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A rear axle assembly is a very large and heavy piece of steel and iron that is used to propel the vehicle by converting rotational force into linear motion. The drive shaft sends rotational power from the engine and transmission to the rear axle assembly differential. The rings are used which pinion gear set to convert the rotational power to linear motion, by turning the axles, tires and wheels. The differential component of the rear axle assembly can be a separate and removable component from the axle housing, or it can be a permanently attached component of the rear axle with a removable cover to allow access to the gear set.
In most vehicles, the rear axle assembly is the second largest and heaviest component of the vehicle, second only to the engine block. The reason for the heft of the rear axle assembly is that this component not only supports the weight of the rear of the vehicle, but it also supplies the propulsion aspects of the vehicle. The method of powering any wheeled vehicle is typically the same.