Car Vibration When Accelerating: Suspect Your CV Joint

Updated on January 27, 2019
eddiecarrara profile image

Eddie spent 35 years in the automotive business with Honda. He is an ASE Certified Master Technician and has bruised knuckles to prove it.

Let's take a look at the insides of a damaged CV joint (constant velocity joint).
Let's take a look at the insides of a damaged CV joint (constant velocity joint). | Source

What Causes Vibration When Accelerating?

The vibration I’m going to cover here tricks most mechanics into thinking it’s caused by a tire or bent rim. This vibration only happens when driving under heavy acceleration, like when you are approaching the highway trying to merge into the speeding traffic, or on a jackrabbit start from a traffic light.

You feel this vibration only when the vehicle is accelerating. If you lift your foot off the accelerator to maintain cruising speed, the vibration will disappear; if you press the accelerator in order to pass someone, the vibration will return.

If you experience this type of vibration and your mechanic is scratching their head, I may have the solution for you.

Damaged Inner CV Joints Can Cause Vibration on Acceleration

Damaged inner CV joints cause vibrations on acceleration and are very difficult to diagnose because the damage is so inconspicuous. You can only see it once the inner CV joint is removed from the vehicle and cleaned of all grease and debris.

What Are CV Joints?

First I need to explain what a CV joint is and where it’s located; this way you’ll understand what I’m writing about and will have a better understanding of this common automotive part.

The CV joints are located on each end of an axle. Each axle has an inner and outer CV joint.

The inner CV joint is the joint connected to the transmission. The splines of the inner CV joint mate up with the splines of the transmission differential (splines are little teeth that lock together to form a separable combination of parts) which turn the axle.

The outer CV joint is located on the outer part of the axle and is connected to the splines of the wheel hub. The outer CV joint will usually slide into the wheel hub splines and will connect the hub to the CV joint via an axle nut located in the center of the rotor or drum.

The inner and outer CV joints are connected via an axle shaft, and each of the CV joints is connected by splines notched into each end of the axle shaft and the inner part of each CV joint. Confused yet? These pictures will help I hope.

CV Joint and Transmission Splines

Here you can see that at both ends of the axle are CV joints. Each CV joint has its own splines. The CV joint at the top is the transmission end of the axle.
Here you can see that at both ends of the axle are CV joints. Each CV joint has its own splines. The CV joint at the top is the transmission end of the axle. | Source
The little teeth in the center of the picture are the splines inside the transmission differential that mesh with the splines on the CV joint.
The little teeth in the center of the picture are the splines inside the transmission differential that mesh with the splines on the CV joint. | Source

The damage that causes your vibration will usually appear inside the CV joint cup where the CV joint bearings ride. The damage shows up as pits in the smooth metal surface where the bearings glide up and down during normal driving conditions.

The pictures here tell a thousand words. You can clearly see where the damage is on the inner cup of the CV joint, but if you inspect the bearings themselves you won’t see any damage, possibly because the bearing steel is much stronger.

The mating surface of the inner cup to bearing has a very tight clearance and any slight variation in the clearance will result in this type of vibration. I was amazed to find this problem and I would have never found it without close inspection and curiosity.

Once the inner CV joint suffers this kind of damage it cannot be repaired. You will have to replace the CV joint or the entire axle.

I have known for years that inner CV joints cause vibrations on acceleration but I never knew what actually caused it. I couldn't see the actual problem even when I did an inspection while the axle was still on the vehicle. You can't feel the damage on the inside of the CV by inspecting the outside of the axle via joint play or notch ness.

Damaged Inner CV Joint

This is the minor damage inside the inner CV joint cup which caused a violent vibration under acceleration.
This is the minor damage inside the inner CV joint cup which caused a violent vibration under acceleration. | Source

Can You Drive With a Bad Inner CV Joint?

Usually inner CV joints fail slowly and the vibrations symptom gradually become worse and more noticeable over time. You end up driving with a damaged CV joint for a while before noticing. Once you discover your issue, you should have the axle replaced as soon as possible to prevent damage to anything else in the vehicle.

Can a Bad Inner CV Joint Damage a Transmission?

Yes, a damaged inner CV joint damage to the differential bearings inside the transmission as well as the axle seals located on the transmission. This is why it’s important to replace any damaged inner CV joint as soon as you notice you have a problem.

What Happens When Inner CV Joints Fail?

If one of your inner CV joints fails it could cause damage to the oil pan, transmission case, suspension parts, and exhaust system. If the inner CV joint fails completely, the remaining axle will swing around under the car like a nunchaku, damaging anything in its path. The vehicle can no longer be driven, and you will need to apply the parking brake, because without a working inner CV joint, the car will not stop rolling when put into Park position (automatic transmission) or when put into gear (for a standard transmission).

