The Difference Between a Driveshaft and Drive Axle Explained for Those with Auto Mechanic Training

There are many components which work together to make a vehicle’s drive train function properly. In order to obtain the right amount of torque and power, a vehicle relies on both the driveshaft and the drive axle. These two components might seem similar at first glance, but in reality they serve completely different purposes. If you’re training to become an auto mechanic, it will be important to understand the difference between these two components. 

When you master the construction, function, and repair process for both the drive shaft and the drive axle, you’ll be able to properly service the drive train and ensure the smooth delivery of power to the parts that need it. Below, discover some facts about these drivetrain components which will help you to distinguish between them when working with vehicles.

Purpose of Driveshaft and Drive Axle: An Overview for Automotive School Students

Within a vehicle’s drive train, there are a few different components that work to deliver power from the engine to different parts of the vehicle. The major difference between the driveshaft and the drive axle lies in where and how they deliver power. However, as professionals with auto mechanic training will want to note, these two components work together in the transfer of power. The driveshaft is responsible for delivering torque from the transmission to the differential. The differential is a gearbox composed of a set of gears, and from this component, the drive axle transmits torque to the wheels. This delivery of power allows the wheels to operate at different speeds when a vehicle makes a turn. Front-wheel drive vehicles are equipped with a front differential, while rear-wheel drive vehicles contain a rear differential. 

The driveshaft and drive axle deliver power from the engine to the vehicle’s wheels

How These Automotive Components Are Made

While both tubular in shape, the driveshaft and the drive axle differ both in construction and appearance. Drive shafts are longer than drive axles, and are built using either carbon fiber, aluminum, or tubular steel to minimize their weight. On the other hand, drive axles are shorter, and thus can be made of solid steel. Driveshafts connect to the transmission and the differential via universal joints, which are attached at each end of the tube. These flexible components allow the driveshaft to move at different angles. Drive axles connect to either end of the differential via the teeth which are cut into their ends. These components connect to each wheel, and obtain signals from the differential which allow them to rotate independently at a designated speed.

Drive shafts and drive axles are both tubular in shape

Common Issues With Driveshafts and Drive Axles

After automotive school, chances are you’ll conduct some repairs which require you to service a vehicle’s drive train. If a driver notices a vibration when their vehicle hits certain speeds, a clunking noise when going into gear, or a slapping noise, these are all indications of problems related to the drive shaft and drive axle. While these components themselves don’t wear out, they can be damaged by a number of different factors. 

Impact with an object on the road can result in the loss of balance between the shafts, which can cause premature wear or damage to the universal joints. When these joints are damaged, the axle or shaft might become detached, leading to a loss of vehicle control. When servicing vehicles, make sure to check that the universal joints are secure, as this can prevent accidents and ensure the smooth delivery of power from the engine to a vehicle’s wheels.

Ready to enroll in auto mechanic school

Train for a career with a program at ATC Cambridge!

Form is submitting