How does an axle break on a car?

An axle on a car is a rod that rotates the wheels and supports the car’s overall weight. A car has two axles, while larger vehicles have four axles.

Car axles are involved in steering, driving, and braking. A vehicle cannot operate without axles. An axle breaks on a car when the car shocks become worn out, mostly from hitting a bump or pothole and eventually failing. 

Car axles are constantly rotating and flexing to support different road conditions and can cause wear out and eventually lead to an axle break.

An overloaded car puts extra stress on the axles, engine, and tires leading to a car axle break. When a car’s axles break, there is a sudden clunking sound when it’s put into gear.

There is a power failure from the engine to the wheels. One can feel vibrations while driving straight, around a curve, or braking. All may seem well in a car, but it cannot move, indicating that the car axles need to be inspected and changed.

Why does the axle break?

Most axle breaks happen to old vehicles. A couple of reasons may cause the axle to break and can be avoided with proper maintenance.

  • An overload can lead to an axle break since the axles carry the weight of a car. Too much load from cargo or passengers will strain the axles and eventually will not have enough strength to hold the wheels in place.
  • Another reason is severe bumps or off-road conditions. When too much force and stress from roads with many bumps or potholes are put on axles that hold the entire weight of a car, it will break. 
  • Metal fatigue can also cause axles to break. It happens mostly in old vehicles, vehicles carrying heavy loads, and high-mileage vehicles. With age, the car axle becomes rusty, reducing its strength, and eventually can break.

Can an axle break while driving?

An axle can break while driving, and the car will be immobile. In rare instances, the wheel bearing will stop, and the wheel will disconnect from the suspension.

While driving, one will feel the car pulling harshly to one side since it is losing power to the wheel. For safety purposes, the driver should pull over immediately and check for the broken axle.

If a driver is at high speed and the axle breaks, it can cause an accident because the driver will lose control of the car. 

What are the signs of a broken axle?

You should be aware of a few signs of a damaged axle. 

Car tires misalignment and vibrations

A broken axle is wobbling, sluggish steering, and one can feel misalignment in tires from the car vibrations. It may be noticed by other drivers or people outside when the problem gets worst and causes more wobbling. 

Grease leak

A broken axle shaft will cause the outer brake seal to leak. It will make steering and braking hard since the brake drum will be coated in oil from the gears and dust from the brakes.

One can notice the leaks under the car in the parking lot or driveway, which becomes more noticeable with time as the problem advances.

Clunking noise

An unusual loud clunking and clicking noise when you put your vehicle into gear is another sign of a damaged axle. It indicates transmission failure to transfer power to wheels due to slack in the joints. Clicking sounds become louder during sharp or fast turns.

Difficulty accelerating

While one may still be able to drive a car with a broken axle, the wheels may rotate but not easily. More effort is applied to accelerate, and in some cases, it does not move. For some cars, the tires may not rotate.

Is a broken axle repairable?

A broken axle can be repaired; however, it is risky and prone to failure while driving. Having a car specialist repair an axle will keep the moving components from excessively wearing out the connection point at the transmission. Replacement of a broken axle is the best way to fix it.

How much does it cost to fix a broken axle and to replace one?

The average cost to fix and replace a front axle is $550, and $799 for a rear axle. The cost of fixing and replacing a broken axle depends on the type of vehicle, make, brand, model, and how long it takes to repair.

Insurance does not cover axle repair unless it broke from a covered item. 

Is a car totaled if the axle is broken?

If a car crashes and the axle is broken, in most cases, it is totaled, and it becomes a huge insurance risk that will end up failing in the future if the axle is repaired. The insurance company would rather declare the car a total loss and pay for a new one.

Closing thoughts

A car axle break is frustrating; however, it can be avoided with proper maintenance. A damaged axle can often cause a fatal accident, especially if driving at high speed. Therefore, watch out for signs of a broken axle and replace it immediately.

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