Your axles are some of the most basic parts in your entire car. You can strip down a vehicle to the bare bones of having some wheels and an engine, but the axles have to be there as well. You simply don't have a car if your axles don't work. That means when you need to get an axle repaired it's of vital importance. On average, the cost of getting an axle shaft replaced on a vehicle is somewhere between $500 and $950.
Because you have both a front axle and rear axle, it's actually a little different depending on what needs to be done. Front axles are often cheaper, and you might be able to get a front axle repaired for about $500 to $600. Rear axle repairs tend to cost more and can set you back in the neighbourhood of $800 to $1,000.
It's hard to pinpoint a precise cost for an axle repair for a number of reasons. As you're no doubt aware, repair costs can change greatly depending on where you go. The cost of getting your car fixed in Los Angeles may be very different from the cost of getting it fixed in Des Moines. Additionally, even within the same town you can get a great variety of quotes for the same repair job depending on who you talk to.
Most significant of all is the make, model, and year of vehicle you drive. Nothing else affects the repair cost more than this. Repair costs are usually on the lower end of the spectrum for very common Vehicles, things like a Toyota Corolla or a Honda Civic, for instance. These vehicles have been on the road for years and millions of models have been sold. On the other hand, if you drive a rare, performance sort of vehicle like a Bugatti Chiron then you can expect your repair bill to be remarkably different.
It's always best to stick with a mechanic you know and trust to give you good service at a fair price whenever possible. If you're not sure, check with friends and family first. The internet is also your friend when it comes to figuring out what kind of mechanics are around town, and who might give you the best service. If a mechanic has an abundance of poor reviews on Google or Yelp, then you know you should probably avoid them. On the other hand, if they have a lot of great feedback, it's probably a safe bet that you can take your vehicle there and Trust the service that you're going to get.
What is a Car Axle?
An axle is a simple yet remarkably important part of your vehicle. In olden times, when wheeled vehicles were first being produced, an axel was little more than a straight bar with two wheels on either end of. These days, a functioning axle is necessary for brakes and steering to all be properly aligned with the wheels of your vehicle as well.
The axle of your vehicle spins so that the wheels of your car can spin. Power is transferred from the engine and torque from the transmission of your vehicle through the axle to drive the wheels. Depending on the kind of vehicle you have there are a number of components from driveshafts to transaxles that are a part of this whole system, including things like suspension as well. But at the end of the day, the purpose of the axle is to allow your wheels to move along with the power that is being put out by your engine. If the axle doesn't work, your car doesn't work.
Symptoms of a Bad Car Axle
A number of things could cause one of your axles to go bad in your vehicle. The most common cause for this kind of damage is an accident or impact. Either you hit another vehicle or ran into something, or more commonly you run afoul of a serious speed bump or pothole, or maybe even some junk in the road. Because your axle is right above the ground, any sort of uneven surface could potentially lead to your axle getting damaged and bent.
Though rare, it's also possible that a manufacturing error could be the cause of your axle bending. If the metal wasn't heat treated properly when the axle is produced, it will have weak spots in it. That means even normal wear and tear that it should be able to stand up to, could cause damage and cause it to break.
For instance, in 2019 Ford had to recall nearly 30,000 F-250 and F-350 trucks because of a defect in the rear axle shaft that could result in an accident. According to Ford, improper material Handling during the bar stock cooling process at the axle shaft material supplier cause the problem.
In 2007, GM issued a massive recall for over 250,000 Saturn, Pontiac, and Cadillac models that needed repairs to a rear axle seal that had the potential to leak and cause the car to lose control and crash. So, there are manufacturing errors that can risk the Integrity of your axle, on top of the potential for outside damages. Whatever the cause, these are some of the symptoms you should be on the lookout for.
Uneven Driving: A bent axle will greatly diminish the alignment of your vehicle. Your axle needs to be ruler straight to be working properly. When that axle shaft gets bent your two wheels on either end are no longer properly aligned. That means that while you are driving, even if you're keeping the steering wheel straight your vehicle is going to drift to one side or the other, or wobble. It can be hard to figure out which wheel is responsible while you're actually driving. Oftentimes, the best bet if you're noticing this happening but aren't sure where it is occurring, is to drive while somebody else takes a look at your vehicle so they can see which wheel seems to be misaligned.
