Is my drive shaft broken?
- Juddering – especially when you're accelerating.
- Vibration – through the steering wheel or seats. Sometimes known as a death wobble!
- Clunks – you'll notice this straight away.
- Clicking – especially when making a hard turn.
- Squeaks – a sure sign that there's no grease in the rubber gaiters.
Replacing drive shaft, step-by-step
How to change a drive shaft
Watch this video to see how to replace a drive shaft. Find the full step-by-step task for your model.
A very brief summary of the task of renewing a drive shaft:
- Remove the split pin from the hub nut, then crack the hub nut off so that it’s loose, but leave it attached.
- Jack the car up, remove the front wheels and take off the brake calipers. Remove the hub nut completely.
- Undo the nut onto the lower ball joint and break the hub assembly and the lower arm apart. Pull the hub away from the drive shaft, freeing the outermost end.
- Remove the drive shaft end from the gearbox.
- Fit the new drive shaft. Make sure you tighten the hub nuts up to the manufacturer's specified torque.
How long should a drive shaft last?
A drive shaft isn't replaced as part of a service – even a major service. This means there is no set interval for when they should be changed. Every car is different. The key to drive shaft longevity is preventative maintenance as well as just generally looking after them.
If you look after your drive shafts, they can last the lifetime of the car. It's only when you ignore the information below that they can become a problem.
The main shaft of the driveshaft unit is just a bar of metal, and as such is pretty robust. The only way this fails is if it’s damaged, or if rust is allowed to eat it away. As such, there is no harm in getting under your car with a wire brush, clean up the shaft and give it a new coat of rustproof paint. This will extend the life no end.
Other than that, there are two main points of failure, they are:
Drive shaft splined ends
Both ends of the drive shaft have a splined input piece. It is these splines that allow the driveshaft to be acted upon by the gearbox, while at the other end they allow the shaft to act on the wheel/hub, delivering power.
Normally, these spines are pretty hardy. However, if the car is driven hard, this can damage them. Also, if the car is modified to produce more power, it can be too much for the stock splines and can strip them from the shaft.
The most common issue is at the hub/wheel end. If the car has to have any work done that involves taking the hub off – so suspension work, a new wheel bearing, that kind of thing – if the hub isn’t fitted correctly, it can damage the splines.
Drive shaft CV joint
Drives hafts have a constant velocity joint at either end to allow the shaft to move with the suspension and steering of the car. These joints are packed with grease to keep them happy.
To keep all that grease in place, you have a CV boot, a rubber cover that flexes with the movement of the shaft. If this cover splits or comes adrift, dirt can get into the grease.
When that happens, the dirt grinds against the metal of the joint, eventually breaking it. New boots cost around $20 each, which is a small price to pay when you consider that new driveshafts cost hundreds of dollars to replace.