The driveshaft is a major component of any vehicle. It has the duty of transferring torque and the rotation of the vehicle to the engine when you push the gear to drive.
Maybe you’ve had to repair your driveshaft multiple times and you are already wondering why your driveshaft keeps breaking or developing problems.
You may be forced to ask, “Why does my drive shaft keep breaking?”
In a nutshell, poor installation, fake spare parts, and weak products are some of the major reasons your driveshaft keeps breaking.
The driveshaft, otherwise called propeller shaft or drivetrain, is a metal round piece of material responsible for transmitting power and rotation and is used to connect some other components of the drivetrain system that cannot be linked directly because of their distance and the need for relative movement between them.
The driveshaft transfers torque between components that are separated by a distance since components of the vehicle are located in different places. It delivers torque from one component of the vehicle to other components.
Foremost, front-wheel drive vehicles do not use a drive shaft, it is the transmission and axle that are combined into a single unit called a transaxle.
Whereas in four-wheel and rear-wheel drive vehicles, the transmission and axle are separated. Therefore, the need for a driveshaft that will transfer the turning motion of the transmission to the axle.
Although all driveshafts perform the same function, they vary in vehicles. They are used differently in different vehicles. There are different configurations for front-wheel drive (FWD), four-wheel drive (4WD), and rear-wheel drive (RWD).
Driveshaft endures shear stress or force. They endure torsion and are designed to carry these forces without adding weight to increase the resistance of the forces.
Types of Driveshaft
There are different types of drive shaft depending on the vehicle’s wheel drive system.
Front-Wheel Drive (FWD)
In the front-wheel drive (FWD) system, the power needed to drive the vehicle is provided by the front wheels.
This implies that all components of the drivetrain are within the front of the vehicle.
While the all-wheel drive and the rear-wheel drive use the universal or u-joints, the front-wheel drive utilizes the constant velocity (CV) joints.
Rear-Wheel Drive (RWD)
Vehicles with the rear-wheel drive system have the rear wheels delivering the required power for the vehicle to drive.
As a result, it comes with a long driveshaft which at one end is connected to the transmission system of the vehicle and at the other end it’s connected to the differential by a universal joint.
All-Wheel Drive (AWD) or Four-Wheel (4WD)
Vehicles with All-wheel drive (AWD) or Four-wheel drive (4WD) have two driveshafts.
One is the same as obtainable in vehicles utilizing Rear-wheel drive (RWD), while the other which stays in the front is connected directly to the front differential and the transfer case by universal joints.
When your driveshaft is bad, they begin to display some signs which will impair your driving experience. Once you begin to notice one or more symptoms of a bad driveshaft or drivetrain, you’d have to visit your mechanic for a proper check and a plan to fix the problem.
Some common signs that speak to a problem with your driveshaft include;
This is one major issue associated with a bad driveshaft or related issue. A faulty universal joint can prevent the wheel from turning, which in turn makes it difficult to control the vehicle.
When you try to turn your vehicle and the wheels hang back, it shows that there is possibly a problem with your driveshaft.
Your tires will display some form of resistance and you will feel it when you try to turn the vehicle.
A clunking noise is another pointer to a faulty drivetrain.
These noises are usually heard from underneath the vehicle and they occur when you accelerate, reverse, or drive the vehicle.
The squeaking or clunking noises would be repeatedly heard from underneath the car. Once you notice this, it is important to check and fix your driveshaft.
The universal or u-joint connects rigid rods whose axes are inclined to each other.
If the u-joint rotates too fast or does not rotate at all, then there is a problem with your driveshaft.
You can’t drive your vehicle in this condition so you need to get your driveshaft replaced.
Clicking or knocking noise
A clicking or knocking noise is usually associated with bad constant velocity (CV) joints which is directly associated with the drivetrain system.
Vibrations are common symptoms of a failing driveshaft.
These vibrations come from underneath your car. Worn-out u-joints or carrier bearings lead to vibrations from the driveshaft.
