Drive Shaft Broken? What Dangers Come From It While Driving

One of the many fears of car owners is their vehicle breaking down while driving. And there are several reasons why that could happen.

For instance, every car has its components and if any of them fails or is damaged, it could cause a vehicle breakdown. One of such components is the Driveshaft.

So, if you ask: what happens if my drive shaft breaks while driving? The answer is: your car stops working and you won’t be able to drive to your destination.

What happens when the drive shaft snaps?

If when driving, your drive shaft breaks, there are certain things that must have occurred in your vehicle’s framework.

The shaft is a feature responsible for providing traction for stability and mobility along different surfaces. With more torque comes more traction.

It also gives your tire the ability to rely on the wheelbase for overall control and avoid possible accidents on the road.

So if you have a broken driveshaft, that automatically means you lose stability, and your wheels won’t let you move any further.

Common Signs Of A Failing Drive Shaft

Before your drive shaft broke, you may have intentionally or unintentionally not paid attention to specific signs.

This car component doesn’t just end up damaged or broken like that – it would have taken weeks or months.

That being said, below are the common signs you’d experience.

Vehicle Shuddering

Before a drive shaft breaks, one of the things you must have observed is your car shuddering. It is a common symptom of a failing driveshaft.

You will notice your car shudders when you try to accelerate or decelerate.

And the moment you notice this, the best thing is to call a professional mechanic to fix it before your car breaks down completely.

Difficulty Turning Wheels

Apart from car shuddering, you may also have issues with turning properly.

Your front and rear wheels become difficult to turn – you may want to turn right and your car is turning left or vice-versa.

Your driveshaft is a significant drivetrain component-, and is responsible for responsiveness and handling.

Loud Clunking Noise

If you start noticing loud clunking noise or squeaking noise as you drive, you should have your drive shaft checked immediately.

What causes the loud noise most times are the universal joints (u-joints) – they could be loose or worn out.

Intense Vibrations

Finally, you know you need to get the drive shaft replaced when you start experiencing intense shaking coming at specific speeds.

Sometimes, all it takes is to step on the pedals and these vibrations occur.

What causes this vibration is exactly what causes the loud noise – the universal joint.

And if you don’t have the driveshaft assembly checked on time, the other drivetrain components could be damaged.

Can you drive with a broken drive shaft?

No. For safe driving, a bad driveshaft is not ideal to drive with.

The reason is that the drive shaft transfers torque and engine rotation into car movement.

Thus, with a bad driveshaft, it is impossible for a transfer case to occur and that limits your car’s movement.

How long can you drive on a bad drive shaft?

Ideally, a four-wheel drive vehicle allows you to drive with a driveshaft for about 75,000 miles before it breaks down.

However, if you have a broken drive shaft already, you may not even move past regular distances or any at all.

What would cause a drive shaft to break?

The reasons why you are likely to face drive shaft issues include the following:


One of the main reasons why you could have a bad drive shaft is if you overload your car.

Overloading has never done a car any good because the excess weight puts pressure on different car parts, including the tires and the driveshaft.

Ideally, every car’s drive shaft has a specific weight it can carry and exceeding that only causes it to break.

If you have heavy equipment to carry, make sure it is well-secured before loading it onto your vehicle to prevent the drive shaft from breaking.

Damaged U Joints

The work of a universal joint is to connect a car’s driveshaft to the transmission for mobility.

However, if this u-joint experiences issues, it ultimately affects the driveshaft, causing it to break down.

The u-joints are susceptible to corrosion which is a problem. With faulty seals as a result of corrosion, you are likely to have a bad drive shaft.

Irregular Servicing/Maintenance

As you continue to use your output shaft, you should spend some time on its maintenance (or servicing). If you fail to do this, the drive shaft bearings may wear out, and the shaft develops problems.

And if you have worn out parts, you shouldn’t give the servicing work to any mechanic.

You should hire a certified mechanic to install new parts or replace old ones such as the u-joint, the bearings, and the seals.

Interestingly, the parts cost nothing more than $100. In total, a drive shaft repair costs shouldn’t be more than $150.

Road Hazards

Before a drive shaft breaks, it may have encountered a force greater than it from the road. One of such situations is driving on bad terrains.

The driveshaft doesn’t show resistance to potholes or manholes, and in subsequent encounters with these conditions, the drive shaft is liable to break.

Excess Weight

Overloading is one factor to say is responsible for a broken drive shaft; excess weight is another.

If your car is packed with many components, there is a good chance you will have problems with your shaft.

You should observe features like the engine, rear differential, and transmission assembly. You can also check the engine light to see if there are other problems.

More importantly, you should neither have a long drive shaft nor a half shaft – it must be a moderate size.

Is it common for a drive shaft to break?

Yes, it is common to have a drive shaft break.

Ideally, every car, including a wheel drive vehicle and a tow truck, is designed with a drive shaft. They cannot function without this feature.

However, drive shafts are liable to break since the universal joints alongside their ready-to-slip yoke are the weakest link.

How hard is it to replace a rear-wheel drive shaft?

It isn’t hard at all.

On what happens if my drive shaft breaks while driving, the answer sometimes depends on the site of impact – front or rear drive shaft.

If the point of impact is your rear wheel, the process isn’t difficult. But you may have to consider the cause, the failure point, and any other important factor to aid repair.

Within half an hour to an hour, you may be able to replace a failing driveshaft in the rear wheels.

Also, you may have to spend between $400 to $1500, including parts and labor costs. However, if you don’t have money for labor costs, you can get it working all by yourself.

How much does it cost to fix a drive shaft?

Between $400 to $1500.

For a driveshaft repair, you have to look out for some factors – for instance, the issue, and the damaged parts. You also have to check if there are aftermarket engine modifications.

If you have every detail that will guarantee a seamless repair, you shouldn’t spend so much.

You may find the parts cost about $750 but could be around half that number if you get a good repair shop.

Final Thoughts

“What happens if my drive shaft breaks while driving?” The answer is: Your car won’t move any further.

No one plans for certain situations, especially when it involves driving.

However, before something happens – like when your drive shaft breaks, you must have noticed some signs like knocking noise, shuddering, and you probably chose to ignore it.

Well, you should change your attitude when it comes to car servicing and maintenance. Always have your car correctly addressed and pay attention to warning signs. 


Dean Alvarez, TireForge Head Author

Thanks for reading our article! We've written this article with a lot of thought and care. If you're interested in seeing more of our content, please check out our Tires section and find an answer to your questions!

Tire Forge