5 Causes of Drive Shaft Failure: Useful Guide

Drive Shaft Failure

The drive shaft is a vehicle component that transfers the power from the transmission to the differentials and the front wheels.

It is also referred to as a propeller shaft, a Cardan shaft, or a prop shaft.

The drive shaft is primarily responsible for delivering the engine power from the differential to the wheels. But what causes drive shaft failure?

Some of the most common causes of drive shaft failure include worn-out or broken u-joints, couplers, or carrier bearings. If you don’t fix these components immediately, other drivetrain components could be affected.

Let’s learn more about what can cause the drive shaft to go bad and how to tackle them!

Top Reasons for Drive Shaft Failure Video

How Does the Drive Shaft Work?

As we already said, the primary function of the drive shaft is to deliver the engine power from the gearbox to the wheels.

But, in addition, it's also responsible for ensuring that the joints are adequately synchronized.

So, for instance, if the angle or length of the drive shaft changes due to manipulation or deflection, it compensates to ensure the smooth running of all components involved.

A front-wheel-drive shaft has a connecting rod, an outer fixed joint, and an inner constant velocity joint.

In addition, it has various other components, such as anti-lock system rings and torsional dampers.

In most vehicles, flexible mounts or bearings connect the engine and transmission. However, the suspension spring connects the rear and front wheels.

The rear-wheel-drive casing and the transmission input and output shafts are in different planes.

This allows the drive shaft to connect the two shafts in an inclined direction.

The movement of the rear wheels when they hit uneven surfaces can affect the angle between the transmission output shaft and the propeller shaft.

The length of the prop shaft can also change due to the movement of the rear wheels.

This phenomenon occurs because the rear wheels and the drive shaft rotate in an arc along their rotation axis.

What Causes Drive Shaft Failure?

Several factors contribute to the deterioration of drive shafts in automobiles. We highlighted some of the most common causes below;

1. The Use of Low-Quality Grease

An essential aspect of the drive shaft is lubricated with grease, which helps reduce friction and wear.

However, if the grease quality is not good enough, it can cause premature wear.

It is also essential to use the correct type of grease for your vehicle's drive shaft. Before using it, you must consult your owner's manual and a mechanic for the right type.

2. Wear and Tear

Like other car components, the drive shaft eventually wears out. Over time, its joints and bearings can start to wear out, which can cause it to become loose.

This often leads to issues relating to unpleasant sounds and squeaking.

Potholes can cause premature wear on the drive shaft. In addition, the constant impact from the vehicle over them can damage the drive shaft's joints and bearings.

Another common cause of premature wear and tear on the drive shaft is corrosion. If the drive shaft is made of steel, it can eventually rust and break. On the other hand, aluminum drive shafts are not as susceptible to corrosion.

3. Dirt Penetration

Foreign objects and dirt can also enter the drive shaft and affect the joints. This only happens when the seals on the joints are broken, leading to wear and tear.

It is essential to regularly clean and inspects the drive shaft to prevent it from getting damaged. Doing so can help prevent premature wear and tear.

If you live in an area with a lot of dirt and dust, you might consider covering your drive shaft with a cover. This will help keep the dirt from getting into the joints.

4. Poor Installation

The installation of the drive shaft can also cause issues. If the drive shaft is not installed correctly, it can cause it to wear out and bind.

Having a qualified mechanic install it can help prevent premature wear and tear.

5. Hot Climate

If you live in a hot climate, your car's drive shaft might get damaged due to excessive heat.

The heat can evaporate the grease, leading to premature wear and tear.

The factors listed above answer the question of what causes drive shaft failure. The good news is some of these issues can be prevented or addressed.

How To Fix a Bad Drive Shaft

If a drive shaft becomes damaged or bent, it can cause various problems, such as poor performance and noise. In some cases, it can even lead to an accident.

Aside from poor performance, a bent or damaged drive shaft can cause other problems such as vibrations and noise.

If you have a damaged or bent drive shaft, it's usually best to contact a professional for repairs.

These are some of the options available for the professional when handling the broken drive shaft.

Removal of the Old Shaft

  1. Depending on the make and model of your vehicle, it's usually best to remove the old drive shaft and disconnect it from the yoke.
  2. Inspect the old drive shaft to see the extent of the damage or if there are any damages.
  3. You have several options for repairing a damaged or bent drive shaft. One of these is to replace it with a new half shaft. The other option is to have it handled by a professional.
  4. The next step is re-installing the refurbished drive shaft or a new one.

How Much Does It Cost To Replace Drive Shaft?

The average cost of replacing a drive shaft is around $700 to $1,000. The labor costs are also expected to be about $300 to $500 while the parts cost about $700.

Before replacing your drive shaft, ensure the other components around the drive shaft are in good condition.

Besides the drive shaft, the mechanic should inspect the suspension components and U-joints for potential damage to prevent returning to the mechanic.