and is now on its way out. (with only 10-12,000 miles on it.)
    Aftermarkets are ONLY $89 but OEM are $290-320, is my findings correct on pricing?

    Thanks again guys!
    Matt

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Matt,

      The point of this article is to tell you to run away from aftermarket CV axles and you have an apparent issue with one already.

      The aftermarket axles at $89 are not even worth their weight in cow pies.

      New axles from Subaru are typically $379.99 MSRP

      -Justin

  80. Erik says:

    My car has been diagnosed with torn CV boots, but I didn’t get them fixed and I have driven at least the last 6 months with torn boots. How do I know if I have damaged the CV joints and need to go with an axle replacement, or if I am still fine with just replacing the boots with the original axle? I don’t seem to hear the “clicking” noise that I normally hear with damaged CV joints yet.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Erik,

      The joints will need to be examined during the course of rebooting to determine if they are worn as a result of the torn open boot and possible loss of grease.

      -Justin

      • Pat says:

        Hello,

        I have a 1990 front wheel drive manual transmission Legacy wagon. On a recent drive, a faint clunking type noise was heard from the front end, and within a couple miles escalated to a quite a prominent, loud clunk/click type noise at axle speed frequency. The noise only occurs when the wheels are being driven, and is the same whether driving straight or turning to either side

        First guess was the infamous aftermarket CV’s on the car. In trying to determine which side was the culprit, it was found the noise was from the midline of the car. With the car on a lift and wheels being driven, we alternately stopped each side’s wheel rotation, leaving only the other side’s wheel being driven to try and determine which was the bad side. The clunk-clunk-clunk sound was the same with either wheel held stationary.

        Am I correct to think this test would preclude it being a problem with the CV’s/halfshaft/etc and is pointing more towards a differential/transmission issue?

        Is the clunking sound described a possible symptom of a damaged/broken differential tooth?

        • Justin Stobb says:

          Hi Pat,

          It’s difficult to say what the trouble is without seeing it. I don’t think you have ruled out an axle at this point either but if you allow a car to run with aftermarket axles sooner or later the front differential may fail

          Sorry but that’s not one I can help with from my keyboard. I would have to drive it to know whats wrong. Sorry.

          -Justin

  81. Glenn says:

    2006 outback 2.5 200,000 miles, slight vibration during acceleration from 35mph to 60mph. Gets really bad at 60mph and above. Checked ball joints, tie-rod ends, CV boots, all good. Balanced tires, no alignment yet.

    Alignment? Axels?

    Thanks,
    GH

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Glenn,

      How were the axles checked, are they factory or chinese aftermarket? Who balanced the tires, were the tires inspected for radial tire runout? Has anyone looked at the propeller shaft or rear driveline? Alignments wont cause that kind of symptom.

      Lots more to look at.

      -Justin

  82. Stuart says:

    Hi, because I am an incorrigable diy’er, I am not only replacing the boots but I completely
    dissassembled the outer CV joints to clean them thoroughly. However, I am not succeeding in putting this rubric’s cube back together. I can get at most 4 balls back in
    before things tighten up impossibly. I notice that the ring race is thinner at one edge,
    and that the inner race has a sharp shoulder on one side.

    I assume the sharp shoulder is meant to hold the axle c-clip, so I have it on the inside
    (deep side) of the cv. I’m prejudiced to think that the thin edge of the ring race should
    be on the outside (showing) of the cv. Anyway, its certainly not coming together. any help is appreciated.

  83. Ak says:

    Hi,
    Have read all these helpful posts but not come up with an answer to my problem. Help appreciated.
    Impreza ’02 has thudding on both R and L hand turns, and on turning in reverse. No noise when driving straight, not sure if noise is present at 3rd or 4th gear. Worse when engine is warm.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Ak,

      It’s hard to tell you what a noise I cant hear is. It’s possible it’s a CV joint, wheel bearing, loose caliper, hub, transmission etc. If you are unable to determine what it is Id suggest you may want to have someone local to you have a listen? Have you looked at the front axles?

      -Justin

  84. stuart says:

    I have completely dissassembled and cleaned the front axles on my Subaru 2006 3.0.
    I know that most people just buy new axles and that the cheap ones are crap.

    On inspection, mine look fine. I have 6 of the 8 balls installed on each, can’t get
    enough space to push the final 2. Looking for advice on coaxing the ring race to
    open up more space.

  85. tony says:

    Hello excusse the spelling please i just got back from the shop with my 02 outbach the car was making a squeaky sound the mechanic tolf me after checking the car out that i had a bad drive shaft in the back that eventtualy would have to be repleced but for now he greased the s… out of it and told me i and the car should be ok for a whille it s sumer time up here and i do a lot of driving to go fishing and i do not want to get stock in the boondocks with my car on the limb should i liesten to him or get the job donne now(at a cost of a 1000 dollars)thanks

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