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The drive shaft forms part of the drive chain, a mechanical system that is responsible for transmitting torque and rotation from the engine to the wheels. Otherwise known as a propeller shaft or cardan shaft, the drive shaft essentially delivers power from one end of the vehicle to the other before it reaches the wheels. Depending on your vehicle, you may have more than one drive shaft. For example, most 4WDs have two. Ideally, the best material for a drive shaft is steel, but they’re also available in a range of composite metals as well as aluminium.
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Over time the drive shaft will wear down, affecting the overall performance of your vehicle. It’s important to identify a faulty drive shaft as soon as possible as this can also put pressure on the other components, which may lead to further damage and cost more in the long run. You can check the condition of your drive shaft by performing a simple physical inspection for wear and tear. Unfortunately, many of the physical signs while driving are not unique to a faulty drive shaft; however, it’s good to be aware of them as they can still help you in identifying the cause of the problem.
Vibration: This can be caused by a number of faulty components. When the drive shaft fails it can also result in vibrations as well as an intense trembling. However, if there is a drive shaft issue, this will be particularly noticeable in the floor of vehicle and especially when driving at higher speeds.
Difficulty turning: A failing drive shaft can prevent the wheels of a vehicle from turning correctly. You might notice resistance when turning corners, difficulty when parking, or just experience hesitation in the overall handling of your vehicle.
Clunking, thumping, and squeaking: Noises are always a clear sign that there is something wrong with your vehicle. Luckily, they almost always appear under specific conditions, which can be easily recognized. A faulty drive shaft in particular can cause a clunking noise when engaging first gear or reverse. You may also notice a dull thump when pushing in and re-engaging the clutch. Finally, the car will often produce a squeaking sound as you accelerate or decelerate, which disappears completely at higher speeds.