Axles are an integral structural component of a wheeled vehicle. The axles maintain the position of the wheels relative to each other and to the vehicle body. Since for most vehicles the wheels are the only part touching the ground, the axles must bear the weight of the vehicle plus any cargo, as well as acceleration and braking forces. In addition to the structural purpose, axles may serve one or more of the following purposes depending on the design of the vehicle.
One or more axles may be an integral part of the drivetrain. A mechanical system (typically a motor) exerts a rotational force on the axle, which is transferred to the wheel(s) to accelerate the vehicle.
Conversely a vehicle may be slowed by applying force to brake the rotation of the axle. Consumer vehicles' brakes are part of the wheel assembly and therefore exert friction on the wheels directly, but engine braking may still be effected via the axle.
The front axle of most auto-mobiles is a steering axle. The vehicle is manoeuvred by controlling the direction of the front wheels' rotational axis relative to the body and rear wheels.
References / sources
- extract from wikipedia, article (some of article is very poor / wrong so only part quoted)
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