The Drive Shaft
The drive shaft, or propeller shaft, connects the transmission output shaft to the differential pinion shaft. Since all roads are not perfectly smooth, and the transmission is fixed, the drive shaft has to be flexible to absorb the shock of bumps in the road. Universal, or "U-joints" allow the drive shaft to flex (and stop it from breaking) when the drive angle changes.
Drive shafts are usually hollow in order to weigh less, but of a large diameter so that they are strong. High quality steel, and sometimes aluminum are used in the manufacture of the drive shaft. The shaft must be quite straight and balanced to avoid vibrating. Since it usually turns at engine speeds, a lot of damage can be caused if the shaft is unbalanced, or bent. Damage can also be caused if the U-joints are worn out.
There are two types of drive shafts, the Hotchkiss drive and the Torque Tube Drive. The Hotchkiss drive is made up of a drive shaft connected to the transmission output shaft and the differential pinion gear shaft. U-joints are used in the front and rear. The Hotchkiss drive transfers the torque of the output shaft to the differential. No wheel drive thrust is sent to the drive shaft. Sometimes this drive comes in two pieces to reduce vibration and make it easier to install (in this case, three U-joints are needed).The two-piece types need ball bearings in a dustproof housing as center support for the shafts. Rubber is added into this arrangement for noise and vibration reduction.
The torque tube drive shaft is used if the drive shaft has to carry the wheel drive thrust. It is a hollow steel tube that extends from the transmission to the rear axle housing. One end is fastened to the axle housing by bolts. The transmission end is fastened with a torque ball. The drive shaft fits into the torque tube. A U-joint is located in the torque ball, and the axle housing end is splined to the pinion gear shaft. Drive thrust is sent through the torque tube to the torque ball, to transmission, to engine and finally, to the frame through the engine mounts. That is, the car is pushed forward by the torque tube pressing on the engine.