Excessive vibration of the driveshaft can lead to the wearing out of other drivetrain components.
This is another major sign of a failing driveshaft and you need to get it checked.
A loose u-joint will cause your car to accelerate from a low speed or stop position. A bad carrier bearing can also be responsible for this.
Sometimes, shuddering does not depict a driveshaft problem only, it could be a problem very different from the driveshaft.
Therefore, it is important to take your car to a mechanic to find out what the problem really is.
If your driveshaft fails, your car will lose its stability because it can no longer rely on the wheelbase. This can subsequently lead to loss of control of the vehicle. An accident can happen.
Before your driveshaft fails, it must have shown several symptoms that shouldn’t be ignored and if it fails along the line, your vehicle will stop moving or it will be difficult to turn your wheels. That is why it’s crucial to carry out preventive maintenance on your drivetrain to avoid issues like this.
Driveshaft failure, especially while driving can be very dangerous and could lead to complications. For an inexperienced driver, there could be a collision or fatal accident.
On this note, it is important to pay proper attention to your driveshaft to avoid issues like this.
Your driveshaft will keep breaking or failing due to some basic reasons such as:
A good drive shaft is supposed to work for a long time without breaking.
However, there are instances where non-professionals use fake or weak products to fix a client’s car.
If this is the case, your driveshaft can fail even without prior notice.
Your driving pattern or the nature of the road will affect your driveshaft.
If your driving pattern is rough or the roads are bumpy, your car will hit on the bumps causing your driveshaft to bend leading to its failure or breaking.
Faulty or improper installation is another reason your driveshaft keeps breaking.
Since driveshaft configuration varies from vehicle to vehicle, it is important to install it as it is required for each vehicle.
If the driveshaft is not properly installed or the wrong configuration is used for a particular vehicle, there is a high probability that the vehicle is going to break down.
Driveshaft is designed to manage a certain amount of weight and load. If you overload your vehicle or there is excessive weight from other components of the vehicle, the driveshaft will break.
It is important to pay close attention to the transmission, engine, and rear differential because they are usually very heavy and can cause the driveshaft to break.
You need to have your driveshaft checked and replaced when there is a need from time to time, especially if you drive a heavy vehicle.
Consistent or heavy use of a vehicle will make the bearings of a driveshaft wear out and break if not replaced.
The answer to this is Yes! You can still drive your vehicle if the front or rear driveshaft is removed.
However, you must ensure to lock your center differential lock.
You can drive a four-wheel drive with a lockable focus differential by removing the damaged driveshaft and locking the middle differential.
You can then securely drive the vehicle in back tire mode or front-wheel shaft.
Yes, it is very normal for a drive shaft to break.
It is not the driveshaft itself that breaks but the u-joints in the driveshaft. The u-joint is a joint connecting shaft whose axis is inclined to each other.
A driveshaft does not just break instantly, they usually show signs that it is faulty and will eventually break down.
The driveshaft can be and should be adjusted when there is a need because a properly aligned driveshaft will prevent problems on other components of your car.
Driving on bumpy roads, over rocks, or on poor roads can disband your driveshaft and make it prone to failure.
The driveshaft should be adjusted and rebalanced to make driving smooth again.
Driveshaft replacement cost
The driveshaft replacement cost can’t be directly estimated because of external factors that may contribute to the issue, e.g., universal joints. Typically, the cost to replace the unit hovers between $500 and $1000. This should include labor cost but it all depends on the main component within the drivetrain that’s the problem.
Now that you’ve learned why your driveshaft keeps breaking, you need to ensure this does not happen to your vehicle anymore by taking all necessary precautions.
It is important to take your vehicle for regular check-ups and maintenance so that any problem with the driveshaft or other components of the vehicle can be detected and fixed.
There could be different reasons why your driveshaft fails as highlighted earlier and it is advisable to work on it according to its fault.
Procrastination will lead to damage of other components of the vehicle leaving you with more expenses. So, once you notice that your driveshaft needs attention, take the car in for checks and possible repair or replacement of the unit.