CV joints can cause car vibrations

A common complaint from drivers and motorists would be car vibrations occurring at highway speeds. Most mechanics and myself included would first concentrate on tire problems and wheel balance.

Picture of driveshaft universal joint

driveshaft universal joint

And this is definitely the most common cause of vibration complaints. But what do you do when you put on new tires and they balance out perfectly yet the vibration continues to exist on the vehicle. If the car is a front wheel drive automobile checking out the CV joints and the drive axles would seem to be the next logical step.

If it is a rear wheel drive automobile universal joints and drive shafts should be inspected for problems. Often these different types of driveshaft components can create car vibrations that feel very much like tire balance issues.

Vibrations from CV joints

Often when a CV joint is causing this type of vibration it will happen while the vehicle is under a power load or when accelerating. Often when you take your foot off of the gas pedal and the vibrations stop this would indicate further inspection of the CV joint and/or have shafts is necessary.

Picture of CV shaft

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CV Shaft

Note that some longer CV axles have an intermediate shaft bearing to support the drive axle. These intermediate bearings can cause the same type of vibration and even noise that a constant velocity joint might create.

While inspecting the CV joint for problems such as ripped boots or loose clamps it is also a good idea to check the transmission and engine mounts at the same time. Any of the above mentioned parts that are broken or defective can cause vibrations under load that may feel like a tire or wheel balance problem.

A good rule of thumb to apply if you have car vibrations at highway speeds is that a wheel balance problem will be continuous regardless of your throttle position. Vibrations from the CV joint would be worse under power and may disappear completely when your foot is taken off the accelerator.

This same rule of thumb would apply to a rear wheel drive vehicles using a driveshaft with standard U-joints. When these parts develop excessive clearances vibrations are usually more evident when the loose parts are under load and can disappear when the vehicle is coasting.

Checking a driveshaft and u-joints is a little easier than inspecting a CV shaft. Since there is no rubber boot or clamps to stiffen up the joint a bad universal joint can often be detected on a visual inspection by shaking the driveshaft itself while looking for play. A good joint will show no movement during a shake test.

For more information about drive train components you can visit my you fix cars website and look through the repair module for manual drive trains. For more of the latest posts here visit the blog for online auto repair. Need more information about common vibration problems on your specific vehicle? Visit the auto repair manuals page and find out how to locate technical service bulletins on car vibrations.