Drive Shaft and Axle Shaft Basics: Operation & Troubleshooting

Most vehicles have drive shafts to send out engine and transmission torque to your wheels. Usually, people talk about the longitudinal shaft – running front to back- because the “drive shaft,” plus the transverse – with the differential on the wheel – as a possible “axle shaft.” Front-wheel-drive vehicles have two axle shafts, while four-wheel-drive vehicles often have two drive shafts and four axle shafts, to get a total of six.

Short axle shafts are generally solid steel, while longer drive shafts are often tubular steel, aluminum or carbon fiber, to relieve weight. Given that the shaft is often a spinning drivetrain member, it really is dynamically balanced to eliminate vibrations. Sliding joints and universal (U) joints allow for variations in suspension height; giubo, “rag” joints or flex discs accommodate shock absorpting; and inboard tripod constant velocity (CV) joints and outboard Rzeppa joints enable wheel turning on axle shafts. Some automakers use Rzeppa joints on all shafts. Finally, long shafts may perhaps be split, by using a central carrier bearing and other U-joints. These parts don’t “wear out” similar to moving components, they is often damaged. Allow me to share five common indicators of problems.

1. Vibration

If you really feel unusual vibrations, especially those that appear to come and go at certain speeds, the drive shaft may perhaps be off-balance. This will likely happen if it’s bent from a direct impact – off-roading lately? – possibly it loses a counterweight. Unbalanced shafts can accelerate wear on joints, bearings and seals.

2. Clunking

Clunking when putting the transmission in gear, changing toward reverse, or or viceversa might point to excessive differential clearance or worn U-joints. Worn joints might also bring about other noises and vibrations. If your joint breaks, the drive shaft could fly totally free of the passenger truck, causing collateral damage and possible loss of vehicle control.

3. Slapping

Road debris may cover the drive shaft or axle shaft. This might trigger slapping noises, rubbing noises, off-balance vibrations and collateral damage. Fuel leaks, short circuits and in some cases fire could result.

4. Bucking

There are a couple of sliding joint types. Sliding yokes be based upon the transmission for lubrication, thus aren’t vulnerable to failure, but slider drive shafts include a sliding joint -usually splined and booted – inside the shaft itself. In case the lubricant dries or leaks out, this could bind, producing a bucking sensation when creating any stop or should the suspension settles.

5. Leaking

Drive shafts don’t “leak,” nevertheless supporting joints can. You’ll never replaced of CV boots. As time passes or due to damage, CV boots may crack or break, releasing protective grease and allowing water or debris to contaminate the joint.

Regular maintenance, for instance lubricating all Zerk fittings or replacing broken CV boots, will keep your drive shaft running true. If you believe unusual vibrations or hear unfamiliar noises, already have it inspected and corrected before it damages other things or is a safety hazard.

Check out many of the?drivetrain parts?available on NAPA Online or trust a 16,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. To learn more about drive shaft operation and troubleshooting, talk with an expert expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo for Wikimedia Commons.

One Comment

  1. Hi there! Such a great article, thanks!

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