6 Symptoms of a Bad Driveshaft (and Replacement Cost in 2022)

Causes of Damage 

Damage to outboard and inboard joints of a drive shaft is typically caused by wear over time. It can also be caused by faulty sleeves due to using low-quality grease and in the majority of the cases due to not following the right procedures for installation and removal. 

To maximize the running service of drive shafts they should be inspected on a regular basis by a professional mechanic. These inspections are done as part of the regular service checks recommended by car manufacturers. Another ideal time to check your drive shafts condition is when you are switching from winter to summer tires or vice versa. 

During inspection the mechanic checks if the drive shaft is clean, seated firmly and if the sleeves are in good working order. Damaged sleeves should be replaced right away to avoid damage to the joint due to dirt penetration or grease escaping. When sleeves are worn or loose, there is a chance that the moisture or dirt have already gotten into the joint. If there’s no certainty if indeed it penetrated into the joint, both the entire joint and damaged sleeve must be replaced for safety reasons. 

Majority of joint sleeves on newer cars are made from TPE. As a rule of thumb: A TPE sleeve should not be replaced by a rubber sleeve. Also, the appropriate specification must be followed when topping up with grease. Greases that are high performing can withstand temperatures of up to 160 degrees Celcius for short periods while standard joint lubricants can only withstand 110 degrees Celcius for short periods. Using the standard grease when high-performance greases are prescribed can lead to gas evolution from the grease and ultimately result in total failure of the joint.


4. Shuddering During Acceleration

Experiencing a significant shudder when accelerating from low speed or a stopped position, it can be another sign of failing driveshaft components. A loose U-joint or bad center bearing within the driveshaft may cause the faltering acceleration. You may also hear sounds while the car is shuddering from the worn-out U-joint. You’ll want to have such issues checked out as soon as possible by a certified mechanic.

Driveshafts are an important part of the drivetrain, and any issues with them can greatly affect the drivability of the vehicle. As they are underneath the vehicle and connected to the transmission, they may be difficult to access and service on your own. If you suspect your driveshaft is having an issue, have the vehicle inspected by a professional technician to determine whether the driveshaft should be replaced.

How to prevent driveline failure

As a car owner, you can also do many things to preserve the driveline of your vehicle, from checking and ensuring your engine fluids are always at the proper levels to avoiding rough use of the driveline. It is always a good idea to ask a professional mechanic to check your car’s CV and universal joints whenever you bring your car in, just to check for excessive motion and lack of lubricant. We know too well that preventive maintenance can save you downtime with your machine, save labor, avoid injuries and further car damages that can be more costly.

Here are more specific tips you can do to keep your driveshaft in good working condition:

  1. Always have your universal joints well-lubricated. The lack of lubrication can lead to a train of damage that can be very expensive not only to the driveshaft but also to linking components such as pumps and gearboxes.
  2. Remove the covers and inspect the tubes of high use driveshafts on a regular basis. These parts can become worn out due to constant high torque movement. File off rough edges on the tubes so it won’t pick up on the other half of the tube.
  3. Make sure to replace the roll pin when you replace tubes since they can loosen because of torque loading.
  4. Apply a small amount of oil with grease on tubes as this will help to make slide easier and to make sure that the grease is distributed more consistently. 
  5. Make sure drive shaft covers and chains are in protective and safe condition to prevent accidents and injuries.

2. Abnormal Noises

Abnormal noises are another symptom of a problem with the driveshaft. If the bushing or bearing that supports the driveshaft or the driveshaft U-joints wear out or fail, they can interfere with the driveshaft’s ability to rotate correctly. This may result in unusual rattling, clunking, scraping, or even squeaking sounds from underneath the vehicle. U-joint in need of lubrication may also cause a squeaking noise at low speeds. Clicking or knocking sounds specifically can signify a faulty CV joint. Any noises such as these are an indicator that the vehicle should be serviced as soon as possible.

Top 6 Bad Driveshaft Symptoms

Your vehicle must have a functional driveshaft if it is going to move properly. If your driveshaft were to ever go bad, then there would be some clearly visible symptoms that would present themselves. Here are six common signs to watch out for.

#1 – Turning Issues

The most obvious symptom of a bad driveshaft is wh

The most obvious symptom of a bad driveshaft is when you have trouble turning your vehicle. Your wheels won’t receive the proper amount of torque due to a U-joint issue at the end of the driveshaft, so making turns will be very difficult due to the additional resistance.

Once you confirm it’s the driveshaft at fault, you need to get it replaced quickly or risk an accident due to not being able to control the vehicle.

#2 – Squeaking Noise

If there is a squeaking sound present that will ju

If there is a squeaking sound present that will just not go away, then you may have problems with the driveshaft.

This could be due to worn out internal components such as bushings or bearings within the shaft or U-joint or possibly an imbalance in the shaft. Usually the noise increases as you go faster.

Related: Common Causes of Driveshaft Noise

#3 – U-Joint Rotation Issues

Your driveshaft has a U-joint which rotates at a s

Your driveshaft has a U-joint which rotates at a steady pace. If the rotation fails or speeds up too quickly, then it will cause issues with your driveshaft.

Perhaps you have a bad U-joint or your bearings have rust on the cap seals. This may require you to replace your entire driveshaft if the damage is too significant.

#4 – Clunking Sound

A failing driveshaft could cause clunking sounds t

A failing driveshaft could cause clunking sounds to be heard as you step on the gas pedal or drive in reverse. These may be in addition to the squeaking sounds that you normally hear all the time.

At this point, you should feel more than motivated to want to replace your shaft before some real damage occurs.

#5 – Vibrations

When you have a worn-out driveshaft, it may cause

When you have a worn-out driveshaft, it may cause vibrations to come from underneath the vehicle which can be felt through the steering wheel or floor board. These vibrations coupled with another symptom should be a clear sign that your shaft needs to be replaced.

In most of these cases, the shaft may have bushings which are worn out. Remember that the shaft is held in place by the bushings. If the bushings are loose, damaged, or worn out, then your shaft will vibrate because of it. Then it could lean to your shaft getting damaged.

#6 – Shuddering While Accelerating

If you experience shuddering or shaking when attem

If you experience shuddering or shaking when attempting to accelerate from a stop or low speed, you may have a worn U-joint or center bearing inside the driveshaft. This will usually be accompanied by strange noises as well.

You’ll want to get a certified mechanic to get under your vehicle and check out all driveshaft related components to confirm the issue.

Pop Quiz

These multiple-choice quizzes will challenge your knowledge of basic and even advanced automotive systems and are based on ASE G1 test prep questions. The winners will be randomly selected from all correct entries each week. Entries must be received by midnight Sunday following each puzzle’s publication. Chances of winning are dependent upon the number of correct entries received. Employees of Babcox Media, Tomorrow’s Technician, sponsors and advertisers are not eligible to enter.

View Past Winners & Solutions


Leave a Comment