Jim Smart
December 19, 2006

We visited Inland Empire Driveline for this story, and when Inland Empire Driveline builds a new shaft, you get new universal joints and a new slip-yoke, which eliminates all worn out parts. With the driveshaft come other issues that need your attention if everything is to work smoothly. Replace the transmission tailshaft sleeve bushing and tailshaft seal, which improves fit around the new slip-yoke, getting everything back in proper tolerances for driveline smoothness.

In the '90s, aluminum driveshafts started showing up in new Fords, as well as the automotive aftermarket. Aluminum driveshafts offer us reduced weight and less rotating mass than steel. They are not tolerant of extremes of torque. They twist and break when we exceed their design limits. Aluminum driveshafts call for the use of special universal joints with coated caps designed to prevent dissimilar metal corrosion that comes when steel and aluminum make contact with each other. Aluminum driveshafts are also subject to distortion and irregularities we don't normally see with steel driveshafts. This calls for extraordinary attention to detail during manufacture. Inland Empire Driveline features custom-made aluminum driveshafts in 6061-T6 aluminum for strength. What's more, each shaft is state-of-the-art welded for consistency and strength, passing Spicer's reverse-torsion testing. This makes Inland Empire Driveline an authorized Spicer driveshaft builder.

Composite or carbon-fiber driveshafts are featherweights, the lightest driveshaft you can buy. They are also the strongest. Composite shafts offer unprecedented strength coupled with lightweight construction, making them perfect for high-stress applications that could break a steel or aluminum shaft. The composite shaft is designed to tolerate 3,900 lb-ft of torque. Rotation is smooth and stable up to 14,000 rpm. Composite driveshafts are common in late-model GM cars, such as the Camaro and Firebird, where composite material is wrapped around the aluminum shaft. Composite driveshafts are available from Inland Empire Driveline on a made-to-order basis. They are not an off-the-shelf item and do not come inexpensively. Where off-the-shelf steel and aluminum shafts cost anywhere from $350 to $500 each, a composite shaft for the same application can run upwards of $1,000. That's the price you pay for solid driveline integrity when you are going racing.

If you want to reduce rotating weight, composite driveshafts make sense. Unless you want your street Ford to be decidedly different than the rest, and are willing to pay the price, you do not need a composite driveshaft for your street warrior. If you just have to have one, be prepared to pay the price.

When you are ordering a driveshaft, expected power output is very important to know. Most applications will live happily with a 3-inch tube. When you are going to pump greater than 500 hp through the shaft, you're going to need a 3.5-inch shaft with larger universal joints and yokes.