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What is a Steering Axle?

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  • Written By: Alexis W.
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 30 November 2016
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A steering axle is one of the components of a vehicle that contributes to its ability to be directed toward a desired route. More precisely, a steering axle is a shaft to which the wheels of a vehicle are mounted. It has a fixed location while the wheels rotate around it. An axle’s purpose is to lock the wheels to specific positions in relation to the other gears or wheels of a vehicle.

Axles are an essential part of a wheeled vehicle because they hold the wheels in place and allow them to revolve and turn, therefore steering the vehicle toward the desired direction. Normally, the center of the wheel is fitted with a bearing or bushing and is then fixed to the steering axle. This bushing or bearing allows the wheel to rotate without turning the axle itself. In some cases, the wheels are fixed to the axle, with bearings or bushings being provided at the mounting spots that support the axle.

Steering axles typically must be structurally strong because they are responsible for bearing the weight of the vehicle as well as any additional load on the vehicle. The axle also absorbs the forces of acceleration and braking and transfers them away from the wheels. Without the axle, the vehicle’s weight and force would cause the wheels to flatten and to spin out of position.

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There are three types of axles in vehicles: straight axle, split axle, and tandem axle. In a straight axle, a single shaft connects two parallel wheels which are fastened onto the axle. The axle controls the direction and the rotation rate of the pair of wheels. The straight steering axle is beneficial in keeping wheel positions uniform, and in equally distributing the weight of heavy loads.

In a split-axle design, each wheel is attached to a separate shaft. This allows each wheel to be fixed in position but with the ability to move independently of the other wheel. This type of axle design is often found in passenger automobiles.

With tandem axles, multiple axles are positioned close to each other in order to increase the weight-carrying capacity of a vehicle. Large trucks commonly use tandem axles. Certain military trucks do too.

Some vehicle owners use their vehicles for more extreme endeavors that require customized steering axles. There are shops that can customize a steering axle for a specific vehicle, using tubing diameters and thicknesses to suit the weight, tire size, and strength requirements. For instance, many off-road enthusiasts might have their axles altered to accommodate certain terrain.

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