Drive axles are axles on engine powered vehicles that transfer energy from the engine and torque from the transmission on to the front, rear or all the wheels. Drive axles respond to the input they receive from the steering wheel to determine how power will be distributed to the wheels. Drive axles run from the differential into the wheels and are an essential for any automobile to be able it to move. Several other systems interface and interconnect with drive axles to power them and control their movement
A Complex Piece Of Equipment
To many, drive axles seem like a simple, solid object. In actuality, it's a complex piece of equipment that's made up of two half axles connected to the differential and universal joints. Drive axles have several important parts. Those parts include:
- Constant Velocity (CV) Joints
- Drive Shaft
- Universal Joint
- Axle Housing
What These Drive Axle Parts Do
The axle bears the weight of the vehicle, its cargo and its passengers. It has to withstand the strong forces generated by driving and braking. The axle also facilitates steering and absorbs some of the shock when driving on rough roads.
2. Constant Velocity (CV) Joints
The CV joints help keeping a vehicle's body balanced and allowing the wheels to move freely.
3. Drive Shaft
Drive shafts in automobiles allows torque and energy produced by the drive train to be transferred to the wheels and other parts of the automobile. In rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive vehicles they enable the engine to power the rear axle.
The differential aims power coming from the engine at the wheels, slows the transmissions rotational speed before it's transferred to the wheels and transmits power to the wheels and enables the wheels to rotate at different rates of speed.
5. Universal Joint
The universal joint helps the driveshaft transfer power flowing from the transmission and move it to the differential.
6. Axle Housing
The axle housing helps protect the axle and enables it to operate as efficiently as possible.
Drive Axle Problem
If the drive axle breaks or is not functioning properly the vehicle can't move properly. Many people wonder if it's safe to drive their automobile if it's having drive axle problems. Most automobile experts agree it is not. Driving a vehicle that has drive axle problems is extremely dangerous. If the drive axle breaks when someone is driving along, it can cause the vehicle's occupants to suffer serious injuries and do major damage to the automobile that are difficult and expensive to repair.
Common Drive Axle Problems
The constant velocity (CV) joint is a part of the drive axle that's very susceptible to a wide range of problems. Some of the most common ones are:
The axle joint that's in the CV axle assembly needs proper lubrication to function efficiently. When the joints are properly greased they provide the drive axle with the flexibility it needs to be able to flex and move depending on the road conditions. When the CV joints are not properly lubricated, it exposes the drive axle to lots of friction and high levels of stress. This increases the chances the drive axle will break and the vehicle won't be able to move.
Worn Out Boots
The CV joints that are in the axle assembly have a rubber boot covering them. This is commonly called a drive axle boot. The boots protect the CV joints, help to keep them lubricated and prevents dirt and debris from getting into and sticking to them. The boots tend to have a limited lifespan and can become worn out it they are exposed to friction and high levels of stress constantly during normal operation and can split and need to be replaced fairly regularly.
Most engineers design the drive axles of cars, truck and SUVs to be able to hold up thousands of pounds during normal operation. The drive axle on the average car is built to carry a load of about 850 pounds. On heavy-duty pick-up trucks the drive axles are designed to regularly handle between 6,000 pounds and 12,000. If vehicle owners regularly put too much weight in their automobiles, the drive axle will eventually break. To prevent this, vehicle owners should make sure they do not exceed the weight limitation listed in the owner's manual gross vehicle weight rating.
Symptoms Of Drive Axle Trouble
It’s important for automobile owners to understand the common issues drive axles face. However, it’s just as important to recognize the symptoms of drive axle trouble. If you realize your vehicle needs drive axle repair, you should immediately take it to an auto repair shop. Choose one that has a well-trained, licensed, experienced mechanic and the appropriate tools and equipment to do the job right. Automobile owners don't recognize and quickly address the symptoms of drive axle problems they can face extremely serious consequences. Some symptoms of drive axle trouble include:
1. Clicking Sounds
The average person has probably heard a vehicle's drive axle clicking when it is making a turn. This is one of the most common symptom a vehicle's drive axle is failing. The clicking typically signals that the CJ joints in the drive axle is worn out. Automobile owners should have their CV joints checked periodically. They should also to pay close attention to whether the sound is coming from the front or rear drive axle and which side of the vehicle is making the sound and take action right away.
Grease On The Tire
The CV joints on the drive axle of an automobile is lubricated with grease and covered with rubber boots. The rubber boots are there to protect the joint and keep the lubricating grease in place and clean. If you begin to notice that grease is leaking on to and around their tires, it is a sign the rubber boots are damaged, coming loose or worn out. The owner of the vehicle should take their it to the shop immediately if they see these signs.
Vibration While Driving
When the CV joint or drive shaft is beginning to go bad, it will no longer be able to balance the vehicle effectively while it is in motion. The vehicle will tend to vibrate when it is in motion, especially as it begins to pick up speed because of this. If an automobile owner notices that their vehicle is begins to vibrate regularly, they should quickly take it to an auto repair shop and have the drive axle replaced rather than repaired.
Consequences Of Driving With Drive Axle Problems
Accidents, Injuries And Death
Sadly, many people continue to drive their vehicles even after they realize the automobile needs drive axle repair. These people are putting themselves and the vehicles around them in danger of being involved in a serious accident. Putting off drive axle repair or replacement and still driving the vehicle can lead to serious consequences like severe injury or even death.
More Expensive Repairs
The longer someone drives a vehicle that has drive axle problems, the more expensive it will be to repair it. Addressed early, replacing a busted CV joint boot could cost about $150. However, driving with a busted boot can allow the grease protecting the CV joint to become contaminated, leak out and make the CV joint deteriorate and have to be replaced. This can cost $900 to $1,200 or more.
See An Auto Mechanic Immediately
If you realize your vehicle needs drive axle repair, you should immediately take it to an auto repair shop. Choose one that has a well-trained, licensed, experienced mechanic and the appropriate tools and equipment to do the job right.