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An axle or axletree is a central shaft for a
rotating A rotation is a circular movement of an object around a center (or point) of rotation. The plane (geometry), geometric plane along which the rotation occurs is called the ''rotation plane'', and the imaginary line extending from the center an ...

rotating
wheel File:Roue primitive.png, An early wheel made of a solid piece of wood A wheel is a circular component that is intended to rotate on an axle An axle or axletree is a central shaft for a rotating wheel or gear. On wheeled vehicles, the ...

wheel
or
gear Cast iron mortise wheel with wooden cogs (powered by an external water wheel) meshing with a cast iron gear wheel, connected to a pulley A pulley is a wheel on an axle or shaft (mechanical engineering), shaft that is designed to support ...

gear
. On wheeled vehicles, the axle may be fixed to the wheels, rotating with them, or fixed to the vehicle, with the wheels rotating around the axle. In the former case, bearings or bushings are provided at the mounting points where the axle is supported. In the latter case, a bearing or bushing sits inside a central hole in the wheel to allow the wheel or gear to rotate around the axle. Sometimes, especially on bicycles, the latter type axle is referred to as a '' spindle''.


Terminology

On cars and trucks, several senses of the word ''axle'' occur in casual usage, referring to the shaft itself, its housing, or simply any transverse pair of wheels. Strictly speaking, a shaft which rotates with the wheel, being either
bolted A bolt, bolt hanger, rope A rope is a group of yarn Yarn is a long continuous length of interlocked fibres, suitable for use in the production of textiles, sewing, crocheting, knitting, weaving, embroidery, or ropemaking. Thread (yarn), Thr ...
or splined in fixed relation to it, is called an ''axle'' or ''axle shaft''. However, in looser usage, an entire assembly including the surrounding axle housing (typically a
casting Casting is a manufacturing Manufacturing is the creation or Production (economics), production of goods with the help of equipment, Work (human activity), labor, machines, tools, and chemical or biological processing or formulation. It is th ...

casting
) is also called an ''axle''. An even broader (somewhat figurative) sense of the word refers to every pair of parallel wheels on opposite sides of a vehicle, regardless of their mechanical connection to each other and to the vehicle frame or body. Thus, transverse pairs of wheels in an
independent suspension Independent suspension is any system that allows each wheel on the same to move vertically (i.e. reacting to a bump on the road) independently of the others. This is contrasted with a or system in which the wheels are linked – movement on on ...
may be called an ''axle'' in some contexts. This very loose definition of "axle" is often used in assessing
toll road A toll road, also known as a turnpike or tollway, is a public or private road (almost always a controlled-access highway network. A controlled-access highway is a type of highway that has been designed for high-speed vehicular traffic, with a ...

toll road
s or vehicle taxes, and is taken as a rough proxy for the overall weight-bearing capacity of a vehicle, and its potential for causing wear or damage to roadway surfaces.


Vehicle axles

Axles are an integral component of most practical wheeled vehicles. In a live-axle suspension system, the axles serve to transmit driving
torque In physics and mechanics, torque is the rotational equivalent of linear force In physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'nature'), , is the na ...

torque
to the wheel, as well as to maintain the position of the wheels relative to each other and to the vehicle body. The axles in this system must also bear the weight of the vehicle plus any cargo. A non-driving axle, such as the front beam axle in heavy duty trucks and some two-wheel drive light trucks and vans, will have no shaft, and serves only as a suspension and steering component. Conversely, many front-wheel drive cars have a solid rear beam axle. In other types of suspension systems, the axles serve only to transmit driving torque to the wheels; the position and angle of the wheel hubs is an independent function of the suspension system. This is typical of the independent suspensions found on most newer cars and SUVs, and on the front of many light trucks. These systems still have differentials, but will not have attached axle housing tubes. They may be attached to the vehicle frame or body, or integral in a
transaxle A transaxle is a single mechanical device which combines the functions of an automobile's transmission Transmission may refer to: Science and technology * Power transmissionPower transmission is the movement of energy from its place of generati ...
. The axle shafts (usually constant-velocity type) then transmit driving torque to the wheels. Like a full floating axle system, the drive shafts in a front-wheel drive independent suspension system do not support any vehicle weight


