The drive shaft — also known as the propeller (prop) shaft or cardan shaft — is the component in a vehicle that transfers the torque from the engine to other parts of the drive that cannot connect directly to the engine due to distance or other reasons. Generally, the driveshaft transfers engine torque from the gearbox or the differential to the wheels of the vehicle — from the transaxle to the front wheels (front-wheel drive), from the differential to the rear wheels (rear-wheel drive) or both (four-wheel drive) as required.
Drive shafts should be strong enough to take the torsion and stress caused by the torque. At the same time, they should be light enough to move the torque to the load being turned. Most vehicular drive shafts are made of steel, a cost-effective yet extremely durable material that ensures the drive shaft functions optimally throughout the life of the vehicle. Drive shafts can also be made of aluminum, composite materials, carbon fiber or combinations of these. The choice of material depends on the vehicle, its size, and the purpose for which it will be used.