A driveshaft is a cylindrical shaft that transmits torque from the engine to the wheels. They are most commonly found on rear-wheel drive vehicles and connect the rear of the transmission to the driveshaft. As the output shaft of the transmission rotates it spins the driveshaft, which then turns the differential ring gear to rotate the wheels.
Driveshafts are a very precisely balanced and weighted component because they rotate at very high speeds and torque values in order to turn the wheels. When the driveshaft has any sort of issue, it can affect the drivability of the vehicle. Usually, a problem with the driveshaft will produce 4 symptoms that alert the driver of an issue that should be addressed.
1. Intense Vibrations from Underneath the Vehicle
One of the first symptoms of a problem with the driveshaft is vibrations coming from underneath the vehicle. If the driveshaft universal joint (U-joint) or bushings wear out, it can cause excessive driveshaft vibration.
Driveshafts are finely balanced before installation to ensure they do not vibrate. Any sort of vibration indicates an issue. An excessively vibrating driveshaft will not only cause vibrations that can be felt by the passengers, but it can also cause accelerated wear on other drivetrain components.
2. Abnormal Noises
Abnormal noises are another symptom of a problem with the driveshaft. If the bushing or bearing that supports the driveshaft or the driveshaft U-joints wear out or fail, they can interfere with the driveshaft’s ability to rotate correctly. This may result in unusual rattling, clunking, scraping, or even squeaking sounds from underneath the vehicle. U-joint in need of lubrication may also cause a squeaking noise at low speeds. Clicking or knocking sounds specifically can signify a faulty CV joint. Any noises such as these are an indicator that the vehicle should be serviced as soon as possible.
3. Turning Problems
Problems with turning the vehicle is another likely sign of a bad driveshaft. A broken driveshaft can prevent wheels from turning properly, giving you trouble when trying to make turns. This issue limits your overall control of the car. You need any issues that prevent you from driving the car correctly addressed right away for safe driving and continued use of the vehicle.
4. Shuddering During Acceleration
Experiencing a significant shudder when accelerating from low speed or a stopped position, it can be another sign of failing driveshaft components. A loose U-joint or bad center bearing within the driveshaft may cause the faltering acceleration. You may also hear sounds while the car is shuddering from the worn-out U-joint. You’ll want to have such issues checked out as soon as possible by a certified mechanic.
Driveshafts are an important part of the drivetrain, and any issues with them can greatly affect the drivability of the vehicle. As they are underneath the vehicle and connected to the transmission, they may be difficult to access and service on your own. If you suspect your driveshaft is having an issue, have the vehicle inspected by a professional technician to determine whether the driveshaft should be replaced.
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