Clicking and clacking from the rear of your Vanagon is a common sign that your CV joints need attention. If you hear them making noise chances are that they are already bad and need replacing. Continuing to drive on them will only make them worse and eventually break, leaving you on the side of the road. It is best to go ahead and service the CV joints.
Servicing CV joints and shafts is not a difficult task. It isn’t even all that technical. There are two options to remedy bad CVs. Replace the CV joint itself and repack the good ones, or replace the whole shaft as a unit by buying a complete CV half shaft. Replacing the whole CV half shaft is an easier and faster option but be aware that the original OEM joints are probably better than the Chinese supplied cheap units readily available.
If you have one failed CV joint it is best to inspect and replace or repack them all. This preventative practice will save you money in the long run and preventative maintenance can help keep your next trip from being ruined with a tow truck ride.
Taking off the axles and inspecting the boots and CV joints is a bit messy. Wear gloves and expect to take a couple hours if it’s your first time. If your CV joints are not clicking yet you may be able to get back on the road by replacing the boot and repacking the joints with fresh grease. The only way to know for sure is to take them apart, clean them, and inspect them.
Having an extra set of new CV bolts ready might be a good idea. If you are planning on removing the CV shaft in the near future go ahead and order new ones. The 6 point Allen head bolts are notorious for stripping out. If you have the 6 point Allen heads it is advisable to go ahead and replace them all with the triple square 12 point fasteners. (The 12 point triple squares are slightly longer and will match 944 GKN/Loebro upgrades perfectly).
Before trying to remove the CV bolts use a sharp pick and clean the inside of the bolt heads the best you can. This will allow the proper bit to fit more snugly and reduce your chances of stripping the inside. Spray the bolts well with a penetrating oil in advance to help rusty and grungy threads from sticking.
Depending on what year Vanagon you have, and what repairs might have been carried out on your van, you may have 6 point Allen head, or 6mm or 8mm 12 point ‘triple square’. You will also need an extension, preferably a lock on extension, or a 6 point Allen bit or triple square bit with a long shank. If you do a lot of wrenching on your Volkswagens then a triple square socket bit kit might come in handy and save you money in the long run.
One of the most common maladies to occur when performing CV maintenance is to have the CV bolts strip out. The 6 point Allen is the worst but the 12 points also strip out. Hammering in the next size up 12 point or Allen bit is the first order in getting it out. The next option is to see if they can be taken out with a pair of locking pliers. Rotate the shaft to get it where you can get a bite on it with locking pliers.
When stripped bolts can’t be taken out easily it may be necessary to use a bolt extractor over the head. These are the easiest and most logical next option to get a stripped CV bolt out. If that is not an option using a drill bit to drill the head off will work. Drilling with an 8mm bit or larger take the head off the bolt. Once the shaft is completely removed then locking pliers can be used to grab the portion sticking out and remove the remaining headless stud.
Sometimes we don’t have the money to replace the CVs or we are on a trip far from a parts store or repair shop when the clicking starts. If you can’t or don’t want to get new CV joints the shafts can be flipped. Make sure they are going in the opposite direction. Wear occurs from moving in the forward direction and the backs of the surface don’t get used much. Flipping them makes the unused surface the new wear area. This changes the wear angle as well as the surface. It isn’t a permanent fix but it can extend the time on a CV joint and buy you a little more time on the road. Especially if you are not close to home.
Cheap CV joints and shafts don’t last long. You generally get what you pay for. If you don’t want to replace your CV joints or shafts every year or so buy a good quality brand. If you have to replace bad OEM joints look for GKN/Loebro parts, otherwise repack your German CV joints with fresh grease.
Lifted Vanagons have a particular problem with breaking or wearing out CV joints. The height changes the angle and creates too much wear. 944 joints have smaller bearings and therefore allow about 5 degrees more articulation. This allows lifted 2WD Vanagons to have better durability and more movement without damaging the CV joints.
Porsche 944 axles will fit the Vanagon models with manual transmissions from 1980 through 1991. 944 axles and Vanagon axles are the same length. The most durable and direct fit are the 944 axles. 944 CV joints will slide right onto the stock Vanagon shafts. They fit up to the transaxle without problems and a whole 944 axle is a direct fit option as well if you do not want to take the shaft and CV joints apart to do the modification yourself. Just bolt the whole thing in.
930 axles will fit but with more modification as the flanges are different. Using 930 axles that are too durable could result in breaking a part in your transaxle. Weaker parts outside the transaxle like the CV joint makes it so that repairs are cheaper and can be done without rebuilding the transaxle. It’s easier to replace a weaker CV joint instead of using heavier duty 930 CVs.
When bolting up the repaired or new CV shaft it is most often better to start with the wheel side. Get a couple bolts started wheel side. With the wheel side started use a pick or Phillips screwdriver and line up a bolt hole. Place a bolt in another hole and get it started. Once you get a couple bolts started remove the Phillips screwdriver or punch you used for aligning the holes. After all the bolts are in evenly snug them down to 33 ft/lbs of torque, or 45Nm.
STEP BY STEP
Remove the CV half shafts. The CVs bolt to a flange on the transaxle on the inside and to a flange on the backside of the wheel.
Mark the CV joints for later reference. Drivers Inner, Drivers Outer, Pass. Inner, Pass. Outer or something similar with a scribe.
1. On a clean workspace or worktable clean the face of the CV with paper towels.
2. Remove the C clip from the end of the CV shaft. Preferably with C clip pliers.
3. From the backside slide or gently hammer the CV joint off the shaft.
4. Separate the inner race, bearing cage, and the ball bearings by turning the bearing cage ring.
5. Clean thoroughly with solvent or Simple Green. Wash with soapy water.
6. Reassemble everything dry. Align the thin spaces of the inner race with the wide spaces of the outer race. Check the movement and articulation.
7. Slide the CV boot onto the shaft if you are replacing it. Slide the boot far enough back that you have access to the backside of the CV joint.
8. Slide on the CV joint onto the shaft. Reinstall the C clip into the groove.
9. Check the CV shaft and CV joint for movement. It should not bind or hang up. Don’t move the joint too far or the bearings may fall out.
10. Start packing grease into the front of the CV joint. Pack grease into all cracks and crevices from the front. Continue to pack grease into the CV joint until it is coming out of the backside.
11. Slide the boot forward. Pack grease into the backside of the boot if you have plenty of grease. Pack some into the front of the boot as well if you have plenty.
12. Use brake cleaner to clean out the threads in the fastener holes in the transaxle and the hub side. Clean the threads of the CV bolts if you are reusing them. Apply Loctite to the threads so they don’t back out.
13. Torque the bolts to 33 to 35 lbs.