What Causes Inner CV Joint Failure?

What causes inner CV joint failure is either dry contamination or moisture. Water or dirt gets into the joint due to a CV boot being torn open and exposed to the elements, lack of lubrication, or everyday wear and tear. The CV joints are under a lot of stress every time you drive, so as with any other part, the metal starts breaking down as soon as the vehicle goes into circulation. Nothing lasts forever.

Leaking CV Joint Boots

This CV joint boot has been leaking for a while.  You can see the grease that has been slung onto the bottom of the strut and peppered with sand and debris.
This CV joint boot has been leaking for a while. You can see the grease that has been slung onto the bottom of the strut and peppered with sand and debris. | Source
Here you see an inner CV joint boot split near the cup, causing grease to leak from the joint.
Here you see an inner CV joint boot split near the cup, causing grease to leak from the joint. | Source

Will a Bad Inner CV Joint Make a Humming Noise?

I have never heard a bad inner CV joint make a humming noise. But I have never seen a million dollars either, and I know it exists. The most common cause of a humming noise while driving is either uneven tire wear or a damaged wheel bearing. You can read more about it in the other articles and videos I wrote about car noises.

Outer CV Joints, on the Other Hand, May Cause Clicking Noises

Outer CV joints create a different problem when they are internally damaged. It’s more of a noise than a vibration, and the noise can become very loud during tight turns under acceleration. As you might have guessed, CV joints are under a lot of stress while accelerating and turning, and the symptoms of a damaged axle (CV joint) will show up under these stressful conditions.

The noise a damaged outer CV joint makes is a clicking noise with a metallic tone: sometimes faint, sometimes very noticeable, but constant while turning or accelerating. It can be heard on the inside or outside of the vehicle. The noise can be compared to the sound of a kid running along a stockade fence with a stick rubbing against it.

The most common reason for this type of CV joint failure is contamination or lack of lubrication due to the CV boot being damaged. If you have a CV joint that is clicking on tight turns, look at each outer CV joint closely for any damage or leaking grease. This thick, heavy dark green or graphite-gray grease is often flung onto the suspension and brake calipers as well.

If one of your CV joints is making noise and you crawl under the vehicle to take a peek, you’ll likely notice the grease you see on and near the joint is covered with dirt and sand. That's because the joint's rubber boot didn’t just start leaking, it’s been leaking for a long time. By this point you cannot save the CV joint because the damage is already done. Replacement is the only remedy.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

If you have questions about this type of vibration, ask me here.

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    • eddiecarrara profile imageAUTHOR

      Eddie Carrara 

      2 months ago from New Hampshire

      Hi Matt,

      Is this a V6 accord 6 speed?

      Did you return it to the same mechanic who did the work initially?

      Intermediate shafts are bolted to the engine block and do not loosen up or get stripped out, the bearing could completely fail and the axle still would not pop out of the trans. There's something fishy going on here. Let me know if the same mechanic did the work and if it's a V6 6 speed.

    • profile image

      Matt K 

      2 months ago

      Hi Eddie,

      So I took my 2011 Honda Accord with 115,000 mi to a mechanic to get the CV Axel replaced. It was popping pretty bad and got worse. Previously the transmission axle ses had been replaced b/c it was leaking fluid too.

      So they put two new aftermarket axles on as they said both were bad. OEM from Honda was $1200 for parts alone.

      I noticed a shudder in the steering wheel and floorboard mostly prevalent on the DS around 20-25 mph on takeoff/acceleration. It did it only sometimes and you have to give it just the right amount of acceleration. Not to slow, not too fast.

      My wife drove it a month like this as I didn’t notice it until I drove it to the mountains and back. Took it in for warranty and had found your article in the meantime which I sent to them. I told them I thought axels were bad. They replaced both again with same brand and drove it and, but was still there. They put another AM brand and it was still there but not as bad. I had ruled out bearings, tranny, etc.

      Well after only a week the car broke down and wouldn’t move. Grinding sound. I had it towed to mechanic (fortunately local) and they said that the axle had vibrated lose due to the intermediate drive axle on the PS being bad which was stripped out. So they replaced both that and another CV axle with new parts. I got it today and it still has the shudder although everything else feels fine. I asked them what it could be and the Service Manager said it was the CV axles. He said that he could put OEM in at $1200+labor (Honda quoted $1500) or for me to just deal with it. I asked if it would damage tranny and he said no at such a low speed as it feels fine at high speeds which he would be more worried with. He said that AM parts aren’t perfect and b/c you are paying only a 1/4 to 1/3 the cost of OEM factory that there will be some discrepancies (because corners are cut, etc). I told him I would keep an eye on it if it got worst.

