How Your Vehicle Works

Vehicle Axles


1. a shaft or shafts of a vehicle upon which wheels are mounted, also a simple machine; 2. a pin or shaft on or with which wheels revolve; with fixed wheels, one of the basic simple machines for amplifying force.

A vehicle axle is a load-bearing assembly that connects two wheels together on opposite sides. There are several types of axles used on cars and light trucks. The most common is the CV axle, which encases an automatic or manual transmission and a differential. Another popular type of axle is the drive axle, sometimes referred to as a live axle, which contains the differential. The differential works with your transmission to deliver power from the engine to the axle that turns your wheels.

The least popular type of axle, which is fading quickly from use, is the non-driving straight axle. This axle is basically a straight beam that connects the wheels together, but has no differential. The straight axle was once used commonly at the rear of front-wheel-drive vehicles and on the front of rear-wheel-drive pick-ups. With the growing popularity of independent suspension systems, the straight axle is rapidly becoming obsolete.

Since axles vary in complexity, so do their purposes. A simple straight axle helps to support the weight of the vehicle and serves as an attachment point for the wheels. A drive axle does all of this, along with providing the torque transfer capabilities of a differential. A transaxle serves all of the same purposes as a drive axle, but also includes the gear-changing capabilities of a transmission.


An axle ratio is the gear ratio of the differential gearbox. The differential gearbox distributes the engine's power (via the transmission input shaft or propellor shaft) to the wheels. The axle ratio of the differential reduces the revolutions of the transmission input shaft before it reaches the wheels. Typical automotive axle ratios are in the range of 2.71 up to 4.31. The higher the ratio, the faster the engine will rev at a particular vehicle speed.

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