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How To Tell If Your Car's Drive Shaft Is Starting To Fail

Many people who have drive shaft issues never know it. It's not until the problem becomes severe that they take their vehicles to the shop for a look. That's because among everyday drivers, the drive shaft is one of those vehicle components that doesn't commonly come up. Here's how to tell if your drive shaft is failing you.

Shaking and Vibrating

Vibration is one of the most common symptoms of a drive shaft issue. When the vibrations are mild, you may not even notice it. But the worse the drive shaft gets, the more vibration becomes an apparent issue.

You can feel these vibrations both while the car is idle and while you're driving. In fact, that's a good sign that vibrations are coming from failing drive shaft and not another part of the car. The place where you will feel these vibrations the most is in the floorboards.

There are typically three things can create these vibrations.

  • A damaged drive shaft
  • A worn or damaged u-joint
  • Loose components, like u-joint bolts

If you have a little know-how, and can follow a tutorial, then you can replace a u-joint yourself. Replacing the drive shaft is trickier and best left to the professionals. Actually, if you've never attempted it before, you should leave u-joints to the professionals as well.

Squeaking and Clunking Noises

If you hear a clunking noise when shift gears it can mean any number of things. But if you also have a squeaking noise that gets louder as you accelerate, then you may have a worn u-joint. Alternatively, you can hear a squeaking noise at low speeds, which can also indicate a u-joint problem, such as a lack of lubrication.

Diagnosing a drive shaft problem from these noises is a little harder to do since there are many components of your car that can create similar sounds for altogether different reasons. You may also hear a knocking, clicking, or rattling noise coming from the direction of the drive shaft. All of these issues are usually the fault of the u-joint. Your best bet is to get under the car and check how the u-joints are doing.

Trouble with Turning or Maneuvering

Remember the drive shaft serves in an important role in getting power from the engine to the tires. As the drive shaft fails, you will notice some turning difficulty. Sharp turns and u-turns will become harder and you'll feel more resistance when you attempt them.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, trying to make smaller corrections will become more difficult as well. You can think of it as a deterioration of both wide maneuvers as well as fine adjustments.

Unfortunately, diagnosing a drive shaft issue from these points alone isn't the easiest thing to do. There are many things going on with your car that can cause turning resistance. But if you have these issues along with any of the other two mentioned problems, then there's a good chance it's your drive shaft.

Take Your Car to a Professional

U-joints represent one of the most common points of failure for a drive shaft. While they're an easy fix, you have to be careful. Sometimes the problem is much larger than just a loose or bad u-joint. You should always have your drive shaft looked at by a professional (such as one from Turnersville Transmission Center) if the issue isn't very obviously the u-joint.


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