Every motorized vehicle has at least two drive shafts, which transmit the power from the transmission to the wheels. The driveshafts are subject to heavy mechanical loads, especially when cornering. You can identify defective or bad drive shaft by various symptoms.
Symptoms of a bad drive shaft or defect
The drive shaft comprises several components, so in the event of a defect, you have to find out which one is affected. For example, the driveshaft joint may be defective, or just the axle boot over this joint may be torn. The first indications of a worn driveshaft are a rattling sound when driving and a strong vibration in the steering wheel, especially when cornering.
If the defect is more advanced, you can hear a rhythmic cracking sound when starting off and cornering, and the driveshaft will start to squeak. If the drive shaft flange leaks, oil can also run out of the transmission.
Causes of a drive shaft defect
The causes of a defect can vary greatly. For example, grease can leak through a cracked axle boot. Dirt can collect in the resulting cavity, causing wear on the driveshaft joint. In addition, the grease flying around can land on the brake and impair braking performance. If you have a convertible, you can read the convertible user information to see the location of the axle boot and if it’s torn. Also, read the manual, so you know how to properly drive your car to get the most performance out of it. If an axle boot is torn, you should take the vehicle to the workshop as soon as possible.
Accidents, installation, and assembly errors can cause mechanical deformation or compression. For example, the joint was not placed correctly on the drive shaft, or a hammer was used instead of a puller during removal. Such deformation can cause vibrations in the steering wheel and, in rare cases, even in the gearshift lever. If the bolts are not tightened correctly, they can come loose, and the driveshaft gets to play.
This results in abrasion at the joints between the drive shaft and the transmission or driveshaft joint. Which in turn causes the rattling mentioned above and, in the final stage, the cracking noise when starting and steering. In order to detect the first signs of a driveshaft defect, regular inspection is recommended.
Consequences of defective or bad drive shaft
As is so often the case with cars, the consequences of a broken drive shaft can range from purely acoustic conspicuousness to life-threatening dangers for car occupants and other road users. Wear usually does not affect the driveshaft itself but the driveshaft joints and their joint balls.
In the worst case, the drive shaft can break off at the interfaces with other components, which can lead to serious accidents. Screws that are not correctly tightened can also come loose and cause the driveshaft to break off at full speed.
In the case of a leaking axle boot, grease can leak into the environment, and a defect that is not dealt with in time can result in expensive consequential damage. If you identify bad drive shaft symptoms, you should replace the drive shaft as soon as possible. If necessary, the transmission, suspension, and wheel bearings are on the outside of the vehicle.
Can I continue driving with a defective or bad driveshaft?
Yes, when there are indications of a critical defect, you should take the car to the workshop as soon as possible.
Can I repair a drive shaft with bad symptoms?
Yes, you can repair a driveshaft, but replacement is usually cheaper.
If the boot leaks, do I have to replace the driveshaft?
No, if done in a timely manner, it may be sufficient to replace only the boot. However, the driveshaft joint must also be renewed if you wait too long and it already rattles while driving.
How much does a new driveshaft and joint cost?
You can get a ready mounted (joint incl. grease filling, and sleeve) from $100, a driveshaft joint from $50 plus $10 sleeve incl. grease.
Can you change a drive shaft yourself?
Yes, but you have to pay attention to the special conditions of the respective vehicles. (plugged or screwed to the car transmission, joints glued in or not, etc.). You also need special tools.