The axles work to transfer power from your car’s transmission to the wheels. So without two working axles, you won't be able to drive your car far. Unfortunately, a broken axle is one of those mechanical problems that you can't ignore.
If one of your car’s axles is broken or loose you might technically be able to drive it. This can be very dangerous. When the axle starts to fail you’ll notice that your car starts to pull to one side while driving. When it finally breaks the wheel will separate from the rest of the vehicle and the car won't be able to move at all.
The Axle’s Role In Your Vehicle’s Function
The axle is a rod-like component that’s attached to the wheels. It’s a central shaft that rotates the wheels. The axles are what allows the wheels to move in the direction in which the driver steers. Since the primary role of the axles is to transmit driving torque to the wheels every vehicle requires operational axles.
The average passenger car has two sets of axles to rotate the wheels on the car while larger vehicles that are designed to accommodate several passengers are equipped with more axles. You can tell how many axles a vehicle has by simply looking at it and counting the pairs of tires.
What Are The Main Types Of Axles?
Axles aren’t a one size fits all type of component. Every vehicle is equipped with an axle that meets its unique technical specifications. The amount of force that needs to be produced to move the wheels is another major factor that determines the type of axle used on a vehicle.
There are three basic types of axles:
Front Axle: Front axles are made with a sturdy and durable metal material like carbon steel. The front axles were designed to be strong to withstand the power from the engine. This axle assists with the steering and absorbs vibrations from the shocks. The front axle has four parts; the track rod, swivel pin, beam, and stub axle.
Rear Axle: The rear axle also delivers power to the driving wheels. This axle is commonly referred to as half shafts because they come in two halves. The rear axles are connected to the differential and they rotate with the wheels.
Stub Axles: Some vehicles are equipped with stub axles that are connected to the front wheels. The stub axles are attached to the front axles through king pins.
How Can I Tell If My Car Has A Broken Axle?
Since the axles are essential to the function of your vehicle it’s important to make sure they are in good condition. An axle doesn’t completely break overnight. The following signs can indicate trouble with your car's axle:
Loud Clunking Noise
The first sign of a broken axle is a loud clunking or clanking noise that occurs when you shift the gear into drive. This noise could indicate that the power or torque stopped at the broken axle and that your automobile was unable to transfer torque and power from the transmission and engine to the wheels.
Excessive Wheel Vibration
If you have suddenly started experiencing a vibration sensation in one of your vehicle’s wheels this is a sign that one of the axles is broken. A broken axle isn’t able to properly balance the wheel as it rotates which causes the shaft to shake excessively. The vibrations tend to become pronounced the faster the car is driven.
Car Stops Moving
A broken axle will eventually stop a vehicle dead in its track. When the axle breaks at the joint it won’t be able to transfer power to the wheels. When you go to step on the gas the wheels won’t move.
Grease Leaking From Axle
Grease leaking underneath the vehicle on either side of the wheels or inside the tire edge is a sign that the axle boot may have become compromised. This may seem like a minor issue but a faulty axle boot can indicate that the axle has started to wear.
A bent axle almost always causes a visible deflection in the alignment of the tires. While you might not feel a big difference in the handling of the vehicle other people outside of the vehicle will be able to see how the car wobbles or leans to one side especially while in motion.
A broken axle can sometimes cause braking issues. When you begin to experience vibrations from the wheel wobbling the brakes may start to malfunction since they aren’t in alignment with the wheels. The pads may start to drag which decreases your vehicle’s stopping power.
How To Inspect Your Car For A Broken Axle?
If you suspect that your car’s axle is broken you should perform a visual inspection and test the vehicle immediately. Follow these steps to inspect for axle damage:
If your axle is showing several signs of damage you will notice that the CV Boot which is a ribbed, rubber, and flexible boot-like component is torn or damaged in some way. The CV boot is what protects the axle. Therefore, once the axle is broken it's likely that the CV has sustained some damage as well.
Try testing the axle for movement. From underneath the vehicle, take hold of the axle and test its movement. Does it move from side to side or in and out? An operational axle should have minimal movement. If the axle moves then ⅛ in any of the tested directions then the faulty part should be removed and replaced as soon as possible.
Consider taking the vehicle for a test drive to determine the condition of the axle. Try to perform the test drive in an empty parking lot because you’ll need a smooth and flat surface. To test the axle turn the steering wheel all the way in the other direction. See if your car can drive in a complete circle.
Next, turn the wheel all the way to the opposite side and try to drive in a full circle. If you have a broken axle you will instantly hear a popping or banging sound as you steer the vehicle in a circle. If the noise increases when you steer in a straight line then you may need to replace the joint as well.
