Symptoms of Drive Shaft Problems

A vehicle's drive shaft--the rotating object located between the differentials and gear box--helps it switch from idle to drive; without it, a vehicle would never move. Usually, a drive shaft does not fail instantaneously, and deterioration happens over time. Accordingly, if drive shaft problems are recognized early, you can avoid costly repairs. There are various symptoms that indicate if your vehicle's drive shaft is faulty.

  1. Vibration

    • A damaged drive shaft can cause the vehicle to vibrate. The entire vehicle or parts of it--especially the floorboards--may shake and tremble, and the vibration will often intensify and worsen at increased speed. Severe vibrations can also indicate a bad tire; however, vibrations from tire problems usually happen during acceleration, whereas drive shaft problems cause vibration when the vehicle is moving or stationary.

    Sounds

    • A vehicle may emit noises if the drive shaft is bad. You may hear a low squeaking sound that intensifies with increases in speed. The sound may completely disappear when traveling at higher speeds and reappear as the vehicle decelerates. This is often the result of a severely damaged U-joint, a part connected to the drive shaft.

    Turning Issues

    • A drive shaft problem can prevent your vehicle's wheels form turning properly. You may notice that the wheels hesitate when you turn a corner. You may feel resistance from the tires when making sharp turns or U-turns. You might also experience parking problems while trying to maneuver the wheels to turn into tight spaces.

    Universal Joint Movement

    • A U-joint, or universal joint, that moves too much or does not rotate at all can indicate a drive shaft problem. To inspect the U-joint, set the parking brake and shift the vehicle into neutral. Move the yokes of the U-joint back and forth to check for flexibility. If there is excess movement in any direction, the U-joint is unstable and could negatively affect the drive shaft. Also, visible rust on the bearing cap seals surrounding the U-joint can indicate a drive shaft problem.

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