As all mechanics will tell you, axles are a very important part of your vehicle. Without them, your wheels will not move, and a sound axle is as vital as good brakes or tires. Most people understand that without functional brakes, tires, engines, or steering systems, cars will not function safely, but many are unaware of the crucial value a car’s axle has.
In its most basic form, a car axle is a rod or a shaft that is spun in order to move a vehicle’s wheels. Think of a railroad car or a Radio Flyer wagon. The axle is the bar that connects the wheels. It also holds the weight of the car or wagon. On a motorized vehicle, the axle transfers engine power and torque from the transmission to the drive wheels. Contemporary front-wheel-drive vehicles often combine the transmission and the front axle into what is called a transaxle. On vehicles with rear-wheel drive, the engine connects to a drive shaft, and the drive shaft turns the drive axle in the back of the vehicle.
Most modern cars have a split axle with universal joints between two half-axles. A constant velocity (CV) joint connects each of these to a wheel. This allows for each wheel to have independent suspension, pivot when making turns, and turn at different speeds, improving tire traction and extending tire life.
A broken car axle is often the result of overloading a vehicle, a bad carrier bearing, or even an unfortunate pothole experience. If you hear rumbling or feel vibrating when you accelerate or turn your car, this is a sign of an axle going bad or close to breaking. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to ignore your axle going bad- it’s usually accompanied by a loud clicking or banging that’s noticeable when your car shifts gears, or the previously mentioned rumbling or vibrating with turning or accelerating.
If you notice any of these signs, you should get your car to a mechanic as soon as possible so they can evaluate your car’s axle. You shouldn’t try to drive a car with a broken axle, and once it has broken at the universal joint, you will not be able to. Pushing down on the accelerator will just rev the engine- it will not make the car go.
If you think your car axle is going bad, or have any other questions about maintaining the safety and functioning of your vehicle, contact Veenstra’s Garage at 616-454-6597. We’ll help you schedule a free 22pt inspection today with one of our mechanics.