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When and Why You Should Upgrade Your Challenger’s Driveshaft

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Shop Challenger Driveshafts

Driveshafts are the most forgotten portion of your Challenger's drivetrain. After all, clutches, rear gears, and short shifters improve drag times, right? Driveshafts may not be a direct "speed" upgrade, but shaving weight and bolstering the strength of your drivetrain will make your ride more reliable despite the awesome power coming from your engine.

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You’re building a Challenger or dreaming of building one. What are you going to do in order to build the level of performance output of this car? Well, you’ll run through the engine, maybe make changes to the clutch, torque converter, transmission, and then focus on the differential. Perhaps you’ll consider some suspension work too. As the car is pushed and beaten one major area is easily forgotten: the driveshaft. Through the acceleration process, the Challenger’s drivetrain is going to take more and more of a beating; especially when power output is increased. If the threshold is surpassed, it’s really easy for things to get catastrophic.

What Does a Driveshaft Do & It’s Importance

Before upgrading a driveshaft, it’s worth understanding how it works. The driveshaft lives between the output shaft of the transmission and the pinion of the differential. As the transmission spins the driveshaft spins and it spins the differential. 

Sounds like an easy job, right? Well, take into consideration the amount of power that is applied by the engine which spins the driveshaft. Then imagine the resistance of the tires on the ground coupled with the weight of the car. Then take that resistance and stretch it across a few feet of tubing. Not only is the shaft long, it doesn’t sit straight, in fact it must be separated in order to provide the proper angle it needs to live between the transmission and differential. This is done with the help of universal joints.

As power increases, the driveshaft takes more and more of a beating. Not making the upgrades to stand up to this beating can easily result in the destruction of the driveshaft. There are horror stories of broken shafts ripping through the cabin of a car like butter so you really don’t want to forget about this component.

Situations Where the Stock Driveshaft isn’t Enough

In what situations are the stock driveshafts not good enough? Well, namely when more power is made by the engine. How much power? While the Dodge Challenger utilizes a fairly stout drivetrain from the factory, once you start to reach nearly 100hp more than what the stock system produces it’s probably a good idea to start looking for an aftermarket unit. This is especially true if the vehicle will be subjected to track use or any situation where hard acceleration is fairly common. Drag cars, road racers, or even weekend burnout machines should all be set up with aftermarket drive shafts. 

When to Upgrade the Driveshaft:

  • After dramatic increases to power output
  • When subjected to excessive acceleration/stress

The Advantages of an Aluminum Driveshaft

Aluminum is a very common material used for aftermarket drive shafts for Challengers. Why though? Well, for one, aluminum drive shafts can be built to take a major beating something like an 800 horsepower threshold is common. They are also great for saving some weight, as we all know stronger, lightweight parts in a rotating system are ideal not only for keeping a light footprint but also for balance. 

Advantages:

  • Lightweight
  • Durable

The Advantages of a Carbon Fiber Driveshaft

Aluminum is no new contender though. In fact, we’re all very familiar with this material and its use in the automotive world. Carbon fiber, on the other hand, seems like an odd material to be used for a driveshaft. Despite what you may think, these units are very durable and can be engineered to stand up to the beating of even the meanest engines. They are also very lightweight, which is ideal, but there are a few more tricks hidden up their sleeve.

Carbon-fiber drive shafts are very absorbent of vibration. Aluminum and steel are not as rich with this characteristic which gives carbon fiber a major edge. Though what many may not think about are the safety benefits of carbon fiber. A steel or aluminum driveshaft can rip through the cabin of a car like butter when it breaks free. Carbon fiber shatters and because it is a much softer material, it can’t easily cut through steel floorboards or even reach the driver or passengers.

Advantages:

  • Durable
  • Lightweight
  • Safe
  • Absorbent of Vibrations

What is Driveshaft Balancing and Why It’s Important

As we discussed, the driveshaft is a lot more than just some shaft that sits between the transmission and differential. It transfers a ton of power from the transmission to the differential. By design, these units are going to be spinning at incredibly rapid rates.

Well with anything that spins, balance becomes extremely important. During rotation, any uneven distribution of the weight will result in vibration. If a driveshaft isn’t properly balanced, this vibration can become not only unpleasant for the driver and passengers but also dangerous.

For one, the vibration can cause premature wear of moving parts on either end of the driveshaft itself. This isn’t fun for those who like to keep the moving parts clean but it can result in the connecting points of the driveshaft being destroyed and again we face the situation where the driveshaft turns into your car’s weapon of choice. 

With that said, if you have a custom driveshaft being built it’s always best that the shaft is properly balanced. If you don’t have access to the machine equipment to do this job right we never recommend attempting to make up a custom driveshaft yourself. This requires an insane amount of precision, and you really can’t risk any kind of error.

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