Some of the most vital parts of your 4×4’s movement are the CV joints. The CV joints connect the wheels to the power of the motor and make the car move along with the suspension and steering wheel. Though there are different types of CV joints, they share the primary function of keeping your wheels turning with engine power.
Do 4x4s have CV joints? Yes. There are two types of axles in 4x4s, and each of them has CV joints. The independent front suspension axles require the CV joints to turn with the wheel and go up and down. The solid axle application axles only need the CV joints to move back and forth with the wheels.
Knowing more about the suspension, axle type, and drivetrain of your 4×4 will help you to identify better if problems show up while driving. Read on to find out more about why 4×4’s have CV joints, what those CV joints do, and what to look for if you think your CV joints might be going bad.
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The CV Joints of 4×4’s
The constant velocity (CV) joint is present in all front-wheel-drive automobiles, including 4x4s. CV joints supply the power from the transmission to the drivetrain and the wheels. The CV joints in any car are essential because they need to be durable enough to move and turn with the motion of the axle, wheels, and suspension.
There are two different locations of the CV joints – inner and outer. The inner CV joint connects the transmission directly to the drive shafts, supporting and providing power to the entire axle. The outer CV joint joins both driveshafts with the wheels. Both the inner and outer CV joints serve essential purposes in the drivetrain of a vehicle.
The durability of CV joints is crucial because they are under tremendous torque from the transmission. The whole job of the CV joints is to transfer the transmission torque into the movement of the spinning wheels continuously while still being able to adapt to the up and down change of the suspension.
Since 4x4s are generally driven on rougher terrain and with harsher conditions, they make more use of the suspension and torque of the vehicle. It is vital for 4×4 wheel drive automobile owners to be aware of the issues that could arise with the various parts of the CV joint. This way, they can better diagnose any problems to this essential part of the drivetrain.
The Different Types of CV Joints
Knowing about the different types of CV joints can help you to understand how to identify and diagnose the problems that could arise with them. Inner and outer CV joints are usually made differently, and there are two main types, which are called ball-and-groove CV joints and tripod CV joints. Each of these joints is specialized for its movement on the drivetrain.
Below are some details about each of these types of CV joints:
The ball-and-groove CV joint, also known as the Rzeppa joint, is typically found on the outside joint connecting the drivetrain to the wheels. The joint is constructed to hold a center six steel bearings within grooves of the housing. These bearings are wedged into position by small slots in the assembly of the cage.
The ball-and-groove CV joint is designed to keep the balls central even when the joint is bending, which allows consistent rotation also as it moves with the suspension. The rotation around the ball bearings in the casing of the ball-and-groove joint is what allows for the constant rotation of the tires, even when the suspension of the car is going up and down.
A modification on the ball-and-groove CV joint is one that is typically used in European and Japanese cars known as the cross-groove joint. The cross-groove has the same functionality as the ball-and-groove CV joint with the added ability to slide back and forth with the changing length of the driveshaft as the suspension bends slightly up and down.
Tripod CV joints are typically located at the central joint position connecting the transmission to the driveshaft. The design of the tripod CV joint is tulip-shaped with internal bearings that are in contact with the drive shaft. These bearings allow the tripod CV joint to roll on its three legs up and down the length of the driveshaft as it works with the suspension of each wheel.
Maintenance of CV Joints
CV joints are self-contained and sealed with a rubber seal and boot that holds the lubricant grease and keeps out contaminants like dirt, oil, and other greases from inside the car. The joint casing and the lubricant inside the ball bearings should last the lifetime of the joint. These joints last for a very long time, and it is not uncommon to see CV joints that last the lifetime of the automobile with regular use.
When driving a 4×4, use may be beyond normal, and there can be wearing and tearing of the rubber seal that can cause the CV joint to become less efficient. In the worst case scenario even fail. A failing CV joint is dangerous for several reasons, mostly because it could cause loss of control and handling for the automobile.
Signs of Damage on the CV Joint
When either the inner or outer CV joints are damaged are failing, the main sign of damage is going to be leaking grease from the joint. A CV joint is a joint sealed with rubber and full of grease then surrounded by a boot that is tightened to the drivetrain with two clamps.
If the CV joint has failed from wear, the rubber has probably deteriorated or cracked and is leaking grease. To check the CV joint for damage, follow these easy steps so that you can keep your car driving smoothly and safely:
- Look for signs of dark brown or black grease leaking from the space of the CV joint.
- Get a clean, light-colored cloth that you can throw away.
- Dab around the black rubber or boot of the CV joint.
- If the towel has the dark grease on it, this is a clear sign of a leaky CV joint.
- Visually inspect the CV joint looking for bulging, cracks, or holes in the boot or rubber seal.
- Any damage should be assessed by an auto technician, and replacing the CV joint should be considered.
The CV joint is present in 4x4s of the front-wheel drive. This joint is essential for the suspension, steering, and engine power to be efficiently transferred to the wheels. The CV joint is so important that if it is not working correctly, it will be very evident. The steering will be difficult, and the vehicle will ride roughly and cause vibrations.
The CV joints on 4x4s will likely go through harsher conditions and driving than standard front-wheel-drive cars with two-wheel drive. This is because 4x4s are used to go off-road in rugged and bumpy conditions. The harder the vehicle’s suspension and wheels are driven, the more the CV joints will have to work, which will make them wear out much more quickly.
The rubber seals, ball bearings, and casings of the CV joints on front-wheel-drive cars should last the lifetime of the automobile. However, harsher conditions and rougher driving with 4x4s means that 4×4 owners should know where the CV joints are located and how to diagnose damage or wear to them.