Dear Tom and Ray:
I have a 1987 Honda Accord, and the right front CV boot on the drive axle is torn. A mechanic said it would be about $250 to replace, but then said that the tie rod must be removed and needs to be replaced, so it amounts to $500 to repair. The car has 198,000 miles and is not worth too much more than that. Should I repair, or find another beater? Meanwhile, I wrapped the boot with plastic bags from the grocery store and wrapped duct tape around the bags and then used wire to hold it in place. I did squirt some grease into the boot before I did this. Can I get along with this for a while? Is this safe? I'm afraid to go too far from home. — Bo
Tom: Fears often are irrational and misplaced, Bo. Not yours — your fear of not straying too far from home in this heap is entirely justified. And we'd encourage you to abide by it.
Ray: I'm actually less worried about the CV boot than I am about the tie rod. Long before the CV joint fails, the car will make a terrible clacking noise and eventually stop moving. But that's it.
Tom: On the other hand, if the tie rod breaks, you suddenly won't be able to steer the car.
Ray: So if you trust your mechanic, and believe the tie rod really does need to be replaced, I'd spend the $250 on that. That's a threat to your existence; the CV boot is just a threat to your transportation.
Tom: Eventually, the CV joint will degrade and fail due to lack of lubrication. The repair you did with the plastic bags and duct tape won't help. As you probably know by now, the centrifugal force of the spinning wheel will make that stuff fly off. Or even if it doesn't fly off completely, it won't do much to keep the grease packed into the joint.
Ray: There is something that does a very good job of holding the grease in there, Bo. It's called a CV boot. And it costs $250.
Tom: But if you're willing to put in a little more time maintaining it, you can pick up a tube of CV grease from your Honda dealer, and then once a week get under the car and squirt some grease into the joint.
Ray: That would push out all the water, rocks and pedestrians that the joint accumulated from the road during the week, and replace it with life-sustaining lubricant. And if you were diligent, and did that once a week or so, the joint could soldier on for a long time.
Tom: It'll take you five minutes every weekend. Well, five minutes to grease the joint, then 15 minutes to clean your hands and two hours to go out and replace the clothes you stained. But that's a safe, acceptable, midrange solution.
Ray: But you can't Mickey Mouse the tie rod, Bo. If that breaks, you'll lose control of the car. So get that fixed right away. Good luck.
(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk website.)