Structural features and design

A straight axle is a single rigid shaft connecting a wheel on the left side of the vehicle to a wheel on the right side. The axis of rotation fixed by the axle is common to both wheels. Such a design can keep the wheel positions steady under heavy stress, and can therefore support heavy loads. Straight axles are used on trains (that is, locomotives and railway wagons), for the rear axles of commercial trucks, and on heavy duty off-road vehicles. The axle can optionally be protected and further reinforced by enclosing the length of the axle in a housing. In split-axle designs, the wheel on each side is attached to a separate shaft. Modern passenger cars have split drive axles. In some designs, this allows independent suspension of the left and right wheels, and therefore a smoother ride. Even when the suspension is not independent, split axles permit the use of a differential, allowing the left and right drive wheels to be driven at different speeds as the automobile turns, improving traction and extending tire life. A tandem axle is a group of two or more axles situated close together. Truck designs use such a configuration to provide a greater weight capacity than a single axle. Semi trailers usually have a tandem axle at the rear. Axles are typically made from SAE grade 41xx steel or SAE grade 10xx steel. SAE grade 41xx steel is commonly known as "
chrome-molybdenum steel41xx steel is a family of SAE steel grades, as specified by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). Alloying Chemical element, elements include chromium and molybdenum, and as a result these materials are often informally referred to as chromoly s ...
" (or "chrome-moly") while SAE grade 10xx steel is known as "
carbon steel Carbon steel is a steel Steel is an alloy An alloy is an admixture of metal A metal (from Ancient Greek, Greek μέταλλον ''métallon'', "mine, quarry, metal") is a material that, when freshly prepared, polished, or fract ...
". The primary differences between the two are that chrome-moly steel is significantly more resistant to bending or breaking, and is very difficult to weld with tools normally found outside a professional welding shop.


Drive axle

An axle that is driven by the engine or prime mover is called a ''drive axle''. Modern
front-wheel drive Front-wheel drive (FWD) is a form of and layout used in s, where the engine drives the front s only. Most modern front-wheel-drive vehicles feature a , rather than the conventional arrangement generally found in and vehicles. Location o ...
cars typically combine the
transmission Transmission may refer to: Science and technology * Power transmissionPower transmission is the movement of energy from its place of generation to a location where it is applied to perform useful Mechanical work, work. Power (physics), Power is d ...
(gearbox and differential) and front axle into a single unit called a ''
transaxle A transaxle is a single mechanical device which combines the functions of an automobile's transmission Transmission may refer to: Science and technology * Power transmissionPower transmission is the movement of energy from its place of generati ...
''. The drive axle is a split axle with a differential and
universal joint A universal joint (universal coupling, U-joint, Cardan joint, Spicer or Hardy SpicerHardy Spicer is a brand of automotive transmission or driveline equipment best known for its mechanical constant velocity universal joint originally manufacture ...

universal joint
s between the two half axles. Each half axle connects to the wheel by use of a constant velocity (CV) joint which allows the wheel assembly to move freely vertically as well as to pivot when making turns. In
rear-wheel drive Rear-wheel drive (RWD) is a form of engine and transmission layout used in motor vehicles, where the engine drives the rear wheels only. Until the late 20th century, rear-wheel drive was the most common configuration for cars. Most rear-wheel dri ...
cars and trucks, the engine turns a
driveshaft s at each end and a spline in the centre A drive shaft, driveshaft, driving shaft, tailshaft (Australian English Australian English (AusE,AusEng, AuE, AuEng, en-AU) is the set of variety (linguistics), varieties of the English language na ...
(also called a ''propellor shaft'' or ''tailshaft'') which transmits rotational force to a drive axle at the rear of the vehicle. The drive axle may be a
live axle bolted to a black rectangular profile beam axle on a front-wheel drive 2002 Mazda MPV The Mazda MPV (Multi-Purpose Passenger Vehicle) is a minivan Minivan (sometimes called simply as van) is a North American car classification for vehicles de ...
, but modern rear wheel drive automobiles generally use a split axle with a differential. In this case, one half-axle or half-shaft connects the differential with the left rear wheel, a second half-shaft does the same with the right rear wheel; thus the two half-axles and the differential constitute the rear axle.the front drive axle is providing the force to drive the truck. In fact, only one wheel of that axle is actually moving the truck and trailer down the road. Some simple vehicle designs, such as leisure go-karts, may have a single driven wheel where the drive axle is a split axle with only one of the two shafts driven by the engine, or else have both wheels connected to one shaft without a differential (kart racing). However, other go-karts have two rear drive wheels too.


Dead axle (lazy axle)

A dead axle, also called a ''lazy axle'', is not part of the drivetrain, but is instead free-rotating. The rear axle of a front-wheel drive car is usually a dead axle. Many trucks and trailers use dead axles for strictly load-bearing purposes. A dead axle located immediately in front of a drive axle is called a ''pusher axle''. A tag axle is a dead axle situated behind a drive axle. Dead axles are also found on semi trailers, farm equipment, and certain heavy construction machinery serving the same function. On some vehicles (such as motorcoaches), the tag axle may be steerable. In some designs the wheels on a lazy axle only come into contact with ground when the load is significant, thus saving unnecessary tire wear.


