So, are you experiencing some serious vibrations while your car is running that came from the undercarriage of your vehicle? In this case, you probably have to do a drive shaft repair on your vehicle.
Driveshafts are designed to transfer the torque from the transmission to the wheels. The driveshafts are exposed to a huge amount of load during their use, and over time they tend to fail and develop issues.
If your car doesn’t feel well, it may start to develop vibrations when you apply some gas. If this is so, then it’s worth considering checking your driveshaft.
Drive shaft repair or replacement is necessary to be carried out. This is to bring your vehicle to working order. Without these repairs, you may end up with a broken driveshaft.
A driveshaft that is completely broken is unable to transmit torque to the wheels. In other words, this means that the vehicle will be immobilized and is unable to move. Driveshafts can also snap during accidents. So, a repair needs to be carried out. This is to make the vehicle driveable again.
In this article, we are going to learn everything when it comes to driveshafts. We will learn what they are, and where are they located in the vehicle. We will also discuss their role and how they function. Then, we are going to cover the drive shaft repair process, as well as the cost to repair or replace a driveshaft on your vehicle. So, let’s begin.
What Is The Drive Shaft?
Before we go deeper into the drive shaft repair and cost to replace this component. Let’s first discuss what these components are and how do they work.
The drive shaft in simple terms is a transmitter of energy. The engine produces energy through combustion, and this energy goes into the transmission. The transmission converts this crankshaft rotational energy from the engine into usable torque.
Torque is basically the hauling energy that your vehicle has just created. The torque measured in pound-feet in the US, or Newton-Meters in Europe. The higher the torque, the stronger and faster the driveshaft is spun by the transmission.
The driveshaft, in its whole lifespan, is tasked to transmit this torque to the wheels. If the vehicle is rear-wheel-drive, this torque goes to the rear differential. After that, the differential decides how to deliver the torque.
If the car is front-wheel-drive, the power delivery goes from the transaxle to the front wheels. This may sound complicated, but it’s fairly simple. In the next chapter, we are going to dissect this even more and we will deliver a simpler answer to your question.
The driveshaft is usually a big iron tube. It’s more prominent in rear-wheel-drive vehicles. The stronger the engine is, the harder and bigger the tube has to be. This is especially a trait in trucks. Here, driveshafts are extremely big and the drive shaft repair is more difficult as well.
In cars, the driveshafts are smaller and more compact. Especially in cars that are front-wheel-driven. These driveshafts are basically iron rods that connect the transaxle with the front wheel and transmit the energy for it to spin.
How Do Drive Shafts Work?
As we said, the driveshafts are pretty simple. It transmits the torque to the wheels. But there is a difference between front-wheel-drive and rear-wheel-drive cars. In both these types of vehicles, the drive shaft is laid out differently and looks different. So, it’s a good thing to understand how to differentiate these two types of driveshafts. This is for you to have a better understanding of how do these components work.
Also, the drive shaft has to follow the movement of the front suspension. If the vehicle bounces and rebounds, the drive shaft has to do the same and adjust itself based on the road characteristics. If the driveshaft can’t adjust, it will basically break or damage the suspension, or transmission.
Many of the drive shafts also use slip joints to accommodate the forward and backward movement of the wheels. This is a unique characteristic for 4×4 or all-terrain vehicles. In this chapter, we are going to explain precisely that.
Front Wheel Drive
In front-wheel-driven cars, there are two drive shafts. These driveshafts are connected to the transaxle. This transaxle is a special component that is designed to transfer the torque from the transmission to the wheels.
Many modern cars use a transaxle layout these days. They are adopted in front-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, and all-wheel drive vehicles.
They basically work as a differential to transfer the torque accordingly. In front-wheel-drive cars, there is the transaxle and to this axle are connected two drive shafts. Thus, it’s one for each wheel.
These small driveshafts spin. As they do that, they spin the wheel and enable the vehicle to move from a standstill.
These driveshafts are completely different than the rear-wheel driveshafts that we are going to cover next. On the front wheels, the driveshafts use constant velocity joints, unlike rear-wheel-drive cars that use universal joints.
This works differently because CV joints are usually placed at an angle. But this makes the drive shaft repair easier on these vehicles since you only have to remove the front wheel and the knuckle to do a drive shaft repair. This is unlike the rear-wheel-drive universal joints that require lifting the car on a lift. This is just to remove the driveshaft.
Rear Wheel Drive
Rear-wheel drive, as we mentioned, functions differently. In rear-wheel-drive cars, the drive shaft is in the center of the vehicle. It basically connects the transmission with the rear differential.
