What Happens If My Drive Shaft Breaks While Driving? A Guide

The query “What happens if my drive shaft breaks while driving?” is one that many car owners start to ask the moment they understand what a driveshaft is and what it does.

What Happens If My Drive Shaft Breaks While Driving

Seriously, the drive shaft is one of those components people have little knowledge of but can lead to very unpleasant events on the road.

Of course no one wants to go through these unpleasant events, so let’s consider in detail what happens if your drive shaft breaks while driving. 

What Does a Broken Drive Shaft During Driving Cause?

A broken drive shaft during driving causes an immediate loss of steering and power in the vehicle. By implication, the car cannot accelerate and the driver may lose control of the vehicle. This then opens a room of unwanted possibilities, particularly depending on the car’s speed and driver’s experience. 

While a bad drive shaft always leads to reduced control over the vehicle, different things can happen to the vehicle immediately after the drive shaft breaks. Below, we examine the major things that can happen when a drive shaft breaks while driving. 

– Instantaneous Loss of Steering Power

This is perhaps the first and most noticeable thing the driver experiences when the drive shaft breaks. This is because the power pump for steering the vehicle is situated on the drive shaft. Therefore, any fault in the drive shaft impacts the power steering of the vehicle. In reality, the driver will have a hard time turning the car in other directions. 

Instantaneous Loss of Steering Power

Although the trend is for steering power to drastically reduce, some drivers report their  In other words, the driver steers the car right and it goes left.car steering in the opposite direction.

– Vehicle Stops Moving

When the driving shaft breaks, the vehicle will come to a stop. Now, the stop is usually gradual, but that could change if the vehicle hits an obstacle.

Because of the loss of power observed, the driver can not go forward or backward, either.  At that point, it is more of controlling the vehicles as it gradually stops rather than actively trying to move in a particular direction

– Vigorous Vehicle Shaking and Vibration

To fully understand this, consider the primary function of the drive shaft is to transmit torque from the vehicle engine to the rest of the vehicle’s wheels. As such, if a drive shaft breaks, it disrupts the torque transmission and the vehicle shows this by shaking or vibrating intensely

Factors like the car type, size, and speed it was going usually determine how vigorously the car shakes. As you would imagine, newer and better cars often control these vibrations better than older ones

– Loud Grinding and Banging Noises

You may hear a loud grinding or loud clunking noise when the drive shaft breaks. The noise is usually loud enough for you to know something serious has happened to the vehicle.

Loud Grinding and Banging Noises

Furthermore, the noise emanating from the car persists as long as the car is in motion. It may even get louder in some instances and only stops when the car stops. 

– Loss of Control

This should be implied, considering all of the other things that happen when the drive shaft breaks while driving.

It becomes difficult to accelerate, to move forward or backward, the car starts shaking, and the vehicle may even bounce from side to side if it hits obstacles.

In these scenarios, it immediately becomes difficult to bring the vehicle to a stop. 

What Are the Implications of a Broken Drive Shaft When Driving?

The implications of a broken drive shaft when driving includes loss of control, vehicle flipping, and accidents. The damage to other vehicles may not even be a result of a direct collision between the vehicles, as parts from the affected vehicle may fly around or be littered on the road.

When a drive shaft breaks while driving, unpleasant events usually follow. The degree of unpleasantness now depends on some factors.

They include:

  • The speed of the vehicle
  • The experience of the driver
  • Neighboring vehicles

If the vehicle is going very fast when the drive shaft breaks, there is a higher risk of it flipping and running into neighboring vehicles. Also, less experienced drivers find it more difficult to get the car under control, and this can worsen the already dangerous things happening due to the drive shaft breaking. 

Ultimately, when a drive shaft breaks, someone is sure to have a bad day. In severe cases, it can lead to serious health risks for not only the driver but for the neighboring vehicles on the highway as well. 

Why Do Drive Shafts Break While Driving?

Drive shafts break while driving because of factors like age, installation errors, torque overload, and intense driving conditions. Although any single one of these factors may be responsible, it may also be a combination of multiple factors. Usually, the degree of influence of these factors depends on the vehicle brand.

