You turn the steering wheel and hear a click sound. It gets more prominent with each turn. At first, it’s somewhat frustrating but with more time, you start worrying about what’s up with your car. We have bad news. The reason behind this problem is quite serious.
A car’s CV axles are an integral part of the acceleration and driving process, so when you ignore a potential problem, you are jeopardizing the lives of many, including yourself.
When you bring your car to the mechanics for this problem, they are likely to conduct a thorough inspection of the axles. Most of the time, this is where the issue is rooted. While it’s good to leave axle repairs at the hand of professionals who will do the best (and not ruin your car), you can also do it by yourself. Don’t worry; it’s not as complicated as it looks. We’re here to guide you on the right path!
But before all that, let’s talk in-depth about the signs that tell you your car’s axle needs to be fixed or replaced. In this article, we will cover:
- What Are Axles?
- Repair at Home
- Axle Repair 101
- Replace Your CV Axle
- Pro Tips
- Axle Safety
- Drive With A Bent Axle
Let’s get started.
What Are Axles?
On your vehicle, an axle is a shaft or rod that turns the wheels and supports the weight of the entire vehicle. They are essential elements of all vehicles. As axles regulate the power that rotates the wheels, they are a necessity on vehicles for proper operation.
How Axles Function
For the majority of us, the word “axles” brings up the image of a bar amidst two wheels. Alternatively, it’s a straight axle similar to what you would find on a train car. In reality, most axles are much more complex than that.
Most axles in modern-day are split axles, meaning the wheel on both sides is linked to an individual shaft. This makes a smoother ride through independent suspension of the right and left wheels. It also lets the two wheels turn at varying speeds when the vehicle turns, boosting traction and increasing tire life. That’s what professionals call “differential”.
Types of Axles
There are three types of axles in a car.
The rear axle can be found between the driving wheels and the differential and it delivers power between the two. The differential connects two halves of the rear axle and each half is termed half shaft. In the majority of automobiles, the vehicle’s wheels and rear axles rotate together.
The front axle-regulated steering bears the load of the front part of the car and absorbs shocks from when it is driven on uneven terrain.
Stub axles carry the car’s front wheels.
The rear and front axles are responsible for turning the wheels. Generally, cars just have front and rear axles, but bigger vehicles could have more.
Signs Your Car Axle Needs Repair
Your car’s axles should ideally be smooth and quiet. A number of things could damage the axles in your vehicle. The most common reason would be some kind of damage due to impact or an accident. Either you ran into something or hit another car, or maybe you ran roughly over a series of potholes or speed bumps.
Or, it could even be due to some junk on the road. Since the axle is right over the ground, uneven surfaces of any kind could potentially damage or bend it.
Though rare, a manufacturing error could be behind the bent axle too. When the axle is made, the metal has to be heat treated properly or it will develop weak spots. Thanks to this, the axle is vulnerable to normal wear and tear that it would have to endure at some point, causing it to break.
For example, industry legend Ford had to recall more than 30,000 F-250 and F-350 trucks in 2012 due to a defect found in the rear axle shaft. In another incident, GM recalled over 250,000 Pontiac, Saturn, and Cadillac models in need of rear axle repair where the seal on them was leaking. Owing to that, the cars would lose control and crash.
So, outside damages paired with possible manufacturing errors risk the axle’s integrity. Whatever the case, check if you ever have these symptoms. If yes, it’s time for a prompt repair:
A car with a bent axle doesn’t react well to collisions. After the automobile goes over an unexpected curb, a bad pothole, or any big objects, that may indicate damage. In addition, vibrations may come with an unnatural rumbling noise beneath the vehicle, sluggish steering or driving, or weird tire wobbling. Vibrations might be slightly stronger during turns, accelerations, and decelerations.
If the condition persists during driving at slow speeds, know that there is certainly an issue with the axle. Unusual or excessive vibrations can deal damages to the whole vehicle’s experience including handling, safety, and comfort.
A Loud Sound
If there is a weirdly loud clanking, clunking, or clicking once you shift your car into gear, or if a vehicle is simply struggling to ever turn on, there could be axle-joint decay. This sort of noise usually means that the transmission is failing to transfer enough power to the wheels given slack in the joints.
Moreover, a loud clunking noise may also indicate a transmission failure. This is where a professional assessment is mandatory.
The rubber cover over the CV or axle joint is known as CV boot or leaking axle boot. It can initiate the leaking of grease in the edges of the tire or under the car. Though a leaky axle boot does not always indicate that the axle has been damaged, insufficient oil caused by the leak can lead to future issues.
