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Car Axles: What Are They and How Do They Work?

  • Author :
  • TATA AIG Team
  • Published on :
  • 22/11/2023

If you have some familiarity with the inner workings of cars, chances are you have come across the term "car axle." This component plays a crucial role in the vehicle's propulsion system and is also referred to as a differential in the automotive world.

Car axles are the critical components that connect your car's wheels to its chassis, ensuring that power from the engine gets to the ground efficiently. Whether you are driving a sedan, SUV, or truck, axles play a pivotal role in your vehicle's performance.

In this blog, we will understand what an axle is on a car.

By the end of this blog, you will be well-equipped with everything related to car axles, their inner workings and so on.

So, put on your seat belts and let’s drive in!

What is an Axle on a Car?

The car or vehicle axle is a pivotal element of your vehicle, serving as the central shaft that connects to the wheels. It typically rotates in sync with the wheels. Because the axles govern the power that drives the wheels, they are an indispensable requirement for any vehicle to function.

This vital component transmits rotational power from the engine to the drive shaft. In automotive terminology, it is sometimes referred to as a differential, a name derived from its role as a "differentiator."

This is because it effectively manages the rotational motion of the left and right tire shafts when the vehicle makes a turn.

How Many Axles Are There in a Car?

A car's total number of axles depends on its type and size. Usually, four-wheelers have two axles, which are responsible for wheel rotation. Larger vehicles, like buses, which accommodate more passengers and wheels, may feature more axles.

Finding the total number of axles on your car, or any vehicle for that matter, is easy. You can check your vehicle from the side and count the pairs of tires. Generally, most cars have four tires arranged in two sets: one at the front and one at the back. This configuration corresponds to two axles in total.

Types of Car Axles

Generally, there are three main types of car axles:

Front axles: The car’s front axle is responsible for steering the vehicle and supporting the weight of the front end. They are typically connected to the steering wheel and suspension system.

Rear axles: The car's rear axle is responsible for transmitting power from the engine to the wheels and supporting the weight of the rear end. They are typically connected to the differential and transmission.

Stub axles: These car axle parts connect the front wheels to the steering knuckles. They are typically used in independent suspension systems.

Additionally, there are also a few other types of car axles that you should be aware of, such as:

Live axles: Live axles are solid axles that connect both wheels on the same side of the vehicle. They are typically used in heavy-duty vehicles, such as trucks and SUVs.

Independent axles: Independent axles allow each wheel to move independently of the other wheel on the same side of the vehicle. This is the most common type of axle used in passenger cars.

Semi-independent axles: Semi-independent axles are a hybrid between live axles and independent axles. They allow some movement of the wheels independently, but they are still connected by a beam or torsion bar.

The vehicle's weight, size, and purpose determine the axle used in a car. For heavy-duty vehicles, live axles are preferred to bear the weight and ensure proper traction.

On the other hand, passenger cars usually opt for independent axles for a smoother ride and improved handling.

Function of Axle in a Car – How Car Axles Work

The axle's function depends on how the car is moving or turning:

Car Turns

When the car turns, the inside wheels encounter resistance from the front wheels changing direction. This makes the left wheel side gear heavier, causing the pinion gear to rotate due to the weight difference. The gear on the right side moves faster, creating opposite rotations in the two wheels.

Car Goes Straight

While moving straight, the torque from the axle enters the pinion drive gear. The rotary power connects to the ring gear with more teeth. In this position, the car axle lowers the ring gear's RPM compared to the pinion gear's RPM, forwarding the rotation to the differential case.

Power flows through the differential case, reaching the pinion shaft and returning to the pinion and side gear. Even though the wheels rotate on opposite sides, the load on both sides remains the same because the steering wheel is straight.

Car Wheels in Mud

The wheel rotation slows down when the car's wheels get stuck in mud. To keep this component working well, ensure the lubricant is in good condition to regulate the rotating shaft's movement. Regularly check the axle oil to maintain optimal performance.

To Sum it Up

Understanding how a car axle works provides valuable insight into the mechanics of our vehicles, influencing their performance on the road. The axle is crucial in maintaining stability and control, whether navigating turns, cruising straightaways or facing challenging terrains like muddy conditions.

However, as responsible drivers, we should consider the mechanical aspects and the protection of our investment. This is where having the right car insurance becomes essential.

Accidents and unforeseen events can happen, and the financial repercussions can be daunting. A comprehensive four-wheeler insurance policy ensures coverage for potential damages to your vehicle and safeguards you against liability claims.

It provides peace of mind, allowing you to focus on the joy of driving without constant worry about the unexpected. With Tata AIG, you can compare car insurance - our various plans and bundles - online and pick the one that best suits your needs and budget.

Happy driving!


What is the significance of the differential or a car axle?

The differential, also known as the car axle, is crucial for managing rotational differences between the left and right wheel shafts, especially when making turns. It ensures smooth and efficient power distribution, contributing to stable and controlled driving.

How does the type of axle affect a car's performance?

The type of axle influences a car's performance in various ways. Live axles (solid axles) are robust and cost-effective but may result in a rougher ride. Independent axles offer better traction, stability, and a smoother ride, making them preferable for modern vehicles. The choice depends on vehicle weight, size, and intended use.

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