      What’s your opinion on this? Could it just be the AM parts and do you think it will cause damage to other parts, mainly the tranny. I’ve had $1500 worth of work done to this car in less than a year. I don’t want to keep adding expensive parts on a car that’s close to 120k miles.

      Thanks!

    • profile image

      Matt K 

      2 months ago

      Hello

    • eddiecarrara profile imageAUTHOR

      Eddie Carrara 

      2 months ago from New Hampshire

      Hi Miguel,

      Yes, I recommend you inspect the u-joints, it's the most likely cause. Keep me posted on what you find, thanks.

    • eddiecarrara profile imageAUTHOR

      Eddie Carrara 

      2 months ago from New Hampshire

      Hi Shawn,

      I have a hunch that you ( when you hit the curb) or the mechanic may have moved something close to the frame or subframe like possibly the exhaust or transmission/engine mount. They may have not tightened a component when finishing up with the two axles. I recommend a second opinion.

    • profile image

      Shawn Frykberg 

      2 months ago

      Hi i just had my car in the shop and they had replaced my axles and when i drove off at a low speed the car shakes. They said they balance it( i also had to get one tire replaced after hitting a curb). The alignment was good

      They even redid it thinking maybe the axel was defective and also do the.other side too and still the car shakes at a low speed. It is fine over 40 to 65mph.

      Do u know what this could be? They have nonidea what is causing it.

      They told me to take it somewhere else to have the transmission looked at.

      Bit befire i hit the curb notjing was happening. And even after i hit the curb it wasn't doing this. It started after they replaces the axel.

      They

    • profile image

      Miguel U 

      2 months ago

      Is this specific to front wheel drive vehicles?

      I have a Tacoma 2WD and and am having a vibration issue when accelerating and usually starts at around 30-35 mph. The issue happened pretty abruptly, one day my tire pressure monitor light went on, then i started hearing metal-like clinking noise, then the noise went away and the vibration started when i drive around 30mph.

      Im going to be replacing the tires pretty soon but i am pretty sure its not the tires because the problem is only during acceleration. If im driving 30 and let off the gas, the vibration stops immediately. I thought this could also be the U Joints. Any help would be appreciated.

      Thanks

    • eddiecarrara profile imageAUTHOR

      Eddie Carrara 

      2 months ago from New Hampshire

      Hi Sohaib,

      It's possible you have a worn CV joint like I explain in the article and video, the problem is trying to figure out which one is causing the problem because you cannot feel any play in the joint with the human hand, you literally need to disassemble each CV joint and inspect for interior damage. Let me know if this helps.

    • profile image

      Sohaib 

      3 months ago

      I have Toyota Corolla 2004. While accelerating I experience vibration in my regular drive. I have tried showing it to different mechanics and all have different solutions can You please guide me how to get rid of this?

    • eddiecarrara profile imageAUTHOR

      Eddie Carrara 

      3 months ago from New Hampshire

      Hi Ilker,

      I'm not sure what the light vibration is. CV joints make noise on sharp turns when accelerating, and yes, you may lose some transmission fluid when pulling the axle out of the transmission. Let me know if I can answer any more questions.

    • eddiecarrara profile imageAUTHOR

      Eddie Carrara 

      3 months ago from New Hampshire

      Hi Learning mechanic,

      Yes the inner CV joints are usually the ones that cause this type of vibration with no grease leaking, so you would literally need to disassemble both joints to inspect them for damage as you can see in my pictures and videos, it's not an easy diagnosis and even seasoned mechanics have a hard time determining what to do lol. let me know if you have more question, sorry for the late reply.

    • profile image

      Learning mechanic 

      4 months ago

      Hi Eddie,

      can the failure (or any failure) of cv joint happen without splitting of the boot? I get vibrations when accelerating but, no boot is split. So, I can not tell which side is bad

    • profile image

      Ilker 

      4 months ago

      Helo, I have a peugeot 308 T9 eat6 car. i can feel a slight tingling vibration under my feet between speed 35-50 km's.

      I also heard the cv joint clicking noise only once when i getting the car out of the parking spot.

      What could it be? Also Would any transmission oil spills out if we decide to change it?

