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I own a 2003 FWD RAV4 with just over 100k miles. Recently noticed that the "thing" in the middle of the driver side CV half-axle has rusted and split open - image attached. The boots on either side are fine. My immediate reaction was "got to replace it right away", then I saw that aftermarket replacements have nothing of this sort, just a straight metal rod with the boots on both sides. So I am wondering, what function does that "thing" serve, if any at all? Not sure if this would be possible, but if I were to strip that off completely, would I find a solid (although somewhat rusted) metal rod underneath, or is there some sort of joint that can snap completely in a few miles?
 

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All that is is some kind of anti-vibration device with nothing but the shaft underneath it. And as you say replacement shafts except the OEM one (which probably costs three times as much) don't have it. I'd simply break or cut it off since in its current condition it's probably adding vibration.
 

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so how did this turn out?
I have the same problem , vehicle runs fine except a lot of vibrating as you describe.
mine didn't start doing this util about 240K, I hate to work on this because replacing one part can easily lead to replacing another part which is OK, until it has to work with a new part that isn' equally worn.
 
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