Why Driving With A Broken Axle Is Dangerous
Driving on a broken axle is risky because at any moment it can fail and you’ll end up losing control of your car. In severe cases when the axle breaks the wheel bearing will seize and this, in turn, causes the wheel to detach from suspension. This can lead to a serious accident or crash. Driving with a broken axle is a safety hazard to you and other drivers on the road.
What Causes An Axle To Break
Because the front and rear axle is manufactured from reinforced steel you might be wondering what could cause such a durable material to fail. What can lead to your car’s axle breaking?
Metal fatigue is real and is mostly applicable to older vehicles with high mileage. As the car ages, the axles start to rust and become brittle which greatly reduces their strength.
A broken axle can also be the result of too much weight being placed on the vehicle. The axles bear the weight of the entire car. Overloading your car or sport’s utility vehicle beyond its maximum weight capacity puts stress on the axles.
Bad Road Conditions
Poor road conditions are one of the leading causes of axle damage. Driving on bumpy roads with lots of potholes can be detrimental to the axles especially if the shocks which absorb impact are worn. Recklessly driving over speed bumps and rocky roads makes matters worse.
Can A Broken Axle Damage The Transmission?
The transmission and the axle are both integral parts of the drivetrain. They both work together to control the movement of the vehicle. Vehicles with a front-wheel-drive system are equipped with a transaxle. A transaxle configuration combines the transmission, differential, and ancillary system in a single assembly.
A broken axle can wear out the transmission. If you continue to drive on a loose or broken axle it will become loose at the inner joints. If you can move it up or down this is a sign that the differential in the transmission is damaged. If the differential is worn the seal has likely become damaged and the transmission will start to leak. In addition, a broken axle or transaxle will eventually start to overheat and it will start to burn up the transmission fluid. Without fluid, the transmission won’t get the lubrication that it needs and it will eventually fail.
Repairing A Broken Axle: Front and Rear Axle Replacement
A cracked or broken axle should be repaired as soon as possible. Depending on the extent of the damage a skilled mechanic may be able to fix a cracked or broken axle by welding it together. Repairing a broken axle is too risky because welding an axle will ultimately weaken the steel. Most mechanics will recommend that you replace the broken axle instead. Replacing a front or rear axle is the best solution because your car will drive much smoother.
Front Axle Replacement
Although a front axle replacement is a straightforward process the average cost of a front axle replacement is approximately $500-$600. Depending on the make, model, and brand this price can vary. Replacing a damaged front axle shouldn’t take longer than an hour for a skilled technician.
During this process, the car will need to be elevated using a car jack and the wheels connected to it will have to be removed. Once the broken axle is removed and the new one is placed onto the vehicle the fasteners and the tires will need to be torqued to the manufacturer’s specifications.
Rear Axle Replacement
A rear axle replacement is slightly more expensive. The average cost of a rear axle replacement is between $800-$1000. A cracked or broken rear axle should also be replaced rather than repaired. The rear axle assembly is complex and it can take time for a technician to install a new one.
How Long Does The Front Axle Last?
The front axle can last much longer than the rear axle due to its heavy-duty nature. Depending on your driving style the front axle can last between 80,000-100,000 miles. If the protective boot remains intact the front axle can last the entire life of the vehicle.
The good news is that if you have a powertrain warranty, the front and rear axles are included in the coverage. Standard powertrain warranties typically last for 60,000 miles or five years.
Does Insurance Cover The Cost Of A Broken Axle?
Even a full-coverage insurance plan won’t cover the cost of a broken axle. Insurance providers don’t cover routine maintenance costs. They may pay for an axle replacement if it was damaged by a covered item.
If your car was involved in an accident and the axles on your vehicle were damaged as a result a comprehensive collision insurance policy should cover the repairs. Some insurance policies even cover damages that were sustained in harsh weather conditions.
Should You Repair A Car With A Broken Axle?
A broken axle may seem like a relatively minor repair job but if both of the rear and front axles need to be replaced you could be shelling out well over $1,000. In some situations when the axle is broken the CV boot and joint need to be repaired as well. This can significantly increase repair costs. If you’re driving a used car that has seen better days, investing over a thousand dollars into repairing it may not be a wise decision.
Ultimately you’ll have to determine whether your vehicle is worth the investment. If you’re tired of pouring your hard-earned money into your used car we’ll take it off your hands. Here at Cash Cars Buyers, we purchased used vehicles in any condition. Contact us today to see how much we offer for a car with a broken axle.