(Updated on April 17, 2020)
Every vehicle has an axle which allows the wheels to rotate. The axle may either be attached to the vehicle or to the wheels themselves. There are two types of axles which a vehicle may have. There is the semi-floating axle and the full floating axle. The majority of 4-wheel drive vehicles will have a semi-floating axle. However, if a vehicle is built to do a lot of heavy-duty driving or carry big loads, then it will have a full-floating axle. Some 4-wheel drive vehicles may have a full floating axle in their rear as well.
The main difference between the full floater and the semi-floater is that the full floater doesn’t carry the vehicle’s weight. The axle shaft of the full floater only takes the differential rotational power and transmits it to the wheels. This is how the wheels get their power to move. The full floater axle housing has an outer end area with a spindle integrated into it. The cap of the hub is located on the spindle and uses tapered roller bearings to ride on. In other words, the hub is what allows the vehicle to carry all that extra weight. For this reason, a full floater vehicle is stronger than a semi floater vehicle.
The Top 3 Advantages
To summarize the advantages of using the full floating axle, below are the 3 biggest advantages.
- Convertible – If you currently have a semi-floating axle on your vehicle and you wished you had a full floating configured vehicle instead, it is possible to perform an upgrade. There are aftermarket kits available which help you upgrade the strength of your vehicle’s axle shaft. The only thing is that the differential assembly won’t be able to get upgraded. So, make sure they are strong already.
- Safer – When you’re driving a vehicle with a semi floater axle, you could be in danger if the axle were to break on the road. This would cause the wheel to come off as you’re driving, which would likely result in a serious accident. On the other hand, a full floater axle that breaks would not cause the wheel to come off because the wheels are attached to the wheel hub and not the axle. This will make it safer for you on the road, especially if you’re hauling a lot of heavy items.
- Load Capacity – As mentioned, the load capacity of a full floater axle vehicle is higher than a semi floater axle vehicle. People with SUVs and pickup trucks will benefit the most from a full floater axle, especially if you haul heavy items on a regular basis.
The Top 2 Disadvantages
To summarize the disadvantages of using the full floating axle, below are the 2 biggest disadvantages.
- Expensive – You might wonder why everyone doesn’t just use a full floater axle in their vehicles. A big reason is that they are more expensive than semi floater axles. That is why lighter vehicles are built with semi floater axles, even though it is possible to install full floater axles into them. There wouldn’t be any point though because lighter vehicles wouldn’t need to carry as much weight anyway.
- Heavy – The full floater axles themselves are much heavier than semi floater axles. This makes it a bigger challenge to install the axle or upgrade your vehicle with the axle. But if you have the right auto body tools then you can perform the job properly.
Overall, if cost is not a factor in your decision making to choose an axle, then you should always go with the full floater axle. It is safer, more reliable, and has a bigger load capacity.