Some vehicles are Front-Wheel Drive. Here, the front section pulls the rest of the car. Others are Rear-Wheel Drive. Here, the back section pushes the vehicle. 4X4 cars combine these two concepts.
They have a drivetrain system that traverses uneven surfaces by injecting power into all four wheels. The locked differentials enhance traction, resulting in superior off-road efficiency. How would a 4WD vehicle fair without a front axle? The following will answer your question:
1). Why do the axles matter, to begin with?
They transfer power to the wheels. The vehicle’s primary power source is the engine. It uses a combustive process to generate energy. But how does that power reach the wheels?
It uses the transmission and axles. Power moves from the engine through the transmission to the axle. This allows the wheels to move, which, in turn, pushes the vehicle forward or backward.
2). Can you drive a car without the front axle?
Technically, yes, you can. Granted, driving without any vital components is a bad idea. Clearly, you need them. Driving for long periods without an axle increases the likelihood of an accident. What if you lose control on a highway? What if the wheels lose their strength on a steep slope?
Brians’s Mobile 1 has a video showing viewers what happens when you remove the CV axle:
- The ABS light stayed on the whole time.
- Grease splattered the components in the area.
- The wheel started feeling sloppy because the hub bearing was coming apart.
- The brake rotor kept pushing side to side on the caliper.
- The tires had a lot more play.
- The brakes became less reliable because the pads couldn’t make proper contact due to the play in the tires.
- The rotor cracked.
- The mechanic in the video was forced to replace the wheel hub bearing, the brake rotor, and the ABS sensor, not to mention the CV axle.
What does this mean for you? 4WD cars primarily use the rear axle. Unless your vehicle is permanently in 4WD mode, you won’t activate four-wheel drive until you wander into rough terrain.
Otherwise, you will keep the vehicle in 2WD mode. And during that time, the machine will rely on the rear axle.
However, you can’t trust a 4WD car without front axles to navigate off-road situations. It won’t offer the gripping power you associate with 4WD vehicles. If the car refuses to engage the four-wheel drive system, driving through rough terrain will strain the drivetrain’s components.
Therefore, driving without the front axles is not a good idea. The more time you spend on the road, the higher the chances of an accident.
3). What Are Your Biggest Concerns When You Drive Without Front Axles?
- The needle bearing on the back of the hub assembly is exposed. But you can cover it with duct tape, at least temporarily.
- Some people worry that oil will pour. But you can mitigate this issue by stuffing rags into the axle tube. Without the rags, some oil may drool out, but not enough to make a significant mess.
- If you forget to cover the holes, probably because the oil is not spilling in significant quantities, dust and debris may enter.
- Some drivers worry that the hub bearings will fall apart unless they leave the outer axle stub shaft in the hub. The goal is to keep the bearings together using the load on the nut. Although, many mechanics argue that wheel bearings are part of a sealed hub assembly, and they can’t fall out simply because you removed the shaft.
As you can see, some confusion still exists where this practice is concerned, which is why laypeople should consult a mechanic before driving without front axles. A mechanic can analyze your vehicle to determine whether it can safely move on the road without the axles.
If it can’t, the mechanic won’t even permit you to drive the car to the workshop. Instead, they will call a tow truck, especially if removing the axles has compromised your brakes.
Why Do People Drive Without The Front Axles?
No one does this intentionally. People drive without the axle because the component either fell out or developed faults, forcing the driver to remove it. Sometimes, driving without front axles is safer than driving with bad axles.
How Do You Know Your Axles Have Failed?
How can you tell that your 4X4 vehicle’s front axle has failed? It will manifest the following symptoms:
1). Unresponsive Wheels
The front axles use the power from the engine to move the wheels. A defective or broken axle can’t generate the strength to move the wheels. The car will start and shift into drive, or first gear, but the wheels won’t move.
2). Poor Acceleration
The vehicle may become unresponsive when you accelerate because the axle can’t transmit power from the engine to the wheels. You will observe a weak or delayed response when you accelerate.
Expect grinding, clunking, and sputtering noises originating from beneath the car. This happens because of bent axles. They will rub and bump against whatever they find in the vicinity. These sounds are loudest when you drive through uneven terrain or fall into potholes.
4). Wobbling Tires
The tires will wobble because they’ve become misaligned due to a bent axle. Wobbly and misaligned tires will make the car more difficult to drive. Steering will also become a challenge, increasing the likelihood of an accident.
5). Inadequate Braking
A bent axle will shift the brake pads from the correct position, misaligning them along with the wheels and rotors. As a result, the car will struggle to stop. It will start skidding to a halt instead of stopping outright.
Again, this can lead to accidents because you can’t trust the vehicle to respond instantly to your commands.
6). Oil Leaks
Oil spills from beneath the car should concern you because they have numerous sources besides a broken or bent axle. For instance, oil can leak because of an exposed CV joint. This is problematic because the exposed CV joint is vulnerable to dirt, debris, and water.
A damaged CV boot is equally challenging because it usually adds flexibility to the drive axle joint. You can’t identify the source of the oil leak without sliding under the car and performing a thorough inspection.
If you know the axle is broken, you can fix it in an hour, assuming you have the correct tools and a new axle. Some people drive without a front axle because they have to submit an order for a new axle and then wait days or weeks for the part to arrive.
This is why they ask whether or not the vehicle can move on the road without a front axle. They don’t have a choice. People associate newer vehicles with expensive axles that take weeks to acquire.
However, older vehicles are just as challenging because their axles are not easily accessible. You may spend more money on an old car’s axle than you would on a new car’s axle.