National average cost of a an Axle Shaft Replacement for popular vehicles:
Avg. cost $266
Avg. cost $456
Avg. cost $399
What is an axle shaft and how does it work?
An axle shaft is a component of a vehicle with a solid axle design that was commonly found in most vehicles of the past. Today, most passenger cars and light SUVs feature independent suspension systems, although many trucks and larger SUVs still rely on solid axles.
A solid or “rigid” axle is a metal housing that connects the wheels on each side of a vehicle, right and left. It creates something known as a “dependent” suspension, where the movement of one wheel upwards and downwards affects the other, since they are each connected to the same solid axle. A solid axle can be either a “dead” axle (one that simply connects the wheels) or a “live” axle (one that drives the wheels).
When an axle is a “live” drive axle, it is made up of a gearbox (the differential) that receives rotational torque from the drive shaft coming from the transmission. Protruding from each side of the differential are heavy metal tubes that connect to the wheels. Inside the tubes are the axle shafts (sometimes referred to as “half-shafts”) that rotate as a result of the gears in the differential to turn the wheels.
This arrangement was popular for the rear wheels of most vehicles prior to the 1980s. It was also used for the front wheels of four-wheel-drive trucks.
How do I know if my vehicle needs a new axle shaft?
Chances are that your vehicle has CV axles as part of an independent suspension design. In that case, the signs of a bad CV axle can be different than those of a bad axle shaft. If, on the other hand, your vehicle features a live solid axle (as with many trucks or older vehicles), where the axle shafts inside the axle assembly rotate to provide power to your wheels, then you might notice one or more of the following symptoms if an axle shaft fails:
Your vehicle is reluctant to move or the engine seems to lack power, as if the brakes were applied
Your vehicle refuses to move at all
You hear a clunking sound when moving
Your vehicle skids to a stop
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It is far more common to replace an axle shaft bearing or seal than the axle shaft itself. However, if your vehicle needs a new axle shaft, a technician will take the following general steps:
Lift and support your vehicle in the air for access
Remove the wheel and tire
Drain all of the gear oil from the axle housing (differential) and remove the rear housing cover
Detach the inner end of the axle shaft from the differential so that the shaft can be extracted from the housing
With the axle out of the way, the pressed-in bearings are pulled from the housing with special tools before a new bearing set is pressed into place (new bearings are commonly replaced with the axle shaft)
Insert the new axle shaft into the housing and fasten
Reinstall the axle housing/differential cover with a fresh gasket (if applicable)
Fill the axle assembly with fresh gear oil
Note: If proper procedures are not followed when removing and installing the pressed bearings, significant damage can occur to the axle housing that can cause complete failure of the component.
Other questions customers ask
What happens if you drive with a bad axle?
A bad or failing axle can fail completely and without warning. When this happens, several things can occur. For instance, a broken axle can prevent your vehicle from moving. It can also cause your drivetrain to seize up, along with the tires. Either case can not only leave you stranded but also cause a serious and dangerous problem in traffic. A bad axle should be replaced as soon as possible.
Can a broken axle mess up your transmission?
A broken axle will not necessarily damage your transmission. But it could. The transmission output shaft is connected to the drive shaft. The drive shaft, in turn, is connected to a gearbox (the differential) that takes the rotation of the driveshaft and turns it ninety degrees to the wheels by way of the axle shafts. If a shaft breaks, the whole system can become seized up and cause trouble for your transmission.
What makes an axle go bad?
Several conditions can lead to a bad or broken axle shaft. These include poor maintenance (differential fluid, axle seals, axle bearings), aggressive driving, potholes and other impacts (curbs, etc.), a crash, and overloading a vehicle beyond its weight limit.
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