What Is a Half Shaft on a Car?


The term "half shaft" is another name for a front-wheel drive shaft, which is also called the constant velocity axle or CV axle. You may further hear this part referred to as a CV shaft. There is one half shaft per wheel.


  • Half shafts are connected to each other by a CV joint on both the outward end---the wheel end---and the inward end. CV joints allow the half shafts to be connected during the up-and-down actions of the suspension and velocity changes, such as rounding a corner. This system is connected to, and receives torque from, the transmission or differential.

The Transmission

  • The transmission is a box of gears that regulates the amount of torque, or turning force, given by the engine. As the gears get smaller, the greater the multiplication of torque. This regulation can also be done with torque conversion commonly found in automatic transmissions.

The Differential

  • A differential is another type of gearbox that distributes different amounts of torque to the different axles. This also helps each wheel turn at different speeds.

Why a Half Shaft?

  • Because each wheel needs to change velocity and move with the suspension during certain situations, the combination of half shafts and CV joints make this happen. As the vehicle rounds a corner, for instance, physics demand that the angle of the shafts will need to change, as will the length. Without this system, the axles that connect the left and right wheels would not be flexible enough to give into the demands of physics, resulting in an unstable drive.

Where It's Used

  • Though half shafts are used on all front-wheel drive vehicles, you will also find them on many rear-wheel and four-wheel drives.

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