    • eddiecarrara profile imageAUTHOR

      Eddie Carrara 

      5 months ago from New Hampshire

      Hi N E Wright,

      Thanks for taking the time to stop and share your story. I know car stuff can be hard to understand sometimes so I try to explain problems in very simple terms. Thank you for the feedback :)

    • N.E. Wright profile image

      N E Wright 

      5 months ago from Dover, Delaware

      Hello Eddie,

      I do not have a car. Oh, and my license expired a while ago. Still, I found your article informative. I looked at the video, studied the photos to understand what you were explaining. Thanks for helping this novice learn about CV Cups. Your article explained sounds I have heard all My our life riding in cars driven by my parents. Lol. Enjoyed learning something new.

    • eddiecarrara profile imageAUTHOR

      Eddie Carrara 

      8 months ago from New Hampshire

      Inner CV joint.

    • profile image

      young bire 

      8 months ago

      Possible cauuse

    • eddiecarrara profile imageAUTHOR

      Eddie Carrara 

      9 months ago from New Hampshire

      Sounds good Carlos.

    • profile image

      CARLOS LEYVA 

      9 months ago

      Hi Eddie,

      Thanks for your patience. Yes, I've checked up everything regarding the exhaust system, from the engine to the rear end, all cushions are ok, no leaks, no nothing. I've already bought two Subaru brand new inner CV joints, I promise to update any news as soon as I have them installed.

    • eddiecarrara profile imageAUTHOR

      Eddie Carrara 

      9 months ago from New Hampshire

      Hi Carlos,

      Did you check the exhaust to see if it is hitting anywhere when the vehicle is in reverse or drive?

    • profile image

      CARLOS LEYVA 

      9 months ago

      Thanks again Eddie. There are two symptoms

      1. Vibration at idle when engaged in D, and sometimes in R as well. However, most of times you feel no vibration at all when engaging R, so it is not an engine vacuum or another kind of disbalance. It's something related to power transmission, I believe. You can think about an A/T inner bearing maybe, but A/T has been overhauled one month ago, everything was ok and they only changed internal discs and gaskets.

      2. Vibration when accelerating, but as you have confirmed before, innner CV joints are the culprits at this point.

      Please help me out!!

      2.

    • eddiecarrara profile imageAUTHOR

      Eddie Carrara 

      9 months ago from New Hampshire

      Hi Carlos,

      Keep in mind that the inner CV joint will only cause a vibration on acceleration so if the car is not moving it would have something to do with engine or transmission mounts or maybe even the engine balance, you may even want to check the exhaust mounts to be sure everything is hanging properly.

    • profile image

      CARLOS LEYVA 

      9 months ago

      Hi Eddie, thanks for your kind reply. Basically I have changed everything regarding vibration transmission from engine to body, every part was Subaru original spare: engine mounts, transmission mount (and the round little bumper as well), all the rubber (bushings, etc) associated to suspension, tires. Nothing left. Since the car had some worn parts, the ride has improved dramatically, but the vibration at idle and when accelerating still remains. I've already ordered the complete CV joint assy. (inner, shaft and outer), will update as soon as I have news.

    • eddiecarrara profile imageAUTHOR

      Eddie Carrara 

      9 months ago from New Hampshire

      Hi Carlos,

      Most likely a motor or transmission mount depending on the type of vehicle.

    • profile image

      CARLOS LEYVA 

      9 months ago

      So, in a nutshell, vibration when accelerating is due to faulty inner CV joints, clicking sound when turning is due to faulty outer CV koints. What about vibration at idle speed on A/T, but only when in gear (P or R)

    • profile image

      Carlos Leyva 

      10 months ago

      So in a nutshell. Inner CV joints cause vibration when accelerating. Outer CV joints click on turns (they don't cause vibrations). And what causes vibration when car is stopped, idle speed engine, and A/T engaged (Drive more often., but sometimes on Reverse)? Thanks so much for your answer.

    • eddiecarrara profile imageAUTHOR

      Eddie Carrara 

      10 months ago from New Hampshire

      Hi Dianna,

      Yes, I'm glad you got it done as well. The vibration can get pretty bad if not fixed in a reasonable amount of time.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      10 months ago

      I recently had this service on my car. You described the noise and vibrations I experienced. Glad I had it done!

    • eddiecarrara profile imageAUTHOR

      Eddie Carrara 

      10 months ago from New Hampshire

      Hi Liz,

      There is no mileage factor for CV joints failing, usually, it's caused by damage to the boot, impact, or human error. Age could play a factor in some cases but I have seen some CV joints last 450,000 miles and never have a problem. You mentioned "brand", some brands are not as reliable as others but there are so many manufacturers building these CV joints it's tough to point out the bad ones.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      10 months ago from UK

      How high a mileage would a car need to be before the CV joints are at risk of problems? Or do other factors come into play like the road surface and reliability of the vehicle brand? This is another useful and informative article.

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