The majority of vehicle manufacturer's estimate the life of the average CV joint to be between 100,000 and 150,000 miles. However, there are many ways of damaging the protective boot these days that will lead to a much earlier failure of the CV joint. The boot is critical to the longevity of the CV joint. Once the protective boot is damaged or cut by rocks or other road obstacles, the CV joint will begin to lose it's lubrication. Once metal is rubbing against metal the CV joint will be compromised and damage will occur. Once this stage is reached there will be several possible warning signs that will indicate that you have a problem.
Most driver's know exactly what sounds to expect when they are driving and often are quick to notice when there is a strange noise coming from somewhere in their vehicle. Often it indicates a problem and it's the very last thing you ever want to hear. However, if you act on a strange noise or vibration quickly, you may minimize the damage that is being indicated.
If you are turning a corner and all hear an unusual popping or clicking sound, chances are it's an indication that your outer CV joint has become worn or damaged. If this noise is even louder when you test the CV joint by driving in a circle in reverse, it will confirm that you most likely need to replace your CV joint.
If you hear a clunking sound when you accelerate of putting your vehicle into drive, it may indicate a bad inner joint. You can test this out by driving in reverse. Accelerate and decelerate and if they is a CV problem the sound you heard while in the forward gear will be much more pronounced.
If you are losing lubrication in the CV joint because the protective boot has been damaged, you may hear a growling sound. Although this sound-or a humming sound-is also indicative of several other problems.
There should not be any vibration when you accelerate. If there is, this could indicate there is some looseness, or "play" in the outboard or inboard CV joints. It might also indicate a shaft bearing or motor mount problem.
It's quite possible to avoid many potential CV joint problems if you are careful about maintaining the CV protective boot. Anytime you happen to be working under the car, or are having work done by your mechanic, the CV boot should be inspected for wear or damage. Replacing the protective boot before it's failure cascades into a joint failure is excellent preventative maintenance and can save you a lot of money.