Can You Drive With a Bad Drive Shaft? (is it safe)?

Did you feel harsh vibrations coming from underneath your car due to a bad drive shaft and you are wondering whether you can drive your car with the bad drive shaft? This article is for you.

Can you drive with a bad drive shaft? The short answer is yes. You can still drive a car with a bad drive shaft. However, it is not safe and not a smart thing to do.

If you’re driving a car with a bad drive shaft and the drive shaft comes apart, it may cause a major accident and get you injured or lead to damages worth thousands of dollars.

What is a Drive Shaft?

Perhaps, you don’t know what a drive shaft is. A drive shaft, also known as a propeller shaft, is a long rod that transmits torque from the output shaft of the transmission to the rear differential in an all-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, or rear-wheel drive vehicle.

A drive shaft usually has internal splines at one end that connects to the transmission and a universal joint at the other end that connects to the rear differential. In all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive vehicles, there may be two drive shafts – one to transmit power to the back and the other to transmit power to the front.

A drive shaft rotates quickly to move the rear wheels of your vehicle. The number of draft shafts in a vehicle usually depends on the maker’s implementation of the all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive system.

Although you wouldn’t see many drive shafts get bad every day or too often, drive shafts have their lifespan like other car parts. While there is no specific lifespan of a drive shaft, a drive shaft can last about 75,000 miles. However, depending on the kind of vehicle and the amount of wear and tear the car receives, a drive shaft may last much less or much more.

Hence, if your vehicle has moved up to 75,000 miles, you would likely notice some signs and symptoms that accompany a bad drive shaft. Here are some likely signs and symptoms of a bad drive shaft that you should pay attention to:

Common Bad Drive Shaft Symptoms

When the drive shaft of a vehicle is bad, driving will be affected. There are five common signs and symptoms associated with a bad drive shaft. If you notice any of the following signs or symptoms in your car, then you should know that the drive shaft has a problem.

Excessive Vibrations

If you feel lots of harsh vibrations coming from underneath your car while driving it, then there may be a problem with the drive shaft. Most times, feeling harsh vibrations from underneath the car is the first sign that is seen when the drive shaft has a problem.

The vibrations are usually as a result of worn-out bushings of the drive shaft. The main function of the bushings is to keep the drive shaft from vibrating and if the bushings are worn out, the drive shaft will cause vibrations while working.

If this issue is not attended to in time, it will worsen and the vibrations will become so severe to the extent that passengers will feel them too. The worst part is that the bad drive shaft may affect and damage other drivetrain components.

Please note that not all vibrations in the vehicle are caused by a bad drive shaft. If you feel vibrations that increase with the vehicle’s, then your tires may need to be balanced.

Clunking Noise

Do you hear a clunking noise when you accelerate your vehicle? Or when you load the gear into the reverse position, or even into the drive position? If you do, then it may be that your drive shaft is in trouble and should be checked immediately. Hearing a clunking noise is a common symptom of a bad slip yoke of the drive shaft.

Squeaking Noise

If you hear a squeaking noise coming consistently from underneath your vehicle while driving it, this is a sign that you have a faulty drive shaft. This may mean that your drive shaft is out of balance or some parts of the drive shaft have worn out.

Bad Universal Joint Movement

If you notice that the universal joint (U-joint) of your drive shaft isn’t rotating or is rotating too fast, then there is a problem with your drive shaft. It’s possible that the cap seals of the bearings have rust on the bearing or that the U-joint itself is no longer stable.

If this is your case, you would have to replace the drive shaft as soon as possible because you can’t drive your vehicle in this condition.

Turning Problems

If you notice that the wheels of your vehicle are hesitant and won’t turn immediately when you try to make a turn with your vehicle, then you likely have an issue with your drive shaft. You will feel a lot of resistance on the tires as you try to make a turn.

Please note that this sign is not always caused by a bad drive shaft. If you notice that your steering wheel is difficult to turn, your power steering pump may be faulty and needs to be attended to.

So can you drive with a bad drive shaft?

Like stated above, it’s usually possible to drive a vehicle with a bad drive shaft. However, this is usually not a wise thing to do, especially for a long time. You can continue to drive the vehicle with a bad drive shaft maybe at 5MPH just to get off the roadway.

If you continue driving a vehicle with a bad drive shaft, a part of the drive shaft may snap and this may cause you to lose power to the back axle. The bad drive shaft may also fall and get wedged between the ground and your vehicle, causing a restriction in moving forward.

If the bad drive shaft disconnects from one side while it’s still spinning quickly, there is a high likelihood that it will do massive damage to the underside of your vehicle.

Worse still, if one end of the disconnected drive shaft is still connected to the vehicle, the drive shaft will continue spinning and keep whipping around, smashing things, and taking out anything in its path, such as the handbrake cables, brake lines, fuel lines, and even parts of the wiring harness.

How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Drive Shaft?

If you own a front wheel drive vehicle and would just replace a half-shaft, then it will cost you about $470 to $940 – the drive shaft parts should cost between $320 to $750, while the cost of labor should be about $150 to $190.

However, if you have an all-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, or rear wheel drive vehicle with a long drive shaft that connects to the rear wheels, then it will cost somewhere between $600 to $2,000 to replace the drive shaft.

Please note that the type of vehicle largely affects both the cost of replacing the parts and the cost of labor.