A joint cover that’s broken may also let dirt enter which might cause the failure of axle joints. You should carefully inspect boot clamps and axle boots on a regular basis to make sure there are no leaks or splits. They can be easily seen beneath a car.
To avoid a more serious breakdown of the axle system, you should repair a leaky axle boot as soon as possible.
Going Too Slow
So, your car starts fine, shifts into gear, and even makes a normal engine sound ultimately to disappoint you by not moving at all? This sounds like the case of a broken axle. In this case, after aggressive pressing of the accelerator pedal, the vehicle doesn’t move and the engine solely revs. Until it’s repaired, the car will not move. Better get it fixed!
How Long Should a CV Axle Last?
Axles are typically covered by the powertrain warranty provided by the manufacturer, which should have you covered for at least 4 – 5 years as well as 50,000 – 60,000 miles. Now arises the question of whether the axle lasts past the warranty period. A handful of factors can influence its lifespan.
Driving over rocky or dirt-filled terrains can definitely take a chunk off an axle’s lifespan as there are more chances of damaging the protective rubber boot. The same applies to driving in icy or snowy conditions, where sand and salt can negatively impact the rubber. The rubber can also dry out and crack in some cases, which have the same effect.
Will My Transmission Get Damaged by the CV Axle?
An axle is directly connected to the transmission, so if it’s failing, it can surely damage it. If a damaged axle moves too much, it can wear the inner components much quicker than it normally would.
Cost of Axle Repair
We mentioned the different kinds of axles before. Costs of axle repair differ from rear to front. The average cost of repairing a front axle is about $550. You have to pay a bit more for rear axles; the average is $800. Axle repair costs depend on the make, model, and type of the vehicle.
Bent or Broken Axle Repair Costs
For the most part, a bent or broken axle has to be replaced. These costs include the price of the parts and labor fees. However, there will be some additional taxes associated with the county or state you are residing in.
Front Axle Repair Costs
You have to pay between $500 to $600 for front axle repair costs before fees and taxes. Again, costs vary depending on the make, brand, vehicle, and model. Labor costs range between $50 to $140 based on how long it takes for the job to be done.
Rear Axle Repair Costs
In rear axle repair, the parts are rather expensive which makes up the lion’s share of the total price. Expect to spend anywhere from $700 to $900. Labor charges are $50 to $70.
How Much Will It Cost to Perform an Axle Repair at Home?
Good news for the DIY enthusiasts and savers! You can surely replace an axle at home but you have to be comfortable using a handful of power tools. Assuming you already have most of the required equipment set up at home, the axle repair cost comes down significantly. Most online outlets and part stores will sell you a brand new axle for under $100.
Axle Repair 101
Estimated time required: One to two hours, depending on your comfort and skill level
Skill level: Advanced beginner
Vehicle system: Suspension/drivetrain
Everything You’ll Need to Change in a CV Axle
Here’s a list of everything you will need for the job. An impact wrench is compulsory but it will surely make the process a whole lot easier. Plus, it’s safer to have one on hand since you won’t have to stress about torquing the axle nut. An axle repair bearing guide could be helpful too.
List of Tools
- Automotive toolset (screwdriver, pliers, sockets)
- Jack stands
- Pry bar
- Braker cleaner
- Mallet or hammer
- Impact wrench (optional)
List of Parts
- Replacement cotter pins
- Replacement axle
We suggest you organize your gears and tools so everything can be accessed easily when needed. This will save you precious time. Every time you take a bolt of something out, make sure to label it.
You’ll also have to work on a flat surface, like a garage floor, street parking, or driveway.
How You Can Replace Your CV Axle
The given process is a general guide on replacing an axle. Your automobile may be a little or drastically different because as stated multiple times before, changes exist between models and make. Refer to your owner’s manual to confirm you’re following the right steps.
At one point, you will see us recommending you use an impact wrench to take the axle nut out. Having said that, doing it by hand is better if the car is on the ground. In this case, step five has to be performed prior to jacking the car up. You can also check out this video for a brief introduction to axle replacement.
Replacing the CV Axle
- Confirm the vehicle is in “Park” gear.
- Raise the car and take out the wheel on the side(s) where the axle has to be replaced.
- Find the axle nut. It’s in the exact center of either the wheel assembly or the hub where the wheel was removed.
- There is a cotter pin in some vehicles to hold the axle nut. Use pliers to adjust the pin so you can pull it out. You can give it a spraying of lubricant if it’s stuck or rusted.
