Wheel & Axle: Definition, Facts & Examples

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  • 0:01 What is a Wheel & Axle?
  • 0:51 Wheel & Axle Examples
  • 2:01 Mechanical Advantage
  • 3:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dominic Corsini
What is a wheel and axle and why is it effective? This lesson helps answer these questions while also providing several examples of common items using the wheel and axle design.

What is a Wheel and Axle?

Let me ask you a question about the wheelbarrow: is this machine complicated?

Most of us would answer that it is not; we may even make the assertion that it is a very basic device. However, such a claim would be inaccurate because a wheelbarrow is, by definition, a complex machine, because a wheelbarrow is actually composed of several simple machines, such as the wheel and axle. The wheel and axle is one of six types of simple machines and consists of a rounded wheel attached to an axle in such a manner that the two parts rotate together.

A simple machine is a device that makes work easier by magnifying force. The wheel and axle design transfers the force of one piece to the other one. The wheel and axle itself is so common that one is likely within your eyesight right now! Let's look at some examples.

Wheel and Axle Examples

Consider a standard door knob. The rounded knob acts as the wheel, and the shaft extending into the door represents the axle. A doorknob is a wheel and axle! While it may seem strange to think of a doorknob in this manner, you must remember that a wheel and axle needn't involve an actual wheel. Instead, a wheel is merely the rounded part of an object like a doorknob. This wheel portion is thicker than the axle it is attached to. The axle is a thinner shaft extending from the wheel.

Screwdrivers are another good example of a common wheel and axle. In a screwdriver, the handle represents the wheel and the shaft represents the axle. Like wheelbarrows, screwdrivers are complex machines that contain the simple wheel and axle within them.

Take a moment and look around the room you're in. Can you locate any other examples of a wheel and axle? Consider that rolling pins, clock hands, windmills, roller skates, and fans all rely on the wheel and axle design to operate. If you take the time to look, you're likely to find several other examples. And don't forget those items containing an actual wheel (cars, motorcycles, wagons, etc.).

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