Leaks: There are joints called CV joints located at the end of your axles near the wheels. When they are damaged, the grease inside that lubricates them will leak out. Unlike your normal oil leaks, these will be focused right around the wheels to give you an indication that it's a CV joint and not another oil leak we're dealing with here. If you're seeing oil or grease on the tires themselves, or pulling around the tires, then this is almost certainly a leak in your CV joint. You only have a shirt. Of time before the lubrication is gone completely, and the damage increases.
Vibrations and Shaking: If your ride has become seriously bumpy when you're driving, especially if you're noticing the vibrations coming through the steering wheel into your hand, then there's probably a problem with your axle or the alignment of your vehicle. You know that your steering wheel shouldn't be vibrating for any reason, so this is a good early warning sign that you need to have something looked at as soon as possible.
Noise: If you're noticing unusual clunking or clicking sound as you drive along this could be the result of a bent axle misaligning your wheels. The friction of parts rubbing together is likely causing the noise.
A loud ticking noise will especially be prevalent when you are turning if your axle is bad. This is a result of the joints loose and hitting together when you make a turn. If you turn more sharply or faster, it will likely be louder.
Total Failure: What we've listed so far are symptoms of a bent but still functional axle. If the bend in your axle gets too bad, or breaks entirely, you are definitely going to notice. Your car will be utterly incapable of moving if your axle is completely broken. It's also possible that you will have collapsed either the front end or the back end where the axle broke, as it's no longer able to properly suspend your vehicle above the ground.
Repair or Replace a Bad Axle?
It's natural to wonder if you can repair a part rather than replace it entirely, perhaps in an effort to save a few dollars. With a car axle however, this is not an option at all. A bent car axle could be bent straight again, but it will always have that weakness in it. Think about bending a thin rod of metal in your hands. You can bet it in half and then try to straighten it out again. But that initial band is always going to be a weak spot. It will never be as strong as it was when you first had it, which means even the general stress of normal operation could potentially cause it to bend again in the same place. If you have a bad axle, it definitely needs to be replaced.
Is it Safe to Drive on a Bad Axle?
Your car axle is a fairly strong piece of metal for the most part. When it does get a bend in it, there's a good chance it will just be a minor bend, and only slightly affect the alignment of your vehicle overall. The symptoms we mentioned will be noticeable but won't impede your ability to try. The vibration in the steering wheel, the wobble in the wheels causing you to pull in one direction or another.
The fact that you still can drive with this problem doesn't mean that you should drive with this problem. The longer you put stress on a bent axle, the more likely it is that you're going to end up breaking it. A broken axle while driving could be catastrophic and lead to a serious accident that hurts yourself or others. It could also end up causing you a lot more money in terms of the potential damage.
If your axle breaks while driving, you will no longer be able to control your vehicle. That's definitely not worth the risk. When you lose control on an icy road, you still have the chance to regain control. When your axle has broken there is nothing you can do from that point.
DIY Car Axle Replacement
As with any repair job on a car, you could repair one of your axles on your own. That said, this is a fairly Advanced repair. For instance, if you don't have the ability to get your car up on some secure jack stand so you can get underneath it, this is just not something you can do. That said, if you have conducted a few home repairs on your vehicle in the past and you feel like you have the technical know-how and the ability to pull it off, then you may be able to do an axle replacement on your own.
You can find some Guides Online that walk you through the process, and even videos that show you step-by-step. These are some of the best guides you can find made by professional mechanics that walk you through the whole process step by step. It's always good to have one of these on hand that you can consult in case you're not one of the percent sure of the process so you can refer back to it as needed.
Make sure you have the exact right axle to fit your vehicle as installing the wrong axle can cause serious problems with your steering and alignment. In addition, once you do have the job finished, you'll still need to get your alignment checked by a professional just to make sure everything is exactly where it needs to be. On the upside, the cost of getting your alignment checked is probably going to be about $50 to $75, so it's a much cheaper Prospect overall.
Still, if you're not comfortable doing this kind of work on your own, it's best to go to a professional mechanic to get it done. As we said this is definitely a more advanced repair so if you're new to vehicle DIY repair, this is probably not a good place to start.
The Bottom Line
With a broken or damaged axle your car only has a limited amount of time that it's going to continue functioning if it even functions at all. You don't want to put off this kind of repair because losing your axle while driving can result in a catastrophic accident that could harm yourself or others on the road. When you notice the symptoms of a bad car axle, give it to a mechanic as soon as you can.