- Now you must unfasten the axle nut. Don’t get demotivated if this takes time to do because it happens with some car models. Under the circumstance that you’re totally unable to complete this, lower the car and do it before jacking up the car. This is where the impact wrench can show you a bit of its magic. It can help you remove the axle nut safely without taking a breaker bar to your car.
- Now, remove the blots carefully, securing the brake caliper brackets in position. Don’t let the caliper dangle on the brake line. Instead, use any small hook or carabiner to secure the caliper. This also releases excess pressure off the line.
- Unfasten the bolts keeping the steering knuckle and the outer tie rod together. Check if there are any extra pins there. If yes, use the pliers to straighten them out. The process won’t be that easy in some cases. Bring out the hammer or mallet and do a few light taps on it to loosen it up.
- Hold the hub against the strut tower and take out the bolts. You must keep the nut from rotating while undoing the hub.
- Inspect the axle’s line to check where it connects to the transmission. Using a pry bar, pry the CV joint and axle. At this point, the axle should come off without fuss. You may notice some leak or transmission fluid while prying. This is totally normal, but we recommend you set up a tray or pan to catch the fluid.
- Introduce the new axle into the joint (transmission-axle) where the old one was taken out. You can use a hammer or mallet wrapped in a towel to gently push the axle into place.
- Connect the new axle with bolts to the hub. Follow this order: Strut tower/Hub, Steering knuckle/Tie rod, Caliper
- Change the axle nut. An impact wrench will be your friend here as it can help you safely secure the nut. In case you don’t own one, tighten the nut to the best of your ability without pulling on it when it’s up on the stands.
- Change the wheel. You’re almost done – lower the vehicle. And this is the time to fasten the axle nut if needed. You don’t have to worry about the vehicle falling so push on a bar or wrench to tighten the nut.
Pro Tips to Replace an Axle
Check out some tips and tricks to do the best job at replacing the axle.
- If you don’t have a garage, do this on the flattest surface you can find. The car has to be safely raised on jack stands which isn’t possible if your work surface is inclined.
- Wear protective eye gear and gloves to protect yourself during these projects. There isn’t a dearth of opportunities to hurt yourself.
- Read the instructions multiple times before starting. Also carefully go through your owner’s manual in case there’s something that might influence the process. The pro to reading the process many times is not only are you acquainted with it now, but you can also detect if any part of it is making you uncomfortable. If it does, it’s best you let a professional get this done.
Starting and then deciding halfway that you don’t have the willpower to finish it is going to be harmful to your car.
- Inspect other parts when working on the axle. You can check for damages on the brakes and other suspension parts too. It’s only logical that you perform two fixes consecutively while the car is on stands and the wheels are off.
Apart from the evident mess that you will be creating while working on your car, it’s also quite dangerous. Before anything, we need to make sure you don’t lose a finger, get maimed, or die (yes, unfortunately, that’s a possibility). Stay safe!
- The flat surface will be very great in keeping the mess to a limit.
- Don’t shake or yank the automobile when it’s on stands. If you truly must torque the axle nut down, lower the vehicle to the ground first so you can use the wrench without worry.
- Don’t miss out on any bolt or component when reassembling the vehicle. Failure to do so properly will result in dangers similar to a failing axle.
Will Your Insurance Cover for Repairs and Maintenance?
Cared for correctly, many axles can serve the vehicle for a lifetime. Although insurance doesn’t include routine repairs, it might cover axle repairs. But that can be the case if the axle was damaged by a covered item.
Policies with collision coverage could pay for the axle repair if an auto accident caused it to break. A few policies even provide coverage from harsh weather. Score a good deal on a policy – make sure it covers multiple conditions.
Is It Okay To Drive With A Bent Axle?
Depending on the following, you can know whether it’s safe to drive with a bent axle.
Slightly Bent Axles
If the axle is bent only slightly, you can drive like that for a brief period. However, you will experience vibrations and rough turning during the ride. If left unattended too long, the bent axle will damage hubs, CV joints, and bearings. Post-accident, if you feel way too many vibrations, get the vehicle to a collision repair center.
Severely Bent Axles
Any axle bent over a quarter inch isn’t fit for driving. It will have to be towed to the mechanics and the axle must be replaced before anyone gets on it. Badly bent axles will be quick to damage CV joints as well as wheel hubs, bearings, and additional powertrain components.
Axle Repair Conclusion
With a damaged or broken axle, your car will only last a limited time before causing severe complications. It could malfunction a little or break down completely. You shouldn’t put off axle repairs as losing an axle during driving could put you through a violent accident, causing harm to yourself and others. At the first symptoms of a failing car axle, consider fixing it yourself or handing it over to a mechanic for fixes.