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Have you ever been driving your car and felt a weird vibration at certain speeds? If so, it could be a tire, a wheel, or, more often than not, an axle. But how do you know if it’s a broken axle? Here are a few tips explaining what an axle is, how to tell if it’s broken, and how to fix it.

What is an axle on a car?

A front car axle
A front car axle. | Amazon

An axle is one of the most vital components of your car, as it’s the central shaft that connects the transmission or differential to the wheels. Essentially, axles are the reason that your car moves forward and back, so you can see how important they are.

Not all axles are created equal, however. J.D. Power notes that there are two different classes of axles: live axles and dead axles. Live axles help a vehicle move, while dead axles support the weight of the ride but are not responsible for moving the vehicle.

The type of axle used also depends on where it is placed on the car. For example:

  • Front axle: A front axle can be live or dead as it facilitates steering and absorbs shocks from imperfections in the road.  
  • Rear axle: The rear axle is located between the rear wheel and the differential to rotate the rear wheels.
  • Stub axle: These types of axles carry the front of the car.

How to tell if your car’s axle needs replacing

As we can see, your car’s axles are vital when it comes to driving your car down the road. Since they get so much use, it’s common for axles to wear out over time. Here are the commons symptoms of a failing or broken axle:

  • A loud clunk can be heard when you put the transmission into gear
  • Vibrations can be felt when driving the car
  • A clicking noise can be heard while driving
  • The vehicle doesn’t move forward or backward when it’s running
  • A grease leak underneath the car

How much does it cost to repair an axle?

A mechanic works on a car's axle
A mechanic works on a car’s axle. | Getty Images

Although you can replace an axle yourself with simple tools, jack stands, and driveway space, it’s best to have it done by a qualified mechanic if you can’t take on the job yourself. If the vehicle can’t move due to the broken axle, you can have the car towed to the auto shop.

After diagnosing the issue, a mechanic will be able to estimate the total cost of the repair. J.D. Power estimates that it can cost an average of $880 and $949 for the axle shaft. However, your actual cost can vary depending on your car’s make and model.

Can you drive a car with a broken axle?

Yes, but it depends on how broken the axle is. For example, Your Mechanic noted that if the axle is clicking or making a grinding noise, it’s not completely broken yet, but it’s only a matter of time. In that case, it’s most likely a failing CV joint, which can be repaired or replaced.

Although you may be able to drive the car, it should be noted that it’s not entirely safe to do so for an extended period because it could fail at any point. However, if the axle is completely broken, the car won’t move. Ultimately, if an axle on your car is failing, get it replaced or repaired as soon as possible.