This connection is the drive shaft. This driveshaft is made out of input and output shafts. The input and output shafts are connected with universal joints.
The yokes inside of the driveshaft make it possible for deformation of the shaft. That’s since the shaft cannot be 100% straight all the time. If it’s built to be straight it’s going to break when there are obstacles on the road.
This allows the driveshaft to go to an angle of 45 degrees when there is a need to. There are also slip joints in the driveshaft that allows the driveshaft to move forward and backward.
This slip joint is usually mounted after the transmission where the driveshaft begins or in the middle of the drive shaft.
Vehicles that have a long wheelbase are usually equipped with two drive shafts that are connected by a central bearing and this is connected with a universal joint.
This makes the driveshaft very versatile and able to adapt on the road very nicely. Even though these universal and slip joints have more freedom to move, they are still limited. And when these limits are exceeded, they tend to fail and result in malfunctions.
That’s why drive shaft repair is needed in some cases to get these things resolved. Usually, when these components fail, they develop symptoms. And we are going to cover these symptoms in the next chapter in great detail. And then we are going to discuss drive shaft repair
Symptoms Of A Broken Drive Shaft
Like with every component on your vehicle, so the driveshaft shows symptoms when it’s failing. The universal joints are the ones that take the most of the beating, but the drive shaft can also break into pieces. In this chapter, we are going to discuss the main symptoms when you have a broken driveshaft, and then we are going to cover the proper solutions for this problem. This will depend on which component has failed.
Squeaking sounds are one of the first signs that appear. These sounds mean that you need drive shaft repair. Usually, these squeaking sounds appear when there is a play in the bearings of the U joint. This is mostly caused by the lack of lubrication that these bearings get.
Since there is no lube in them, they will run dry and the metal will get into contact with other metal. Now, the friction will start to increase, and it will continue to emit some unpleasant noises.
The best thing to do when you are experiencing squeaking sounds is to add lube to these bearings, and it will guarantee that they are going to remain in good condition. This problem has to be diagnosed early on before your bearings are done and require replacement. This way, you are going to save money in the long run.
Vibrations are another symptom of a failing driveshaft that requires drive shaft repair. You will notice these driveshaft vibrations easily because they come from the center console and move to the back of the vehicle.
These vibrations are caused by worn driveshaft bushings. Or, when the universal joint starts to wear.
This problem requires immediate attention and repair. You have to fix these components if you want your vehicle to stop vibrating.
As the problem develops, these vibrations will be more and more intense. In the end, if this problem is left untreated your driveshaft may break and the drive shaft repair can cost a lot of money to be done properly. In the end, you may end up needing a new driveshaft with new universal joints that will cost you a lot of money to get it done properly.
When the universal joint fails, it also develops some clunking sounds. These sounds come from where the universal joints connect to the transmission, or back at the differential.
Listen out if you notice a clunking sound coming from the front or the back. You should know that your universal joints are badly worn and they require immediate replacement. If you continue driving like this, you may drive your whole driveshaft in danger and potentially damage the driveshaft.
In my opinion, this risk is not worth it for an otherwise simple repair job like replacing the U joint on your vehicle.
Rattles can also appear along with the clunking sounds from the U joints. These rattles can be pretty annoying and can really annoy you and your passengers. Namely, because they are loud sounds.
The rattles do not mean that your universal joints are destroyed. They can just indicate that your driveshaft requires some lubrication to keep moving.
The bearings require lubrication if you leave them without lube. They are going to create a lot of friction like squeaking noises and rattles. The best thing to do is to get grease and apply a lot of it on the universal joints. This will probably fix the problem for now. And if it continues, you will need drive shaft repair.
Universal Joint Movement
If the universal movement has a movement, you will also going to risk the possibility of breaking apart from the transmission.
This is since the bearings that are holding the driveshaft are not lubricated and have a lot of play. They will eventually fall off from the universal joint and the universal joint will start to move.
These movements can cause the driveshaft to act strangely and wobble. When the universal joint completely fails it can cause the driveshaft to snap and destroy itself into pieces.
Noticeable Shudder When Accelerating The Vehicle
Another thing that you may be experiencing with bad universal joints or bad center bearings is the shudder that is created. This shudder is caused by the play that is in the driveshaft.
The more play there is, the more the driveshaft will wobble and start to shudder. This can be extremely noticeable when the vehicle is accelerating. This is especially if it accelerates too fast and the worn driveshaft starts to spin fast.
