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Front, rear and all-wheel drive trains all explained

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Front, rear and all-wheel drive trains all explained

What happens when you push on the gas pedal of your car? Sure this should make your car move but what really is taking place under the floorboards? Are two or four wheels doing the work? Everything under the hood and below the car can be a complex mystery to us if we do not take the time to learn about it. With a basic explanation of a car's drive train type you will soon know more about what happens under the car as you engage the accelerator.

A vehicle's drive train is a vital power-transmitting system of your car. This system of parts is responsible for spreading out the power of the engine to the wheels. The drive train is comprised of such "power" components as the clutch, torque converter, transmission, drive shaft, U-joint, CV joints, differential and axles. These parts are the bridge between the engine and the wheels.

As technology advances so does the car industry. As mentioned earlier the main function of the drive train is to transmit the power of the engine to the wheels. This is done by a driveshaft that transfers torque from the engine, through the transmission to the differential in the axle. This in turn transmits torque to the wheels. Cars are now built with front wheel drive, rear wheel drive or even all (four) wheel drive. Here is a bit of information on each type.

All components of a front wheel drive train are located up front. The front wheels steer the vehicle as well as propel it forward or back (depending what gear the driver has engaged). A front wheel drive vehicle incorporates the transmission and differential (or drive axle) in one efficient unit, called a transaxle, which is mounted underneath and at the rear of the engine.

The wheels are connected to the axle driveshaft, usually called halfshafts because of their short length, by the means of constant velocity (CV) joints that allow power to be transmitted smoothly. The engine power that is transmitted to the wheels allows them to turn as well as move up and down with the bumps of the roadway. This is how the front wheel drive car operates.

A rear wheel drive vehicle uses the engine at the front of the car to power the rear wheels through the transmission and drive shaft. In a rear wheel vehicle the transmission is directly mounted to the engine. The power produced at the front of the vehicle is sent, by means of the driveshaft, to a differential unit located at the rear axle.

The differential unit turns the power and sends it to the rear wheels. If you own a luxury sports car it is likely that there is a transaxle also located at the rear of the vehicle. The driveshaft used for a rear wheel drive car is connected to the back axle by universal joints (U-joints). This allows for suspension movement of the vertical and longitudinal variety.

The third type of drive train is a four wheel drive (4WD) or all wheel drive (AWD).The usual difference between these terms are that an all wheel drive vehicle always has four wheels engaged while a vehicle termed a four wheel drive usually can be driven in a two wheel drive mode and then changed into a four wheel drive mode for things such as off-roading.

Most all wheel drive vehicles share a great deal of their drive train with front wheel drive automobiles but add a center differential, driveshaft and rear differentialFour wheel drive vehicles also use a transfer case positioned after the transmission that conducts power to both the front and rear axles when it is required.

In an all wheel drive or four wheel drive is engaged the transfer case drives two detached driveshafts that then operate separate differentials. The center differential is not used on four wheel trucks or vehicles that have to shift into a special four wheel mode instead of the two wheel mode like the vehicle drives in the rest of the time.

The explanations of a front wheel drive, rear wheel drive and all or four wheel drive vehicles included all of the parts listed at the beginning of this article. The one component that needs to be explained is the torque converter or clutch. You will have one or the other based on if your car has an automatic or manual transmission.

A clutch is used in a manual transmission while a torque converter is involved in the operation of an automatic transmission based vehicle. This part is what permits smooth transfer of power from the engine to the transmission. This in turn transmits power or torque to the wheels and propels the vehicle.

The drive train of a vehicle might be hidden from view most of the time but it is an essential part of your car. There are different parts involved depending on if your car is a front driven, rear driven or all wheel driven vehicle. With the information given here should now allow you to understand how the parts under your floorboard work when you press on your accelerator.

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