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A live axle, sometimes called a solid axle, is a type of beam axle suspension system that
uses the driveshafts that transmit power to the wheels to connect the wheels laterally so
that they move together as a unit.

A live axle consists of a central differential in a single housing that also contains the
driveshafts that connect the differential to the driven wheels. The differential is connected
to the engine via a swinging drive shaft and a universal joint. The complete assembly
may typically be suspended with leaf springs, coil springs or air bags.

In small trucks solid front axles have generally been replaced by independent front

Some live axles use trailing arms, semi-trailing arms, Panhard rod, or Watt's linkage to
control the vertical and lateral movements of the axle. Others, particularly older vehicles,
use Hotchkiss drive, in which the leaf springs provide axle location as well as suspension.

Advantages and disadvantages

As with any beam axle, the advantages of the live axle are relative simplicity, lower
manufacturing costs, lighter overall vehicle weight, and the fact that the axle and
suspension systems take up little interior volume. Because the axle assembly is a fairly
simple and rigid arrangement, it can easily be made strong and robust, which is an
advantage for vehicles with substantial power or that are intended for use in rugged
environments or off-road usage. A further advantage of a live/beam axle in off-road use
is that ground clearance under the axle remains constant, even if one wheel rises over a
bump and the other doesn't.

The principal disadvantage is the negative effect on ride quality and handling. The wheels
cannot move independently in response to bumps. Although the overall mass of the total
suspension is low, the mass of the differential and driveshafts are part of the vehicle's
unsprung weight, so the greater unsprung mass transmits larger forces to the body of the
vehicle and its occupants. Conversely, in an independent rear suspension system the
differential is rigidly attached to the vehicle. The lower unsprung mass of the suspension
results in a greater ability to absorb imperfections in the road. In passenger car
applications, often now fitted with multi-link independent suspension, the useful ability
to change toe and camber independently left to right under cornering loads is not given
with a live axle.
Dead axle
A dead axle only supports the vehicle and doesn't transmit any drive. With a live axle, the
drive is transmitted through the final drive unit and axles to the wheels.

On front-wheel-drive vehicles, a simple beam axle can be used on the rear, with coil
spring suspension and control arms for location. This is called a dead axle, since it only
supports the vehicle and doesn’t transmit any drive. It is also non-independent, as
deflection of a wheel on one side of the vehicle will be transferred to the other wheel.

On some vehicles, this is reduced by using a U-shaped axle beam, with a torsion bar
mounted inside it.

Trailing arms are welded to the beam, to locate the axle longitudinally.

A lateral rod prevents lateral movement when cornering, and coil springs provide for
suspension. The torsion bar is connected between the left and right wheel units, and
deflection of the wheel on one side causes the axle and its torsion bar to twist together.

Passenger cars no longer use beam axle front suspension, but it is still common on heavy
commercial vehicles, and some 4-wheel-drives.

Trucks use an I-beam, in most cases located by leaf springs.

4-wheel-drives, with rigid axles, may use leaf springs for front and rear suspension.

Coil springs may also be used for front and rear, and as with other beam axle designs,
control arms and a lateral rod must be used for location.