drive shaft on car

As part of the drive train in your vehicle, the drive shaft is responsible for torque. Also known as the propeller or prop shaft, here’s some more about how it works from the Riverton Master Muffler team.

How It Works

Have you ever given thought to what makes your car actually go when you press the gas pedal? How does energy move through your vehicle and make the wheels turn?

The drive train is a series of components that brings power to the wheels of your car or truck. In rear-wheel drive (RWD), four-wheel drive (4WD), or all-wheel drive (AWD), it consists of:

  • Crankshaft
  • Flywheel
  • Clutch or Torque Converter
  • Transmission
  • Drive Shaft
  • Drive Axle
  • Final Drive 
  • Differential

Based on how power is distributed, RWD, 4WD, and AWD vehicles have drive trains with slightly different arrangements of parts. 

In conjunction with these moving parts, here’s a summary of how the drive shaft works:

Wheels need to rotate in order to propel a vehicle backward or forward, and the drive shaft is responsible for that motion. It’s a long bar under the body of the vehicle that delivers rotation and torque from the engine and transmission to the gears that connect to the wheels.

The Transfer of Energy

Let’s take a look at the transfer of energy in your vehicle. First, your engine generates chemical energy via combustion, combining oxygen and fuel. The chemical energy converts to thermal energy, or heat. Due to the heat in the engine, the pistons experience compression, which moves them up and down in their respective chambers. This kinetic energy starts a chain reaction in the drive train.


The crankshaft converts the up-and-down movement of the pistons into rotational motion. As the pistons fire up and down, the crankshaft located underneath them in the engine block rotates.


Pistons only generate energy during each stroke, so the flywheel helps maintain momentum between each stroke. By storing kinetic energy, it ensures continuous momentum so kinetic energy can be transferred through the drive train to the wheels.


If you drive a manual transmission, your drive train has a clutch converter. If you drive an automatic transmission, your drive train has a torque converter. They both perform similar operations in the drive train.

When the clutch pedal is not pressed, it connects engine power to the transmission. When the clutch pedal is pressed, the wheels of the vehicle are spinning freely without power assistance from the transmission. It’s like pressing a pause button while you shift gears.

A torque converter contains fluid that helps transfer torque to the vehicle’s wheels. It’s connected to the flywheel and allows cars to idle and maintain power levels at even speeds.


The gearbox, or transmission, works like the gears of a bike to convert an engine’s chemical and thermal energy into kinetic energy.


After the transmission has converted engine energy into kinetic energy, the energy is transferred to the wheels via the drive shaft. The drive shaft connects to the final drive and the differential, which allows wheels to rotate at different speeds even when each is supplied with the same amount of power.

The drive shaft is connected to the wheels via the drive axle, which often has its own differential to help divide power amongst the wheels. 

Signs of a Broken Drive Shaft

Vehicles of all kinds, whether a car, truck, motorcycle, or ATV, have drive shafts. Know the signs of a failing drive shaft so you can get it looked at before you’re facing more extensive auto repairs.


Unless you’ve accidentally strayed over the rumble strip on the interstate, feeling vibrations while driving is a big deal. If your drive shaft is failing, you might feel wobbles or vibrations emanating from the undercarriage. If left unattended, the vibrations can affect the performance of other parts of the drivetrain, and create uneven wear on your tires.


No one likes to hear whining, clunking, or scraping sounds while driving. If you notice your car clunks when you accelerate or reverse, it could be related to the drive shaft. Squeaks or squeals coming from the engine may not have anything to do with the drive shaft, but if those sounds are emanating from underneath your vehicle it’s a different story. If anything is misaligned with the drive shaft, you might hear squeaks under your feet while driving.


You might first check the power steering fluid if you’re having trouble turning your steering wheel, but if that looks good what do you check next? Problems with your steering may be related to a lack of power in the drive shaft. If it can’t deliver that power to the wheels, you’re going to have a hard time steering them.

If you’re experiencing any of these problems, contact the auto repair team at Riverton Master Muffler. You can give us a call at 801-436-5659, or send a message online HERE.

Categories: Auto Repair

Recent Posts

Related Posts

  • electric vehicle battery component in layers

    As an EV owner, understanding your vehicle's battery is critical. From its capacity to its lifespan, and everything in between, we'll guide you through what you need to know to optimize your EV experience. So buckle up and get ready - we're about to shed some light on the electrifying world of EV batteries. What [...]

  • woman looking at her smoking engine on side of road

    If your car is running hot, it can be a sign that something’s not right with your engine. Fortunately, diagnosing the cause of an overheating engine isn't too difficult if you know what to look for and how to address it. Keep reading if you want to learn the most common issues that occur when [...]

  • red car exhaust smoking on street

    Your vehicle's exhaust system serves a critical role in managing the byproducts of the combustion process and ensuring optimal engine performance. The appearance of colored smoke from the exhaust pipe, either when stationary or accelerating, can provide valuable clues to underlying mechanical issues. What is a car exhaust? A car exhaust is a system [...]