What’s a rear axle?

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The rear axle shaft provides power to the tires on a rear-wheel-drive vehicle. It comes in two designs: fully floating and single shaft. The fully floating design is stronger and supports none of the vehicle’s weight. The rear axle shaft is hardened to resist engine torque, but race axles are not suitable for street use.

A rear axle shaft is a component of the rear axle housing on a rear wheel drive vehicle. Made from solid steel, the rear axle shaft provides the power to the tires to drive the vehicle. The inner end of the rear axle shaft is splined to fit snugly and securely within the rear axle differential, while the outer end of the shaft forms the axle flange or wheel flange. The shaft is designed in one of two styles: a fully floating design or a single shaft design. The full floating version will provide the ultimate in strength, while the single shaft design is the most common design found in automotive use throughout the world.

The most common design for a single rear axle axle is a solid one-piece axle, although there are some two-piece axles used in cars and light trucks and SUVs. The difference between a one-piece and a two-piece rear axle is in the area of ​​the wheel flange. The one-piece shaft has the flange machined to the actual shaft shaft, while the two-piece uses a separate flange. The flange fits into a spline machined into the outboard end of the axle shaft and is held in place with a large axle nut.

A fully floating rear axle axle gets its strength by supporting none of the vehicle’s weight. The vehicle is supported by the outer end of the rear axle housing through the use of two wheel bearings within the wheel hub assembly. The rear axle shaft is connected to the wheel hub through the use of a drive flange and does nothing more than drive the wheel. In the case of a broken axle, the wheel will remain attached to the axle housing. With a simple axle, a broken axle is often followed by the rear wheel and tire coming off the vehicle. This can cause serious damage to the vehicle body and chassis.

The rear axle shaft is hardened to give the shaft strength to resist the forces of engine torque. Race axle axles are hardened much more than a typical street-riding axle, however this does not make it a superior product on the street. The tougher composition of the rear axle racing axle will often result in a broken axle if operated for extended periods on a street. The hardened shaft is not designed to withstand bumps and potholes, so the race shaft will commonly break rather than bend and flex when encountering a bump.

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