The power the engine creates is called torque. The job of the drive shaft is to transmit that torque power to the wheels of the vehicle. Most economy cars are front-wheel drive, so the torque would be transmitted to the two front wheels with what’s called a half-shaft.
But if you have a rear wheel drive or four wheel drive vehicle, then a long drive shaft (or propeller shaft) is needed to transfer the torque produced by the engine to the two rear wheels. In the case of a four wheel drive vehicle, you may find that it actually has two separate drift shafts; one for transmitting power to the front and another to transmit power to the back.
Common Bad Drive Shaft Symptoms
Since drive shafts rotate quickly, they’re able to move the rear wheels of your vehicle. The only way they can keep rotating quickly is if they remain weighted down and balanced exactly right.
When the drive shaft begins to have malfunctioning issues, then your driving ability will be impaired. More specifically, there are 5 common symptoms you can recognize that will let you know there is a problem with the drive shaft or slip yoke.
If you’re driving the vehicle and you feel a lot of harsh vibrations coming from under it, then your drive shaft may be in trouble. This is usually the first symptom that people recognize when there is a drive shaft problem.
The vibrations are likely due to worn out bushings of the driveshaft. These bushings are what normally keep the drive shaft from vibrating in the first place.
If the problem is not fixed soon, the vibration will get more severe. It will get so bad that your passengers will be able to feel it too. The worst part is that other drivetrain components can also be affected and damaged.
2) Clunking Noise
When you accelerate your vehicle, do you hear a clunking noise? How about when you drive the vehicle into reverse, or even into drive?
If you hear clunking noises in any of these cases, then it could mean your drive shaft has an issue and should be promptly inspected. Often, this is a common symptom of a bad slip yoke.
3) Squeaking Noise
If you’re driving and you hear a squeaking noise that is consistently coming from underneath your vehicle, then it is a sign that your drive shaft could be faulty. It could possibly be out of balance or some other part of it could be worn out.
4) Universal Joint Movement
If the U-joint of your drive shaft rotates too fast or fails to rotate, then it’s a problem with your drive shaft. The cap seals of the bearings could have rust on them. Either that or the u-joint itself is not stable.
You’ll need to have your drive shaft replaced because you can’t drive your vehicle in his condition.
5) Turning Problems
If you try to make a turn with your vehicle and the wheels don’t turn immediately or they hesitate, then you have an issue with your drive shaft. The tires will have a lot of resistance which you’ll be able to feel as you try to make a turn.
Obviously, this is a serious issue and it needs to be looked at right away.
Drive Shaft Replacement Cost
If you’re just replacing a half-shaft for your front wheel drive car, then it will cost anywhere from $470 to $940. You can expect the parts cost to be anywhere from $320 to $750, while the labor costs are only around $150 to $190.
If you have a rear wheel or four wheel drive vehicle which as a long drive shaft to power the rear wheels, then expect to pay somewhere in the range of $600 to $2,000. Keep that in mind that the type of vehicle plays a major role in both the price of parts and labor.