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A solid axle suspension is made of many parts, a live axle, differential, drive shaft, universal joint and either coil springs or leaf springs. A live axle is a type of beam axle suspension system that uses the driveshafts that transmit power to the wheels to connect the wheels laterally so that they move together as a unit. Some live axles use trailing arms, semi-trailing arms, Panhard rod, and/or Watt's linkage to control the vertical and lateral movements of the axle. Others, particularly older vehicles, use Hotchkiss drive, in which the leaf springs provide axle location as well as suspension. Until the 1980s the live axle was the most common rear suspension system on rear-wheel drive cars in the United States. It remains common on trucks and other heavy vehicles, owing to its greater potential robustness, but many passenger cars have now adopted independent rear suspension instead.
Solid axle suspensions are also often found swapped into four wheel drive vehicles that may have came from the factory with an independant suspension, this is called a SAS , or Solid Axle Swap. A solid axle swap is often done on vehicles such as full size Ford Bronco's , full size Chevy Blazers, Toyota Tundra's as well as Jeep's, Suzuki's and other trucks and SUV's.
A Solid axle has advantages such as it is a fairly simple and rigid arrangement, it can easily be made stronger and more robust, which is an advantage for vehicles with substantial power or that are intended for rugged and/or off-road usage. Many SAS setups include Dana 44 or Dana 60 axles, both providing different set ups for strength and possible tire combinations for off-road and 4x4 use. You can also find a great rear axle guide here. Disadvantages include the negative effect on ride quality , handling and wheels cannot move independently in response to bumps.
You can find a lot of SAS information at technical websites such as the SAS section at FullSIzeBronco.com , a great Dana 60 axle tech article at Pirate4x4 and a rebuild & install article at off-road.com.
"Solid axle suspension characteristics: Camber change on bumps, none on rebound, large unsprung weight"
If you are looking for more in depth info there are many technical forums to choose from with active communities of experienced mechanics and off roaders who have wrenched on many solid axle projects.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Live Axle"