Understanding your car's axles

Last updated: January 1

What is a car axle?

An axle on your vehicle is a rod or shaft that rotates the wheels and supports the car's weight. Car and Driver explains that axles are essential components of any vehicle. Since axles conduct the power that turns the wheels, every vehicle needs axles in order to operate properly.

Types of axles

The Engineers Post explains that there are three different types of axles:

  1. Rear axle: The rear axle is located between the differential and the driving wheels and transmits power between the two. The rear axle is actually two halves — connected by the differential — with each part known as the half shaft. In most vehicles, the rear axles rotate with the vehicle's wheels.
  2. Front axle: The front axle facilitates steering, absorbs shocks from driving on uneven road surfaces and carries the weight of the front part of the vehicle.
  3. Stub axle: These carry the front wheels of the car.

The front and rear axles are responsible for rotating the wheels. Most cars have front and rear axles, although larger vehicles might have more.

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Why should you inspect your axles?

Regular axle inspection is an important part of car maintenance because spotting trouble early on can help you avoid expensive repairs in the future, according to Meineke. The cost of axle repair can increase drastically if you have to replace any of the axles.

What to look for when inspecting

According to Car and Driver, most car mechanics will inspect your axles whenever you bring in your car — but you can also conduct an inspection yourself. You won't need any tools to do it, but you will need to get underneath your vehicle. Depending on how low your car is, you might need something to lift it up off the ground. You can use car jacks or vehicle ramps to do this.

Visual inspection

The easiest part of the inspection is taking a close look at the boot, which is responsible for keeping joints lubricated and preventing dirt and water from getting in, says YourMechanic.com. They explain that the boot has ribs in it to allow it to flex and move with the vehicle. Check for holes, splits or grease that is leaking. Next, you should inspect the shaft for any nicks, dings, or dents, as well as if there are signs that anything is rubbing on it.

YourMechanic.com also recommends that you check the clamps that connect the boots to the shaft to ensure there are no leaks.

Driving inspection

You can also take a test drive to determine if there is anything wrong with your axles. If you notice any of the following signs, says Meineke, your axle might be in disrepair:

  • When you put your car into gear, there is a loud "clunk" sound.
  • Your car vibrates when you operate it.
  • There is a clicking or popping noise when you turn your car.
  • Your car is running, but it won't move forward or backward.

Are car axles covered by insurance?

If your car axle is damaged or broken as a result of an accident or hazard, it may be covered by your car insurance (depending on your specific policy). Damage from wear and tear or aging is not covered by car insurance. It is possible to buy warranty coverage for major components, such as the engine and transmission, but this is separate from insurance and subject to its own set of rules and restrictions.