To know what the heck a drive shaft IS, we must first explore what the heck a drive shaft IS NOT. A drive shaft is not: 

  1. Something about which people in the 1970s said in unison, “We can dig it”
  2. The lever you pull to get the ambition to complete a task
  3. Another term for the pole used in pole-vaulting
  4. The mechanism that paints “Drive” on street signs

He just got AMBITIONED!

So…what the heck is it then? 

A drive shaft is a long metal tube that is connected to the engine by gears and transfers power from the engine to the wheels, which makes the wheels turn.

How Does It Work?

As you know (because I’ve written about it before and you’ve undoubtedly read all of my blog posts), a vehicle runs on explosions. A mixture of fuel/air is ignited inside the engine’s pistons, creating explosions that push the pistons up and down. The drive shaft takes that up-and-down power from the engine’s pistons and takes it to the wheels. However, as the famous song goes, “the wheels on the bus go ‘round and ‘round”—not up and down. If you don’t believe me, just watch this animated music video that HAD to have been created in some sort of drug-induced state:


That just happened. So anyways…


Through a series of gears in the transmission, that up-and-down power is changed to torque, or ‘round-and-‘round power. The drive shaft connects to the transmission, so it also has torque. At the front or back end (and middle in the case of 4-wheel drive vehicles) is a differential, which uses the drive shaft torque to rotate the wheels.

Signs of Failure

There are a handful of signs that may point to drive shaft failure:

  • Clunking noise as you accelerate or shift between drive and reverse
  • Fast rattling noise while driving
  • Squeaking noise while driving
  • Vibration or shaking that gets worse as you accelerate
  • Drive shaft is no longer attached to the vehicle and therefore you cannot drive it

As always, if you experience any of these issues, you should take your vehicle to your local, trusted mechanic.


So, there you have it. Now you know what the heck a drive shaft is NOT, what it IS, and hopefully found that Wheels on The Bus music video as disturbingly amusing as I did.

Tell me what other automotive parts baffle you. I’ll tell you what the heck they are!

Written by Ben Scharff

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