Axle Service in Colorado
What Car Axles Actually Do
Your car's axles are a part of the vehicle drivetrain, along with the transmission, differential, and driveshaft. This group of components interacts directly with the car's powertrain to thrust it into motion, with the ability to direct the car's travel. The drivetrain is a mostly mechanical system, and the axles are the mechanical link between the transmission and the vehicle's wheels. The power from the transmission is converted into rotational force, which allows the wheels to be propelled forward or backward.
In a front-wheel drive car, SUV, or truck, the rear axle is considered dead and simply rotates as the car moves along. In a four-wheel drive auto, all 4 wheels contribute to propelling the car forward. Both front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive autos will have ‘CV’ or ‘constant velocity’ axles, meaning that each wheel has a half axle or half shaft dedicated to that wheel instead of one long shaft connecting both wheels.
Signs Your Car Axle Needs Attention
Unless the car has been in an accident that has directly damaged the axle, it is likely that the joints and parts connecting the axles to the wheels and to the transmission are the culprits. Still, these issues are considered a repair to the car's axle. You will likely not notice the bad axle joints until you experience the following signs of a bad axle:
- Wheel Vibrations - after hitting a pothole, curb, or other object, if you experience severe vibrations along with a rumbling sound from near the vehicle's wheels, this may indicate there is a problem with one or more of the axles.
- Loud Noise - a bad CV joint or axle will typically cause an unusual and loud clunking or clanking sound. This is typically the sound of the transmission struggling to convert power from the engine to the wheels. This needs to be diagnosed by a transmission expert to determine if the failure is with the transmission or if it is with the car's axles.
- Car won't move - once the axle has failed, your car or truck will start, and you will be able to put the car in gear, but it will not move forward or in reverse. No matter how much you push the accelerator, the car will go nowhere fast!
- Leaking grease - a damaged axle joint or CV boot (the rubber covering over the CV joint) will cause grease to spill into the tire's rim and onto the ground beneath the car. If grease is leaking out, then dirt can get into the joint and cause your axle to fail.
If your car's axle, CV joints, or axle and/or joint boots are damaged, the car should be towed to a repair shop for an inspection. Continuing to drive can cause further damage to the car's drivetrain and will cost the owner more money to repair.
Do a visual inspection if you suspect your car's axles may be failing. Here are things to look for:
- Look for grease collecting on the tire's rim or on the ground around the tires.
- Inspect the rubber axle boots and CV joint boots for holes or splits, which can cause grease to leak.
- Inspect the axle or shaft for dents or any nicks and see if anything is rubbing against it.
Why Do Car Axles Fail?
Like any other mechanical part of your car, over time, metal fatigue, along with normal material wear and tear, can cause an axle or other part of the drivetrain to fail. Therefore, older cars are very likely to experience an axle problem that needs repair or replacement. Wear and tear on the drivetrain can be accelerated when you hit deep potholes too often and too hard. Also, overloading your car, SUV, or truck can speed up wear on your car's axles.
If you have a newer car, an axle failure can be a sign of a manufacturing defect. This is why your drivetrain is covered by a manufacturer's warranty for a number of years, because with normal drive behavior in a newer car, your axle should not fail. When you consider all the hard work that your car's axles must do, constantly rotating, flexing, and adjusting to accommodate different road conditions and driving styles, you realize what a workhorse the car's drivetrain really is!