How Long Can You Drive With a Broken Axle?

You may be able to drive for a short time on a worn-out axle, but broken axles can damage your transmission and lead to serious accidents.
Written by Bonnie Stinson
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Most mechanics will tell you not to drive on a broken axle—and they’re right. While you may be able to safely drive to a repair shop on an axle with minor damage, the risk of axle failure and transmission damage is high. Here’s what you need to know.
If you’re dealing with a worn-out CV joint, you may be able to drive with a broken axle for a few months before replacing the worn-out parts. However, a slightly bent axle or otherwise faulty party could lead to serious damage to other parts of your car. Why risk damage that your
car insurance
policy may not cover? 
Here’s what you need to know about driving with a broken axle.
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Is it safe to drive with a broken axle?

The answer to this question depends on the extent of the axle damage. 
With minor damage, you may be able to drive for a short time with a broken axle. But you should drive directly to the repair shop. 
Driving on a bent or faulty axle could cause additional damage beyond the initial incident. A faulty axle could damage your suspension system or cause unusual wear patterns on your tires. It could end up damaging the transmission, which is an extremely costly repair, or even fail suddenly while on the road—which could lead to serious injuries.
If there is major damage, a broken axle is not safe to drive on. If the axle breaks or fails, the car will become inoperable. This could cause serious injury or even death.
Ultimately, axle damage should be repaired ASAP. If you’re uncertain about the state of the broken axle, it’s safest to get your vehicle towed to a repair shop. Minor axle damage may not put you in immediate danger but it’s difficult to tell whether it’s a major or minor break until you get the car into the shop.

How long can you go without changing your axles?

Car axles are built to last for the lifetime of the vehicle. However, if you have put a ton of miles onto your car (aka more than 100,000), you should get your constant velocity (CV) joints and axles inspected. While the axles can last basically forever, the CV joints can wear out.
The lifespan of your CV joints depends on your car model, mileage, and the terrain you cover.
If you’re driving on a bad CV axle, you can expect the faulty part to last no longer than a few months.  

Can a bad axle cause engine damage?

Yes. A bad axle could damage your engine and transmission via the differential and driveshaft.
These parts are all connected, so a faulty axle could easily cause a problem with your engine or transmission. Not only are these problems expensive but they’re dangerous, too. Your transmission could slip gears, have damaged bearings, or even suffer a punctured fluid reservoir.
Your pocketbook—and your safety—are at stake. Don’t let a simple axle problem become a complicated transmission problem.

How to tell if your axle is broken

You may have hit a pothole, a curb, or a surprise bump in the road. Here are a few key signs that you have a broken axle:
If you are struggling to change gears smoothly, you should pull over or make your way to a repair shop ASAP. This is a strong indicator that your transmission is in the process of being damaged, which means that your axle is seriously compromised.
A trained mechanic or auto parts technician can also help you clarify the source of the problem,  as a broken axle might be masquerading as another issue. 

How much does an axle replacement cost?

You can expect to spend up to $300 to replace an axle on a standard car, depending on the extent of the damage. If you drive a heavy-duty or off-road vehicle, you might have to pay more than $1,000 to repair a broken axle.
Axles aren’t cheap to repair, but they’re certainly cheaper to fix than a transmission (which costs multiple thousands of dollars to replace). Your
car insurance
policy may or may not cover repair costs. Check your coverage and inquire with an agent to find out whether you can get help paying for these repairs.
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