Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Broken Outer Axle Tip

I own a 96 Saturn SL2 5-Speed…It has a lot of miles. About a year and a half ago I noticed that the car would suddenly pull to one side and then go back to “normal” after a few seconds. This got extremely worse on wet pavement. Last year all of a sudden the tip of the front passenger axle broke right where the hub nut is. I eventually replaced the axle and shortly after, about a month, the tip of this new axle broke. I don’t know what’s going on and I am stumped.

I’ll guess ;
Time for the hub and bearing.
As the old bearing heats and gets tight, it causes extra resistance and , apparently, the axle stub is the weakest link.

Whoa…you should have noticed any bearing issues PDQ… Only thing that would snap that heavy metal is if it was over torqued…or is having some kind of bearing holder hub issue…like a snap ring being off maybe? If a snap ring was off on the inside…which is where they usually live it would expose the axle to lateral loads that it wasn’t meant to cope with ?

Did it break even with the nut…or off of the cv joint ? If at the nut, its over torqued…if at the cv joint its lateral loading problem…or just an axle that was made of Dog Poop and painted to look like metal


So… You drove a car for a year and a half that was actively trying to kill you and it didn’t even lead you to take it to a mechanic. Then it broke twice and you still didn’t take it to a mechanic.

I fix most things on my own and my family’s cars, but I would take this to a pro if I didn’t know what was causing it.

Since no one on this forum can see the car, the parts, or what may be missing they have to guess when if they had the car in front of them it might be obvious,

I gotta agree with the front hub and bearings diagnosis. I used to race one of these… Never any issues with the axle shafts or the bearings for that matter. The hub, however will fatigue, and crack around the wheel pilot hub area. It makes the handling very wobbly when its about to snap. It won’t, however, damage the axle shaft because of this so the bearing is the likely culprit.

You don’t want to re-use the hub, anyway when replacing a bearing because pressing the hub out destroys the bearing and leaves the outer race on the hub. It is a bear to get off without damaging the hub, so just replace it. You will need a bearing press for this job.

Sounds good to me

I would not be surprised if this car doesn’t have a number of issues related to the suspension and drivetrain.

I appreciate the helpful comments from Ken, Blackbird, and Mustang.

  • The hub nut was torqued to spec @ 148 ft/lbs.
  • The axle broke almost even with the hub nut both times

Prior to the first break, the wheel bearing on that wheel was replaced at a shop because I don’t own a press. We had to get a used hub because the original hub was damaged when the bearing decided to fall apart while on the highway.

I suspect there is some extra lateral stress being placed on the hub nut causing it to break.

Rockauto has these bearing and hub assemblies from $20 to $60 depending on brand.

At this point I’d probably replace the axel, hub, and wheel bearing as suggested my most posters above. It is indeed weird you are having a problem with the tip of the axel breaking off. This is the first time I’ve heard of this problem here or anywhere else.

My first guess if you hadn’t mentioned anything else would be that when the axel nut was torqued during the axel installs, it was torqued too tight. Much too tight. Doing that could definitely weaken the end of the axel, and cause it to break off right near the nut. 150 ft-pounds* is sort of unusual tightening spec for most bolts and nuts in cars. But not unusual for axel nuts. Sometimes a mechanic won’t have a torque wrench that goes that high and will improvise. When I’ve done that job on both my Corolla and old VW Rabbit I’d use a long breaker bar and socket, position the socket on the nut, and stand on the breaker bar at a distance that would give me the correct torque. So if I weighed 150 pounds I’d stand one foot from the nut, being careful not to move or jump.

  • BTW, torque is measured in ft-pounds, not ft/pounds.

Is an “axel nut” a rabid fan of figure skating:

Oh, axle


next theory ; ( in the ‘‘you get what you pay for’’ category )
Is it the cheapest you could find ?
There’s often a good reason they are. like not using grade 8 steel for one.
Try tightening the nut to what seems like tight enough and not fully to o.e. tourque specs.

and, in the hub theory ;
If the teeth in the hub have always been too worn, you could have some slip or spin there causing even more tourque.