Ripped axle boot, Subaru transmission, ABS sensor, timing belt

Q: I was changing the oil in my Honda CR-V and noticed the axle boot was ripped open. I went to my local repair shop and they suggested replacing the entire axle. The vehicle seems to operate normally and there is no clicking noises that worn axles make. Do I really need to replace the entire axle?

A: The constant velocity joint boot protects the constant velocity joint which is the flexible portion of the front axle that connects from the transmission to the wheel. As a general rule, driving a vehicle when the boot has been leaking grease will certainly damage and shorten the life of the C/V joint. There was a time that boot kits were much cheaper than the axle, but over time the cost of complete axles has come way down in price. On my own car, I replaced the complete axle rather than just replacing the boot and hoping the joint wasn’t damaged. Even though I have been accused of being cheap, but to me it made financial sense to replace the axle.

Q: I recently brought my 2012 Subaru into the dealer for what I thought was a transmission problem. I went to the dealer because I was told this was a sealed transmission and only the dealer could check it. Come to find out the transmission was fine, and it turned out to be a faulty spark plug. Why does Subaru have a transmission that can’t be checked?

A: Many vehicles today have transmissions without traditional dipsticks, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be checked. Checking a transmission without a dipstick just requires more work. In many cases, there is a plug on the side of the transmission that needs to be removed to check the fluid level. Interesting on your Subaru there actually is a traditional dipstick.  

Q: I have a 2012 Buick Lacrosse e-assist with anti-lock brakes (ABS).  One of the four ABS sensors have failed and so I get all sorts of warning lights on my dashboard now.  The dealer quoted me what sounds like a very high cost to repair the one defective ABS sensor, but I’m wondering if I need to get this work done.  The car has 85,000 miles and otherwise, my brakes operate fine in day-to-day traffic.  Isn’t an ABS sensor only going to come into play when I stomp on the brakes?  What’s the harm if my anti-lock braking system is malfunctioning, given that it is utilized so infrequently, if ever?  I’d rather just ignore it and avoid the costly repair.  What would you do, if this were your car?

A: You are correct that the ABS system only works to prevent wheel lockup and skidding. Regarding this safety feature in Massachusetts, you can get a vehicle inspected with an ABS light on, in Rhode Island if the ABS light is on the car will fail the state vehicle inspection. If this were my car I would have it repaired. You might find an independent shop using aftermarket parts, helps with the overall cost of the repairs.

Q: I recently took my 2003 Honda to the dealer for a recall service and while I was there the advisor suggested that I replace the timing belt at a cost of $700. Then I took my car to my local shop and they said my car has a timing chain, not a belt, now what?

A: If your Honda has the four-cylinder engine it uses a timing chain and that chain should last the life of the car. If your Honda has a six-cylinder engine it uses a timing belt that should be replaced at 105,000 miles. If your car’s engine does use a timing belt, failing to replace it could result in catastrophic engine damage  

John Paul is AAA’s Car Doctor. He is an automotive expert who has been writing and talking about cars for more than 30 years. He also hosts the Car Doctor radio program on WROL radio in Boston. Email John at jpaul [at]

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