How to Explain What is a Drive Shaft?

Being able to identify the different systems required to drive a car is an essential skill for any driver. Beyond knowing for knowledge’s sake, it also helps you identify potential problems more precisely.

The drive shaft is one of the more obscure components of the car, at least as far as new drivers are concerned. So, here’s a simple explanation of what it is, what it does, and signs you might have a problem with yours.

What is the drive shaft?

The drive shaft is a long, hollow tube on the underside of the car. In most cases, it connects from the rear of the car in rear-wheel drive cars. In front-wheel-drive cars, the equivalent component is most often known as the half shaft or front drive shaft.

What does it do?

The main purpose of the drive shaft is to deliver the power created by the engine to the rear of the car, powering the wheels. The output shaft of the transmission system rotates the drive shaft, which delivers torque to the differential ring gear. In response, this turns the wheels and gets the car running.

Why you should be worried about a faulty drive shaft

As the drive shaft is a primary component in supplying the power of the engine throughout the vehicle, malfunctions can be serious. A faulty drive shaft can lead to the complete failure of the car to move even though the engine is working. More often, however, it can lead to a loss of control on the road, putting you and other drivers at risk.

What are the common signs something is wrong with my drive shaft?

There are a few common symptoms that your drive shaft is beginning to fail. The most common is the sudden presence of vibrations under the car. Worn out u-joints can cause the drive shaft to loosen. The drive shaft starts shaking, which can also cause damage to other parts of the drivetrain and transmission.

To tell whether vibration is being caused by faulty tires or a faulty drive shaft, slow down. If the problem ceases or lessens, it is due to the tires. If it doesn’t it’s more likely due to a failing drive shaft. This can also express as a sudden shuddering when the car accelerates from a stop.

Though it’s not the only cause, a faulty drive shaft can also lead to difficulty in steering the car. As the drive shaft is connected to your wheels, when it is faulty, it can stop the wheels from turning properly.

Certain noises can also be symptom there’s an issue with the drive shaft. Keep an ear out for a loud clunking noise when shifting the vehicle. A click or knocking noise from beneath the car or a persistent and annoying squeak at low speeds can be the first signs of trouble.

Learning about the drive shaft is just the beginning. If you want to know more about the different components or your car and how to identify when something is wrong with them, browse our blog. We update regularly with new content helping you to become a safe, more responsible driver.