Why Do Drive Shafts Break While Driving

Below, we examine these factors and their influence on the drive shaft breaking while driving. 

– Age 

As with any other automotive component, the drive shaft deteriorates with age. However, it may be tricky to know how long the drive shaft will remain in peak condition as they differ from vehicle to vehicle. A rule of thumb is to get the drive shaft checked out after driving 50,000 miles. 

– Installation Errors

If the drive shaft is improperly installed, the risk of it breaking while driving is high. Of course, you wouldn’t expect a brand-new vehicle to have an improperly installed drive shaft, but installation errors could arise after servicing or full replacements.

Some engineers fix the drive shaft too low or too high, and this can contribute to it breaking while driving.

– Torque Overload

The drive shaft exists to transmit torque from the engine to the wheel but there is only so much torsional load it can handle.

If you exceed the torque limits of the vehicle, the universal joints may break, and this directly impacts the drive shaft.

Fortunately, the maximum torque a vehicle can handle is usually clearly stated by vehicle manufacturers. 

– Intense Driving Conditions

While intense driving conditions alone cannot make the drive shaft break, if it happens consistently, the drive shaft weakens. When that happens, the risk of the drive shaft breaking while driving sky-rockets.

For context, consistently carrying too much load, exceeding towing capacity, and driving on bumpy roads qualify as intense driving conditions.

How Do You Manage a Broken Drive Shaft While Driving?

To manage a broken drive shaft while driving, you will need to shift all your focus on stopping the car. It definitely is easier said than done, but your focus should not be on driving further anymore, particularly if you are inexperienced or the car is resisting control measures.

Here are some tips you should keep in mind if your drive shaft ever breaks while driving:

  • Try to find the nearest suitable spot to park. If you cannot move the car to another direction at all, just focus on getting it to stop. 
  • Do not accelerate as that can increase the risk of the car shaking and going off its lane. 
  • Ensure you clearly indicate to other drivers, especially those behind you, that something is wrong with your vehicle. You can do this through your indicator lights, by honking the horn, and if possible, by hand gestures. 
  • In some unique cases, you may be able to drive on a bad drive shaft for a while. However, ensure you don’t drive too long. At that point, any driving you do should be out of traffic. 
  • When you get the vehicle to stop, call a professional to examine the car. Don’t try to do the drive shaft repair yourself, as you may end up worsening matters. 

How To Prevent a Broken Drive Shaft While Driving?

Prevent a broken drive shaft while driving by regularly getting your vehicle serviced and, more importantly, servicing the vehicle with trusted professionals. It is also key to pay attention to the warning signs, which usually include mild steering issues, weird noises when driving, and shuddering. 

How To Prevent a Broken Drive Shaft While Driving

The vehicle shuddering when you try to accelerate or decelerate is one of the most prominent failing drive shaft symptoms. The vehicle may also vibrate when you drive. Regardless of the issue, ensure you get your car checked out when you notice something unusual.

In addition, even if there are no common signs, if you have driven 50,000 miles or thereabouts with your vehicle, you should get its drive shaft examined. The average person drives 13,500 miles each year, so you would expect to have driven 50,000 miles in about four years. It goes without saying that people that drive more will need to examine their vehicle more frequently, say three years. 


A broken drive shaft while driving is something many people never really consider but it can lead to a lot of adverse driving events, which this article covers.

Here are the key takeaways:

  • If your drive shaft breaks while driving, the vehicle immediately loses steering power, there are loud squeaking noises, intense vibrations, and the vehicle gradually stops moving.
  • A broken drive shaft can cause damage to the vehicle and other neighboring vehicles.
  • It is usually impossible to drive a car with a broken drive shaft, but even if you can, it is ill-advised.
  • Common causes of a drive shaft breaking are old age, high torsional load causing the universal joints to break, consistent intense driving conditions, and poor installation.

No one drives a car hoping that their drive shaft breaks, but it is better to be safe than sorry. Make sure you frequently service your car and get your drive shaft checked out by trusted professionals.

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