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Car Axle: What is it and Why is it Important? 

Car Axle

A car axle is a rod, shaft, or a spindle that is built under the car’s body which rotates the wheels. It also holds the majority of the car’s weight and maintains the position of the wheels relative to each other. It plays a very important role in the overall operation of the car and if it becomes damaged, the wheels won’t be able to move. Although the car axle is built to be sturdy, it can sometimes crack or break when the car is overloaded. Bad driving habits and faulty carrier bearings can also lead to car axle issues. You will know if your car axle is due for a repair when you experience symptoms such as grease leaks, loud clicking and clunking noises, unusual vibrations, or  a car that is not moving forward. 

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What is an Axle on a Car?


A car axle  is a very important part of the car since it is being used for a lot of car operations such as driving, braking, and steering. Like mentioned earlier, it also supports and holds the majority of the car’s weight while maintaining the wheels position relative to each other. But how does a car axle work? 


A car axle is a steel rod that connects the wheels and tires of a car which is in charge of turning the wheel when the driver accelerates the car. It consists of long lug studs on one end that are mounted to the wheels. Its opposite end connects to the car’s drivetrain which makes the wheels turn with the motor. 


It works by transferring power and torque from your engine to your wheels. While all these operations are happening, the car axle should be able to carry the car’s entire weight, plus the passengers and cargo if there are any. It also needs to hold out against the accelerated forces of braking and driving. 


The car axle on a front-wheel drive car connects the front wheels to the drivetrain and motor with the whole front-wheel drive system connecting the motor and transmission right to the differential gears on the front wheels’ axle. The rear-wheel drive vehicle on the other hand has a car axle that connects the rear gears to the transmission and the driveshaft. It causes the gears in the rear end to turn the vehicle’s wheels when the driveshaft turns. The motion utilizes the gear drive technology. It uses specific gear ratios in order to turn the wheels on the axle.  


As for the four-by-four vehicles, they are equipped with a gear drive on both the vehicle’s front and rear axle. Its design makes it possible for both the front and rear wheels to turn when there is an acceleration of the motor. But because the four-by-four axle is designed like this, it is considered one of the most costly axles to repair. 


The car axle has three different standard types: the front axle, the rear axle, and the stub axle. The front axle is found in the front of the car. Its task is to assist in steering and process shocks from uneven road surfaces. It is also the one that carries the weight of the vehicle’s front part. It consists of four major parts that include the beam, the track rod, the swivel pin, and the stub axle. This type of car axle is normally made from carbon steel or nickel steel since it needs to be built as tough as possible. 


The rear axle is installed between the differential and the driving wheels. Its task is to deliver or transmit power to the driving wheels. This car axle comes in two halves which are connected by the differential. Each part is also called the half shaft. The rear car axle rotates with the wheels in most cars. Car axles that rotate with the wheels are commonly known as live axles. 


The stub axle is known to be a sub-assembly to the front wheels of the car. With the use of kingpins, this car axle is connected to the front axle. This type of car axle turns about the kingpin. It is a light drive which is fitted in the axle beam eye which can be found and locked by the taper cotter pin.  


Does a Car have 2 or 4 Axles?


There has been some confusion whether a car has two or four axles. There are people who think that a car has two while some say there are four. To understand why there has been some confusion, let’s take a trip down memory lane. 


In the olden days, when people still rode in horse-drawn cars and old cars, the wheels were joined by an axle. The axles have always let the wheels turn while supporting the weight of the vehicle, passengers, and cargo. The cars around this time were back-wheel drive with back wheels that needed to be attached to an axle. The vehicles that were used at that time had a pair of wheels for each axle. So for each four-wheel vehicle, there were two axles.  


However, around the 1930s, the independent front-wheel suspension was invented. Back-wheel drives were no more and the car’s front wheels began to be mounted separately. This made the traditional axle disappear to make way for the wheels mounted on struts and shock absorbers.


Today, it is a bit more complicated to determine how many car axles a car has. The answer will depend on what you consider an axle to be. However, there are many people who say that counting how many wheels your car has can help you determine how many axles it has. So basically, a car has four axles or two pairs of axles. 


How Do You Know If Your Car Axle is Bad?


