Symptoms of a Broken Shaft Axleby Brad Melton
There are several different signs that might pop up to indicate you've bent or broken an axle shaft. A slight wobbling in your shaft while driving is the most obvious, and will probably be the first major clue that there's a problem. In addition, misalignment with brake pads, as well as various kinds of visible leakage may occur.
Shaft Wobble and Vibration
When you've bent or broken an axle shaft, one of the clearest ways you'll notice is how at lower speeds the car might seem to wobble. At higher speeds, 20 mph and up, the wobble may turn into what feels more like a general vibration. As the bend gets worse, the vibration will become more and more apparent, until it may seem to shake the whole vehicle.
Though the shaft's wobbling might not always be obvious at the start, a bent axle will also often cause a visible deflection in the mounting of the tires. Though you may not feel a difference in how the vehicle handles, other drivers or people outside the vehicle may notice the wobble visibly. Again, as the problem gets worse, the wobbling may become more apparent. Replacing or fixing the axle when you do notice is very important, as it is dangerous to continue driving on a bent axle.
As the bent axle makes the wheel wobble, this leads to a malfunction in the operation of the brakes. The brake pads will become misaligned with the wheels. The self-adjuster will also cease to function correctly, and so the pads may begin to drag. If you sense that your axle might be bent or broken and also notice new sensitivity or trouble with your breaks, this is another good sign that you may have an axle that needs attention.
Leakage and Other Specs
If your vehicle is equipped with a four-wheel drive system, you may find that it no longer operates correctly. A faulty axle shaft can also cause the outer break seal to leak, causing the break drum to end up coated in oil from the gears and dust from the brakes. A good way to check to see if you have a bent axle but aren't feeling vibrations or noticing other trouble is to simply remove your wheels and brake hardware and do a spot check on the axles themselves. Cracks or breakage may be visible in the axle's exterior if they are large enough.
Brad Melton is a novelist and freelance writer. He received a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Bennington College and a Bachelor of Science from Georgia Tech. His work has been published widely, including in Bookforum, "The Believer," "Ninth Letter" and more.