What Causes a Drive Shaft to Break?

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Last Updated on 3 months by Ollie Barker

What Causes a Drive Shaft to Break

If you notice a driveshaft on your car is not spinning, then it’s time to get it replaced. Wondering what causes a drive shaft to break? You’d better watch out for the failing drive shaft symptoms as it’s really dangerous if it breaks while driving.

What Is A Drive Shaft?

A drive shaft is a metal, circular piece of material that connects the transmission to the engine. It’s connected to the transmission through a universal joint, which allows drivers to shift gears while they are driving. The drive shafts connect the wheels to the axles, allowing them to rotate so you can move forward.

What Causes a Drive Shaft to Break?

There are several factors that can lead to a broken drive shaft:

  • Neglect of regular servicing: Over time, the drive shaft bearings will wear out, causing the driveshaft to give in after heavy use. That’s why you need to have it checked every now and then, especially if you have a heavy vehicle, so it can be replaced immediately if there’s a problem.
Lack of regular servicing
Lack of regular servicing
  • Excessive weight: Apart from the problems naturally caused by time, a broken driveshaft is often caused by excessive weight from different components of the vehicle. Pay close attention to the engine, transmission, and rear differential as they are usually extra heavy.
  • Road hazards: The driveshaft is also susceptible to road hazards such as potholes or loose gravel. That’s why you shouldn’t drive your vehicle in really bad conditions. If you notice that there are some problems with your vehicle, then it’s time to replace the broken driveshaft.
Road hazards
Bad road conditions
  • Overloading: The driveshaft is designed to handle a certain amount of weight. If you overload the vehicle or work with excess weight on it, then it can cause the driveshaft to break. Heavy equipment should be secured properly before use to avoid breaking the drive shaft.
  • Damaged universal joints: The universal joints connect the driveshaft to the transmission and will wear out after constant use. Corrosion and faulty seals can also cause problems with the universal joints leading to a broken driveshaft.
Damaged universal joints
Damaged U-joint
  • Incorrect repair work: The drive shaft should be handled by a professional when replacing worn-out parts such as the bearings, universal joints, and seals. When installed incorrectly, the new parts also could break the shaft.
  • Poor quality drive shafts: aftermarket or fake parts aren’t high quality so the driveshafts may break before their normal life span.

Failing Drive Shaft Symptoms

slipping when you try to shift gears
One of the symptom: Slipping when you try to shift gears

A drive shaft won’t break suddenly, you’ll notice several unusual behaviour of the car:

  • You’ll know that the driveshaft has broken if you notice that it’s no longer spinning or that it’s slipping when you try to shift gears.
  • You’ll also see that the transmission is not shifting well and there will be excessive noise from it.
  • When you turn left, the car should move to the right and vice versa. But when you replace a broken drive shaft, your car should not fall in this way, so replace it immediately.


How much does repairing a damaged drive shaft cost?

Drive shaft repair costs typically vary depending on what caused the problem and how quickly it can be fixed. The cost to simply replace a bad shaft would range from $500 to $1000. However, you can also anticipate that the parts will cost around half as much and the labor will cost about $200.

How long can driveshafts last?

A driveshaft’s lifespan is variable, but it normally lasts for roughly 75,000 miles. Remember that the amount you receive could vary greatly based on the car and wear and tear. Your driveshaft is more likely to sustain damage if you have adjusted its height, which means you will need to repair it sooner. Make sure all of the u-joints are thoroughly lubricated as one suggestion to lengthen the life of your driveshaft.

How many drive shafts are there in a car?

There are often two driveshafts on an all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive vehicle. The driveshaft is identical to the one found on a rear-wheel drive vehicle, but there is also a separate front driveshaft that is joined to the front differential and transfer case by u-joints.

Do I need to replace both drive shafts at the same time?

When a CV joint or boot is broken on a car with a lot of miles on it, it is often best to replace both shafts at the same time. Because right turns are more frequent than left turns and are made at a greater angle, the right (passenger side) shaft frequently fails first.

Final Words

Now that you know what causes a drive shaft to break, you can take precautions to make sure this doesn’t happen to your vehicle. Visit an auto repair shop for regular inspections of your vehicle. This way, they can detect problems in time and replace parts that are damaged or worn out.

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