You can drive without a drive shaft

Defective drive shaft: symptoms, causes and costs

If sudden strange noises occur while driving or if the driving behavior changes, the layman often cannot assess what he is dealing with. Usually he asks himself how high the bill for the workshop visit will be and whether it is even necessary. Because the car is still driving. If the drive shaft is defective, but not for long. Find out below why an annoying knock can quickly turn into a car that is no longer ready to drive.

Everything at a glance:

  • Drive shafts are responsible for transmitting the power of the engine from the transmission to the wheels.
  • If these components are defective, you will initially notice mainly cracking or creaking noises while driving. In addition, the steering wheel and gear lever can tremble and the driving experience becomes unsafe.
  • The damage is often caused by a torn sleeve or a broken drive shaft joint.
  • The damage should be repaired by a specialist workshop as soon as possible, as driving safety is no longer guaranteed. In the worst case, if a joint breaks while driving, you will either lie where you are or lose control of the vehicle.
  • The costs for the components are usually less than 200 euros. The repair costs, on the other hand, can be between 500 and 1,000 euros due to the effort.

Layout and function

Many drivers hear about the drive shaft for the first time when it is damaged and needs to be repaired. It is an essential component without which your vehicle could not roll a meter.

What is a drive shaft?

In mechanics, the term shaft describes an elongated, rotating machine element that transmits a rotary movement. In the car, this component is called the drive shaft because it Drive the wheels cares. For this, the shaft transmits the power of the motor as Rotary motion from the gearbox to the wheel hubs. It is therefore very important so that your vehicle can even start moving.

The drive shaft is, greatly simplified, a kind of Rod with special joints at both ends. This is why it is sometimes also referred to as a cardan shaft.

Such a wave has a special challenge to master. You must ensure the even power transmission and at the same time the Compensate for the movements of the wheelswithout jerking or loss of strength. Because the wheels need some freedom of movement for the suspension and steering. Therefore the two joints are movable at the ends. As a rule, the outer joint (on the wheel side) is responsible for changes in angle, the inner joint (on the transmission side) for changes in length.

The characteristic features of the PTO shaft are the Axle boots. A cuff means a bellows made of rubber or plastic. This envelops the respective drive shaft joint and protects it from dirt, sand and other harmful influences. The sleeves are filled with special long-term grease for joint lubrication.

Signs and Causes

Classic warnings are sudden, knocking noises while driving. Since the waves have a great influence on stable driving behavior, problems with steering and keeping in lane can also be a sign.

How do you recognize a defective drive shaft?

If the drive shaft is defective, you can often notice the following symptoms on your vehicle:

  • vibrating or deflecting wheels, often at increasing speed
  • a vibrating steering wheel while driving
  • a shaking gear stick
  • a spongy steering feel, especially when cornering
  • cracking or knocking noises while driving, especially when cornering
  • Grease residues on the brake, wheel hub and inside of the fenders

These signs are, however, "commonplace symptoms" in the car, which can also point to other construction sites such as defective wheel bearings or unevenly worn tires.

As soon as you notice any strange changes to the car, you should best head for a workshop as soon as possible. Because anything that seems strange to you will usually not take care of itself if you ignore it. It is much more likely that further components will be damaged in the long run and the repair costs will increase.

Can you continue driving with a broken drive shaft?

If you notice the symptoms mentioned above, you do not need to park your vehicle at the edge of the lane immediately and call the towing service. Nevertheless, you should not delay a visit to a car workshop.

On the one hand go through a defective PTO shaft Driving safety and the Driving comfort lost for the driver and his companions. On the other hand, a car with a cracked drive shaft joint can no longer drive - in the worst case scenario, your vehicle will be stranded while driving or you will lose control while driving. Due to the beating joints, others also quickly take Components such as wheel bearings, suspension or gears damage.

So if you want to have something from your car for as long as possible and don't want to consciously increase your workshop bill, you should visit a workshop quickly.

Why does a drive shaft break?

If the drive shaft is defective, it is usually not the rod but one of the rods Joints the culprit. Although they are designed for the life of the vehicle, they are extremely responsive sensitive to dirt and sand. Therefore, they are encased in a rubber or plastic sleeve.

Due to natural wear and tear or foreign bodies penetrating the Cuffs porous become or tear. Then the grease, which is used for the synovial fluid, runs out and sand and dirt penetrate into it. It is therefore a typical sign when you discover splashes of grease on the rim, on the inner fender or on the brake discs. With the remaining fat and dirt, a real one is formed Grinding paste. This can cause lasting damage to the joint within a very short time, in extreme cases within a few kilometers.

Who a special brutal driving style can be responsible for the defect without tearing the cuffs and without getting in dirt. Because enormous forces act on the drive shaft joints even during normal driving. However, if you behave more like on a racetrack on the road, take tight bends at high speed, regularly start with too much gas and even thunder over potholes and gravel roads, you need not be surprised by broken components. The unnecessarily high load ensures a much faster wear.

Diagnosis and repair

If the cuff shows significant damage, the matter is clear relatively quickly. However, the PTO shaft can also be defective without it being visible from the outside at first glance.

How is the drive shaft checked?

When you tell the automotive mechatronics technician what signs or changes you have noticed while driving, he usually already suspects certain components to be the cause. Then the car has to go to the Lifting platform and is then inspected from below. As a rule, the specialist dismantles both wheels of the respective axle in order to get an undisturbed view of the components underneath. In doing so, it usually recognizes very quickly whether one of the waves is broken.

If there is damage to one of the joints, the associated cuff doesn't even have to be defective. You should therefore not be fooled by the fact that the component appears intact from the outside.

How does the repair work?

Depending on what exactly is defective on the drive shaft, the workshop can either repair the component or have to replace it completely.

If the drive shaft itself is broken, cracked or warped, there is no way around a replacement shaft. However, if the damage only affects the cuffs, it is sufficient to replace them. If one of the joints on the wheel side is defective, it can also be replaced individually in certain cases. As a rule, however, workshops recommend this complete replacement of the PTO shaft. Because depending on the vehicle make and model, the Repair effort construction-related very high. This also drives the bill up and so it is usually worthwhile to replace the entire component.

After the exchange, some models still require wheel alignment. The automotive mechatronics technician will often take a test drive.

How much does it cost to have a driveshaft repaired?

The repair costs of a broken drive shaft can turn out to be unimaginably high, while the individual components are relatively cheap to buy. The reason is the sometimes enormous effort involved in the repair.

Depending on the vehicle model, many other components have to be dismantled to expose the drive shaft. That means fast for a workshop several hours of repair time. Even the replacement of a single cuff can cost several hundred euros, while the bellows itself can be had for less than 20 euros. The costs for a single joint usually start at 50 euros, but can rise to 200 euros. A complete wave is available from around 150 euros.

Overall, the repair of a single drive shaft between 500 and 1,000 euros lie. If the costs seem suspiciously high, you should obtain a second offer.


Each of your wheels is driven by a drive shaft. It transfers the power of the engine from the gearbox to the wheel hub and thus ensures that your vehicle starts moving when you accelerate. If this component is defective, this is mainly expressed by suddenly occurring, knocking or cracking noises. A vibrating steering wheel or a shaking gear stick can be added.

If you notice such signs, you should go to the nearest workshop as soon as possible. On the one hand, the damage can spread within a few kilometers and also affect other components; on the other hand, driving safety is no longer guaranteed with a defective drive shaft. The repair costs are often several hundred euros because of the high workload. There is no way around a repair, however, and the longer you ignore the problem, the higher the costs.