Although a car axle is designed and built to be tough or sturdy since it generally supports the weight of the car, passengers, and cargo, it is not unbreakable. The car axle can break or become weak over time due to their location, which is under the car. Since the car axle plays a very important role in the overall function of the car, you need to make sure that it is always working properly. 


Some of the reasons why a car axle becomes damaged are:


  • Bad carrier bearings.
  • Bad driving habits like not slowing down when driving on or over big potholes, bumps, and other road flaws.
  • Overloading the car with too much weight or excessive cargo. 


You will know if your car axle is in need of a repair when you experience any of these problems:

  • Unusual vibrations.


If you experience unusual car vibrations after driving over a bad pothole or an unexpected curb, you might have a damaged axle. You may notice the unusual vibrations when you are accelerating, decelerating, or when turning or cornering. If you also feel vibrations while you are driving at a low speed, then it is a sure sign that your car axle has issues. 


If you feel any unusual vibrations while driving, it is best that you have your car checked immediately since excessive vibrations can result in other issues to develop. It can also affect your car’s handling and comfort, and it can also compromise your safety. If the problem is really caused by a damaged car axle, you will have to replace it to correct the problem. 

  • Loud clunking sound when you put your car into gear. 


If you have a damaged car axle, your car will struggle to move. If you put it into gear, you may hear an unusual loud clunking or a sudden sputtering. This can happen when your car finds it really difficult to transfer power to the wheels. There might be an axle-joint damage when you feel like your car struggles to get power as it starts to move. You may hear the unusual noise coming from a specific point in your cars. Listen carefully since it might be the location of the problem. 


This symptom can also be caused by a transmission failure. To make sure that it is not the one that caused the unusual noises, you might want to have your car checked by a professional to get the right diagnosis. 


You may also notice some clicking sounds when you turn the car. This is an indication that the joints have become loose. The clicking sound can be heard on the faulty axle shaft’s side which can go louder whenever you make fast or sharp turns. 


  • Car not moving forward


A car not moving forward is one of the obvious signs that your car axle is in need of a repair or replacement. You will be able to start your car, go into gear, rev your engine, but it won’t move forward. This is an indication that your car has a broken axle at or near the universal joint. Your car axle might be bent or has snapped. The problem needs to be fixed immediately because when this happens, you won’t be able to move your car at all. 

  • Steering wheel vibrations.


This problem can occur when you have a damaged car axle or CV joints. When you have this problem, you may notice a very obvious vibration in the steering wheel. The vibrations can be so severe that you and your passenger will be able to see it. 


The steering wheel vibrations can worsen whenever you make a turn since a faulty axle or CV joints can throw the whole axle assembly off balance. When this happens, you need to pull over and stop your car. Your car axle might have not failed yet, but driving with a vibrating steering wheel is very dangerous. Plus, it will be difficult to steer your car properly. 

  • Grease splattering or leaking out.


An issue with your car axle or CV joint can lead to grease splattering across or under your car. You may also see it leaking from a boot. The grease can also splash over your brake in some cases. When this happens, it can contaminate your brake and cause brake problems. You may also see tears on your axle boots, usually close to where these boots are clamped on the axle. 


Car Axle: Can You Drive a Car with a Broken Axle?


Upon discovering that their cars have a broken car axle, many people want to know if a car can still be driven even if its car axle is broken. The answer is, no. It is not safe to drive a car with a broken axle. Although you can still drive your car if its car axles have not yet failed completely,  it will be very dangerous. Your car axle can fail completely at any point while you are driving. 


Keep in mind that in order for your car to move forward, you need two operational axles. They are the ones that transfer power, from the transmission to the wheels for a front-wheel drive car, or from the differential to the wheels for a rear-wheel drive car. Driving with a broken car axle can compromise your safety. It can cause different and more dangerous problems to occur if left unrepaired. You may lose control of your car as a result. If you experience any of the symptoms listed above,  you need to have it checked to determine the axle problem and have it repaired immediately. 


The car axle has been around and used for many, many years. It is an important component of a car so it is only right that you are aware of its functions. You need to have them checked or inspected regularly as a part of your car maintenance to ensure that it is always working properly. If the car axle gets damaged and you experience the symptoms of a bad car axle, do not ignore it. Have it checked and repaired. Do not wait until the problem gets worse. Ignoring the problem might lead you to be stranded on the road or worse, losing control of your car and causing an accident.  






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