What is a live axle and how does it work on a go-kart?

A live axle is a rear axle that powers both rear wheels equally. It’s a long shaft that connects both wheels and is connected to a sprocket via a chain that is attached to the engine’s crankshaft. As a result, when the rear axle spins, both rear wheels spin at the same speed, unlike a differential setup, which allows wheels to turn at different rates. A live axle ensures that both rear wheels rotate uniformly, no matter where the sprocket is attached.

Types of live axles

what is a live axle go kart

There are generally three types of live axles commonly used in vehicles:

  1. Full Floating Axle is the most vital type of live axle as it supports the vehicle’s weight on the housing, not the axle shaft. The axle shaft is only used to transmit torque to the wheels. This type of axle is commonly used in heavy-duty trucks and 4×4 vehicles.
  2. Semi-Floating Axle supports the vehicle’s weight on the axle shaft, making it less sturdy than a full-floating axle. It is commonly used in light-duty trucks and SUVs.
  3. Three-Quarter Floating Axle: The three-quarter floating axle is a hybrid of the full-floating and semi-floating axle. It supports some of the vehicle’s weight on the housing and some on the axle shaft, making it sturdier than a semi-floating axle but less sturdy than a full-floating axle. It is commonly used in mid-size trucks and some SUVs.

Why is live axle better?

Whether a live axle is better or not depends on the specific application and intended use. In some cases, a live axle can provide better traction and handling, particularly in off-road or rough terrain situations where both rear wheels must maintain contact with the ground. Also, live axles can be easier to install and maintain than complex differential setups.
However, live axles also have some drawbacks. They can be less efficient, as both wheels are constantly being driven, which can lead to more significant energy loss. Live axles can also limit maneuverability, particularly at higher speeds, and cause increased tire wear and tear.

What are the three types of axles?

  1. Rear Axle delivers power to the driving wheels and comprises two halves, called half shafts, connected by the differential. Most rear axles are live, meaning they rotate with the vehicle’s wheels.
  2. Front Axle is located at the front of the vehicle. This axle helps with steering and absorbs shocks from uneven surfaces. It consists of four main parts: the beam, swivel pin, track rod, and stub axle. Front axles must be strong and typically made of carbon or nickel steel.
  3. Stub Axle: Stub axles connect the vehicle’s front wheels to the front axle through kingpins.

Live axle vs dead axle

A live axle and a dead axle are used in vehicles and machinery.
A live axle, as previously explained, is an axle where the wheels are directly attached to a single shaft that rotates with the axle. Live axles are found on the rear of most cars and trucks and on the front and rear of off-road vehicles such as ATVs, go-karts, and dune buggies. A live axle provides consistent power to both wheels, making it ideal for off-road vehicles that need good traction.
On the other hand, a dead axle is an axle that does not rotate. It is typically found on the front of a car, where it supports the wheels. A dead axle can help bear the weight of a load or to help stabilize the vehicle, but it does not provide any power or torque to the wheels.
In summary, the critical difference between a live axle and a dead axle is that a live axle rotates and provides power to the wheels. In contrast, a dead axle does not rotate and only supports the wheels.

What is the difference between the axles on a go-kart?

The main difference between the axles on a go-kart is their flexibility or stiffness. The stiffness of the axle has a significant impact on the rear grip of the go-kart. A rigid or stiff axle does not flex, which results in more energy being forced into the tires. This causes them to work harder and provide more grip. This axle type is suitable for use in cold weather or slippery track conditions.
On the other hand, a soft axle is used when track conditions are extremely grippy or when excess rubber has built up on the track. It makes the chassis more accessible, which is especially important for low-power karts. High-power karts require stiffer axles to provide more traction.
The rear axle of a go-kart acts like a spring, and the softer the spring, the longer the inside rear wheel will stay up. This is important for tall drivers who require softer axles to reduce grip. Mid-range axles are generally recommended as they provide a good balance between stiffness and flexibility.

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