This can also result in catastrophic driveshaft failure and may cost you a new driveshaft. Whenever you start to experience some of these symptoms, the best thing to do is to inspect the driveshaft and its condition.
You can try applying grease onto the bearings first. And if this doesn’t work, you need to perform a drive shaft repair and replace the universal joint and the center bearings with new ones. This will guarantee that your driveshaft will not catastrophically fail and you will be able and enjoy your car.
So, call your mechanic and tell him what is the deal with your driveshaft and what it’s going to cost to repair. Or if you are a DIY guy you may want to try and repair the drive shaft on your own, then that’s something that we are going to discuss in the next chapter where we are going to cover all of the steps involved in this process.
How To Diagnose A Bad Universal Joint?
To diagnose a universal joint, you need to crank up your engine and take your car for a spin. If during the driving you are experiencing some weird vibrations and shudders coming from the front part of the vehicle where the driveshaft connects with the transmission, it means that you need to inspect your universal joint. This is the same story for the back. If you feel some vibrations coming from your differential. It is a great idea to inspect the universal joint at the back as well.
These symptoms can also correlate to other problems like unbalanced wheels or bad brakes. So, it is a good idea to know this. This is to make sure you don’t misdiagnose the problem and try to solve something that is not the real issue.
That’s why you have to do a visual inspection before you do a drive shaft repair. A visual inspection is going to tell you a lot about the condition of your universal joints.
During the visual inspection, if the retaining clips are not pushed inwards or outwards, then this is a good sign. This is because the universal joint is held by the clips. But there could still be play in the bearings.
But let’s say the rubber boots on the inside of the bearings are damaged and rotted out. Then, you most probably have bad universal joints. Since the rubber is damaged, a lot of dirt and debris can enter the universal joints and ruin them.
Another thing that you can try is to grab the driveshaft close to the connection with the differential or transmission and shake it really well. If the universal joint doesn’t move, then it’s good. Otherwise, you need a drive shaft repair to be performed on your driveshaft.
Can You Perform A Drive Shaft Repair?
Yes, you can do a drive shaft repair on your vehicle if you have the will to do it. If you are a DIY guy that doesn’t like mechanics to mess up with their car, then this job is going to be perfect for you.
All this work can be done with common tools at your garage and does not require extensive mechanical knowledge. You only need space to get to the drive shaft from below, and that means that you need to jack the car in the air. So, let’s begin.
Step one requires unbolting the bolts that are holding the drive shaft. You need to remove the driveshaft to perform a drive shaft repair on your vehicle. The driveshaft is usually held by four bolts on each side. Once you remove the driveshaft, you can focus on removing the universal joint.
Now it’s time to remove the universal joint of your driveshaft. But before you do this step, you have to remove the retaining clips that hold the universal joint to the drive shaft. There are four of these retaining clips along the universal joint.
Next up, we can apply some pressure to the universal joint to pop it loose and remove the universal joint from the drive shaft. To proceed with this step, you are going to need a special press that is going to press the universal joint downward.
After you press the universal joint, you need to remove the bearing cap out from the universal joint. After that, repeat this process for all three bearings that are left.
Before placing the new universal joints in, you have to prep the driveshaft and the flange and clean the debris from the old part.
This step requires mounting the new universal joint and reverse the whole process. Just don’t forget to grease the universal joint to protect it from the elements.
Drive Shaft Repair Cost
The drive shaft repair cost is relatively affordable and will not cost a lot. And it’s especially so if you are performing this job at home.
Universal joints are really cheap and you can get one for only $25. The labor on the other hand it’s going to cost you some money.
Since most repair shops require a $50 to $100 rate per hour, you can expect that this is going to cost you a few hundred dollars since this work requires several hours to do.
But if you do it at home, you can save all this money and invest them in your future upgrade. That’s why working on your car is useful.
Drive Shaft Repair – Conclusion
In this article, we have covered everything you need to know when it comes to driveshafts and drive shaft repair. We learned of the most common types of drive shafts and also how to recognize which shaft we have in our cars.
Then, we discussed the main symptoms of a bad driveshaft, which include tell-tale signs like vibrations, rattles, and noises. Following that, we created a small DIY guide and showed how you can replace the universal joints on your driveshaft easily, at home, with common tools.
This job is a good way to start your DIY career and learn more about cars. Maybe next time, you can move on to something bigger.
These tools have been tried and tested by our team, they are ideal for fixing your car at home.