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Full Floating vs. Semi Floating Axles -
Most axles underneath vehicles today are semi-floating axles. In a semi-floating axle the weight of the vehicle is carried by the axleshaft itself This is a standard semi floating axle shaft, which is what most axles are, the wheel bolts directly to the axle shaft itself:
 
Example of a semi floating axleshaft:
 

 
In a full floating axle the weight of the vehicle is carried by the housing itself, the axleshafts only job is to transfer torque.
 
Example of a full floater axleshaft:
 

 
Back to the semi floating axle example. Here you can see the tire is bolted directly to the axle shaft, and the end of the shaft actually has to support the weight of the vehicle. The shaft is supported on the end by a bearing that is pressed into the axle housing.
 

 
Here is the full floating example again. A full floater axle can use a spindle with bearings like an old school front axle, or can use a unit hub bearing like newer front axles. Either way the bearing is bolted the axle housing itself, and the tire is bolted to the bearing. The axleshaft carriers no weight, and its only job is to transfer torque.
 

 
A full floater axle has some major advantages. Since a full floater axleshaft carries no weight, you can destory a shaft, and still drive on the axle. Changing a full floater axleshaft can be done in minutes without even jacking up the vehicle. Without the extra stress of the weight of the vehicle on the axleshaft a full floater shaft is also stronger. This is not to say that a semi-floating axle is a bad choice or is a weak axle, but a full floater axle does have some big advantages.
 
Related Topics: | Some basic axle information: |
 
Related Writeups: | Axle Identification |
 
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