Semi-Truck Drive Shafts

18 Mar.,2023


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How Drive Shafts Help Keep Your Driveline Moving

Drive shafts are an important component when making sure your semi-truck is comfortable and safe to operate. If you’ve been following our series on drivelines, then you’ll be excited for the article we’ve prepared on drive shafts. To help you learn a little more about driveshafts, our team of specialists have put together the following article for you to look through. Read on to learn more about drive shafts!

What Is A Drive Shaft?

In general, a drive shaft is a rotating tube with U-joints that’s designed to transmit torque from one location to another. When it comes to semi-trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles, drive shafts work together with the couplings and U-joints to transfer the torque from the engine to the rear axle. Simply put, the drive shaft lets your truck to shift from idle into drive.

American-made semi-trucks tend to use 6x4 drivetrains, where three axles drive the power to two wheel ends. In that case, there will be two drive shafts, one in the rear and one in the front. The front drive shaft is connected to the front differential and transfer case, using u-joints.

Because all roads are not perfectly smooth, and the transmissions are typically fixed, drive shafts are made to be flexible enough to absorb the shock of uneven roads. U-joints let the drive shaft flex when the drive angle changes.

What’s The Difference Between An Axle Shaft And A Drive Shaft?

Axle shafts are solid tubes that are made teeth that have been cut into both ends. Drive shafts run visibly down the center of your truck. Instead, the axle shaft is concealed in the housing that runs from the rear differential gearbox to each wheel.

What Are The Two Types Of Drive Shaft?

There are two types of drive shafts, the Hotchkiss drive and the Torque Tube Drive.

1.     Hotchkiss uses and open propeller shaft; torque tube drive uses a propeller shaft that is enclosed by a hollow torque tube.

2.     Hotchkiss uses two U-joints; torque tube drive uses only one.

3.     Hotchkiss uses a slip joint; torque tube drive does not.

4.     With Hotchkiss load bearing capability is high; with torque tube drive, it is low.

5.     Hotchkiss is used in heavy-duty vehicles; torque tube drive is more likely to be seen in smaller vehicles.

Symptoms Of A Failing Drive Shaft

Without a properly working drive shaft, you will not be able to comfortably operate your truck the way you are used to driving it. There are several ways to determine whether you have a bad drive shaft. Here are a few of the symptoms of a bad drive shaft.

1.     Vibrations underneath the truck: If your truck is vibrating when you drive, it can be an indication that you may need a new drive shaft. This is typically caused by worn out U-joints, couplers, or carrier bearings.

2.     Clunking noises: Clunking noises that happen when shifting gears, can be attributed to worn-out U-joints. When U-joints fail, the drive shaft won’t rotate properly and will scrape against itself and make noise. 

3.     Trouble turning: With a damaged driveshaft it is extremely difficult to turn properly. This can also be attributed to broken or worn U-joints. This makes it nearly impossible to control your truck while turning.

4.     Shuddering when accelerating: Noticeable shuddering when you accelerate is a big sign that you probably have loose or worn components. This could be due to the U-joints again, or even a bad center bearing.

5.     Clicking: This occurs when your CV joint is failing or has broken.

6.     Squeaking: At low speeds, squeaking noises are a likely indication that you need to lubricate your U-joints.

If you are experiencing any of the above issues, it’s important to make sure you bring your commercial truck into a certified mechanic that can properly diagnose the issues and take measures to ensure that the problem is fixed.

Read More About Drivelines

If you have been researching drivelines and would like to know more about some of the individual components that make up the system, we have several articles designed to help you do exactly that. Click on any of the links below to read more about each part!

·       Getting To Know Your Driveline

·       Getting To Know Your Driveline: Axles

·       Getting To Know Your Driveline: Yokes

·       Getting To Know Your Driveline: Clutches

·       Getting To Know Your Driveline: U-Joints

·       Getting To Know Your Driveline: Differentials

Shop Now For Semi-Truck Driveline Parts

For those looking into replacement parts for their semi-truck, you’ve definitely found yourself at the right location. No matter what driveline part you’ve been needing for your semi-truck, we have a full selection for you to choose from. Whether you are looking for clutches, axles, yokes, driveshafts, universal joints, or differentials, we’ll have it from some of the most notable brands in the industry. Login or create an account to start saving on your next driveline component today!

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