An automobile is an exciting machine. Typically speaking, all of its components, no matter how small or large, show various symptoms before failing or completely stopping their function. This is especially useful when discussing the vital elements that drive your vehicle.
One component that plays an integral part in your car’s primary function, moving, is the drive shaft. Like any other components, drive shafts are also prone to wear and tear and can fail after a point in their practical work life. The good news, however, is like any other component, the drive shaft will also produce enough signs before failing and allow you to look for a solution before it happens. But drive shafts don’t fall that easily.
So, how does a drive shaft fail? To understand this, you will have to revisit their working principles and ask yourself the following questions; what is a drive shaft? How does a drive shaft work? Why and how do drive shafts fail, and most importantly, can you drive a truck with a broken drive shaft? In this article, we will try to answer these questions one by one in complete detail so that you can develop your understanding of these critical components very well.
One of the most common and talked about components in the automobile driveline drive shafts is connecting transmission boxes with the transfer case in four-wheel vehicles. The primary function of these components is to carry torque for your car’s engine to all parts of your vehicle that help it move. In other words, a drive shaft is a long metallic pole that rotates on the bearings and transfers the torque.
Talking about the built quality of these drive shafts, these components are typically made of metallic solid configurations like bimetal, steel alloy, or chrome vanadium. However, there might be exceptions, and so you will also find drive shafts made of aluminum, titanium, and carbon fiber in the market. Depending upon your vehicle size, space available in the frame, and optimum performance required, the length of a drive shaft may vary about a few feet.
A general look at the working basics of a drive shaft may suggest that it is one of your vehicle's most simple and pretty straightforward components. However, a closer look at the things would reveal that it is quite a complex and finely tuned engineering piece. Being the final part of your car’s drive assembly, the primary role of your drive shafts is to compress/rebound in collaboration with your vehicle’s suspension’s compression/rebound.
Since there is a considerable amount of distance between the final drive assembly and the transmission output shaft that is dependent on the final arc that is followed by the final drive, the role of the drive shaft here is to compensate for this distance and movement, and it uses a slip joint to achieve it.
However, depending upon your vehicle’s size, there are even further two scenarios; if you have a four-wheeler with a more extended suspension travel, it is more likely to be fitted with a slip joint that is positioned on the drive shaft itself. As the suspension moves, the drive shaft will follow, and the slip joint will slide into and out of the extension housing. Likewise, if you have a vehicle with a limited suspension journey, a yoke is used, which is splined to the transmission output drive shaft. The role of a slip yoke is the same as that of a slip joint.
Like any other vehicle component, your drive shafts also work the best in a defined lifespan. They will eventually fail, and the sooner you notice the symptoms of their failure, the better. Following are the four main reasons that will come into play before your drive shaft seizes to perform its functions/roles:
Of course, the first and foremost reasons, would be their workable age. If you are a truck owner in the United States, the average life of your drive shafts is around 10-11 years. If you have equipped yourself with the drive shafts made before 2000, their life will be slightly lesser than this as the drive shafts made in those times didn’t come with protecting coatings and hardenings as they do now.
The second most common reason for the failure of drive shafts is accidents. When your vehicle bumps into another car on the back or hits an object on its rear, the impact is likely your drive shafts will lose their shape. The same happens when your vehicle hits a curb. This time the impact and shock combine to break your drive shafts.
The third possible reason for the failure of drive shafts is the untreated corrosion caused by the road salt. The phenomena are more common in SUVs and trucks and are likely to ruin your drive shafts within a few years.
The last and the most careless reason for the failure of drive shafts is hitting potholes and curbs. Since drive shafts are positioned underneath the car in the weak areas, they are more prone to be hit by the ground and are at a higher risk of damage.
Before getting towards more unusual possibilities, what will happen for sure is that your car will gradually slow down and will finally stop, and you will not be able to turn wheels no matter what. Failure of driving shafts that too while driving is clearly not a situation any car driver would like to be in as it can cause a number of possible dangerous outcomes.
Suppose you are a relatively new driver and haven’t yet mastered the techniques of surviving a failure in the car’s components. You are likely to hit the panic button when the drive shafts fail. The mere thought in the mind of the driver that he is losing control over the car is enough to cause a severe mishap/crash. It is, therefore, wiser to keep all the signs of your vehicle under check before an unfortunate incident happens.
Secondly, it is to be understood that drive shafts are designed in a way that they don’t fail instantaneously. So, if your car’s drive shafts just died, it was indeed not “just the way .”There was a series of signs that were ignored or probably overlooked. Although, drive shafts are not the most common component that you will see failing every other day on the roads. It is to be established that drive shafts too have a life expectancy and are equally prone to failure.
Roughly speaking, a pair of good-quality driveshafts have a life expectancy of around 70,000 miles. So, to assume if your four-wheeler has already traveled about 70,000 miles, how has been your experience with your drive shafts, and what signs have you observed so far that need to be taken up seriously and moved to action? How many times have you asked for drive shaft repair already?
While the experienced truck drivers would suggest ways how you can drive your truck from point A to point B with wrong drive shafts, it is not the ideal practice to continue for long. This is because there are two possible scenarios of what happens when you continue to drive your vehicle with broken drive shafts; the first is that your shafts will snap, and you will lose your control over the axle. The second is that your drive shafts might dislocate, fall, and get obstructed between your vehicle and the ground blocking your vehicle’s forward motion.
In another case scenario, if your drive shaft is spinning quickly on one side and is disconnected from the other side, the chances are high that this will cause massive damage to your car underneath. It is because when one end of the vehicle is connected, the drive shaft will continue with its role and spin for a moment till it takes out anything that crosses its path. Your fuel lines, bake lines, handbrake cables, or even parts of the wiring harness.
Your drive shafts are expensive, and so is your vehicle. Taking good care of the spare parts of your car and looking after the repair works well will not just save some reasonable amounts of money in your pockets but will also put off the chances of crucial repairs of drive shafts. But more than these two things, it will save you from the question, “Can you drive a truck with a broken drive shaft?”
In case the worst happens, and your drive shafts fail, a considerable thud will follow it, and your vehicle will slow down to a complete stop. Other dangers accompany and can be both serious and expensive for you and your car’s health. The best practice is performing routine maintenance and checks to avoid surprises. We hope this article must have answered all your major questions about drive shafts.