Lift axle

Some dump trucks and trailers may be configured with a lift axle (also known as an ''airlift axle'' or ''drop axle''), which may be mechanically raised or lowered. The axle is lowered to increase the weight capacity, or to distribute the weight of the cargo over more wheels, for example to cross a weight restricted bridge. When not needed, the axle is lifted off the ground to save wear on the tires and axle, and to increase traction in the remaining wheels. Lifting an axle also alleviates lateral scrubbing of the additional axle in very tight turns, allowing the vehicle to turn more readily. In some situations removal of pressure from the additional axle is necessary for the vehicle to complete a turn at all. Several manufacturers offer computer-controlled airlift, so that the dead axles are automatically lowered when the main axle reaches its weight limit. The dead axles can still be lifted by the press of a button if needed, for better maneuverability. Lift axles were in use in the early 1940s. Initially, the axle was lifted by a mechanical device. Soon hydraulics replaced the mechanical lift system. One of the early manufacturers was Zetterbergs, located in Östervåla, Sweden. Their brand was Zeta-lyften. The liftable tandem drive axle was invented in 1957 by the Finnish truck manufacturer
Vanajan Autotehdas Vanajan Autotehdas Oy (VAT) was a producer of heavy vehicles based in Hämeenlinna Hämeenlinna (; sv, Tavastehus; krl, Hämienlinna; la, Tavastum or ''Croneburgum'') is a List of cities and towns in Finland, city and Municipalities of Fi ...
, a company sharing history with
Sisu Auto Sisu Auto is a truck manufacturer based in Raseborg, Finland. Its name comes from the Finnish language, Finnish word ''sisu'' meaning guts, grit and determination. Sisu Auto has a subsidiary company, "Sisu Defence", producing high mobility tactic ...
.


Full-floating vs semi-floating

A full-floating axle carries the vehicle's weight on the axle casing, not the halfshafts; they serve only to transmit torque from the differential to the wheels. They "float" inside an assembly that carries the vehicle's weight. Thus the only stress it must endure is torque (not lateral bending force). Full-floating axle shafts are retained by a flange bolted to the hub, while the hub and bearings are retained on the spindle by a large nut. In contrast, a semi-floating design carries the weight of the vehicle on the axle shaft itself; there is a single bearing at the end of the axle housing that carries the load from the axle and that the axle rotates through. The full-floating design is typically used in most 3/4- and 1-ton light trucks, medium duty trucks and heavy-duty trucks, as well as most agricultural applications, such as large tractors and self-propelled agricultural machinery. There are a few exceptions, such as many Land-Rover vehicles and in American stock car racing since the early 1960s. The overall assembly can carry more weight than a semi-floating or non-floating axle assembly, because the hubs have two bearings riding on a fixed spindle. A full-floating axle can be identified by a protruding hub to which the axle shaft flange is bolted. The semi-floating axle setup is commonly used on half-ton and lighter 4x4 trucks in the rear. This setup allows the axle shaft to be the means of propulsion, and also support the weight of the vehicle. The main difference between the full- and semi-floating axle setups is the number of bearings. The semi-floating axle features only one bearing, while the full-floating assembly has bearings in both the inside and outside of the wheel hub. The other difference is about the axle removal. To remove the semi-floating axle, one has to remove a wheel first; if such axle breaks, the wheel is most likely to come off the vehicle. The semi-floating design is found under most 1/2-ton and lighter trucks and SUVs and rear-wheel-drive passenger cars, usually being smaller or less expensive models. A benefit of a full-floating axle is that even if an axle shaft (used to transmit torque or power) breaks, the wheel will not come off, preventing serious accidents.


See also

* * * Gölsdorf axle * Klien-Lindner axle * Luttermöller axle *
Portal axle Portal axles (or portal gear lifts) are an suspension and drive technology where the tube or the half-shaft is off-set from – usually above – the center of the hub and where driving power is transferred to each wheel via a simple gearbox, ...

Portal axle
*
Powertrain In automotive engineering Automotive engineering, along with aerospace engineering and naval architecture, is a branch of vehicle engineering, incorporating elements of Mechanical engineering, mechanical, Electrical engineering, electrical, Elect ...
*
Transaxle A transaxle is a single mechanical device which combines the functions of an automobile's transmission Transmission may refer to: Science and technology * Power transmissionPower transmission is the movement of energy from its place of generati ...
*
Wagon wheel (transportation) New Salem (Menard County), Illinois, New Salem, Illinois , West Sussex, England A wheelwright is a Artisan, craftsman who builds or repairs wooden wheels. The word is the combination of "wheel" and the word "wright", (which comes from the Old Eng ...
*
Wheel and axle The windlass is a well-known application of the wheel and axle. The wheel and axle is a simple machine A simple machine is a mechanical device that changes the direction or magnitude of a force In physics Physics (from grc, ...

Wheel and axle
*
Wheelset (rail transport) A wheelset is a pair of railroad vehicle wheels File:Roue primitive.png, An early wheel made of a solid piece of wood A wheel is a circular component that is intended to rotate on an axle An axle or axletree ...


References


External links


Truck Axle Design
{{Use dmy dates, date=January 2012 Automotive suspension technologies Vehicle parts Rail technologies