That clicking noise that your front-wheel-drive car makes as you accelerate around low-speed righthand corners has been getting a little louder for weeks. One afternoon, just as you pull out of the parking lot, there's a loud banging noise and a series of crunches. Then all forward thrust drops off, punctuated by vibration and the occasional ping of tortured metal. Your CV joint has failed.
THEY DON'T MAKE THEM LIKE THAT ANYMORE
The wheels of your front-drive vehicle are connected to the transaxle via axles that have constant-velocity-type universal joints at each end. There is an inner and outer joint on the left and right axles. All else being equal, the outer joints fail first because they run with the highest angularity--when the wheel is turned, the joint has to redirect the torque from the engine around a corner. The more angle, the more strain. And it's usually the right side that goes first because here in the lefthand-drive US of A, we turn sharper around righthand corners than lefthand ones. Sometimes the rubber boots covering the joints fail from age or are torn by road debris, letting the grease out and dirt and water in. As recently as 10 years ago, the repair meant removing the pertinent axle and taking out the failed CV. You'd then replace it and the boot, lubricate the new and old joint with fresh grease, reinstall and go.
Nowadays it's difficult to find a CV joint for sale at a parts store. The industry has made it standard procedure to swap in a complete new or remanufactured axle, with the boots installed and prelubricated. No mess, no fuss--which is good because the molysulfide-doped grease specified for CV joints is the blackest, nastiest, most thixotropic (you know, sticky) goop you can imagine, and it will stain your cuticles, your tools and your work clothes worse than printer's ink. You'd never get the stuff out of the washing machine.
You can save some money by buying a remanufactured axle, which will be virtually as good as new. The refurbishing process involves regrinding all the grooves in the inner and outer halves of the joint to a standard oversize, and replacing the cage and ball bearings with new oversize ones.