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Trust Vancouver Axle and Frame for your drivetrain maintenance and repair in the Fraser Valley, BC! A family-owned business since 1959, we work on all types of vehicles, from small passenger cars to heavy-duty commercial trucks and everything in between, including RVs and fifth wheels! Whether you need a clutch replacement, a rebuilt transmission install, or routine service on your fleet, we do drivetrains right! Contact us now with all your drivetrain needs!
Did you know that a low transmission fluid level can mimic the symptoms of a faulty transmission?
Never worry about maintenance again when you place your one car or your whole fleet on a preventative maintenance schedule with us!
Drivetrains: Their Two Essential Functions
- To transmit power from your engine to your wheels.
- To vary the amount of torque (pushing or pulling power).
If the concept of the drivetrain system makes your head spin, you’re not alone.
It may help for you to visualize a bicycle, which needs to perform at a range of speeds and switch gears to do its best across many conditions and situations.
Rotations per minute (RPMs) deserve mention here. You always want to use the SAME engine RPMs at different road speeds when you’re driving.
How to make these adjustments? By switching gears between your engine and your wheels. Switching gears keeps your engine and wheels in sync.
Think about how much power you need to start. To climb up a hill? To pull a heavy load? All such adjustments are made through the drivetrain.
Two sets of gears exist in your drivetrain:
- The transmission: A speed and power-changing device between your engine and driving wheels. The transmission lets you adjust your gear ratio between your engine and your driving wheel to perform in every driving situation. Like a bike, on which you make adjustments for such situations as increasing your speed or going up a hill.
- The differential: A gearbox that allows your wheels to turn at different speeds.
Two Common Types of Drivetrains
- Front-wheel drive: Engine power flows to front wheels to drive vehicle. Often found in light passenger car vehicles. The transmission is combined with drive components in the rear axle.
- Rear-wheel drive: Engine power flows to rear wheels to drive vehicle. Heavy trucks tend to require rear-wheel drive. The transmission may be directly behind the engine or combined with the rear axle, which is called a transaxle.
- Four-wheel drive: Engine power flows to all wheels to drive vehicle. A transfer case splits that power from front to rear. Some power flows to the front axle and some to the back axle.
- All-wheel drive: Usually this system does not require driver input. May have a transmission or a transaxle. All-wheel drive uses either a transfer case or a power take-off unit from the transmission/axle.
Types of Transmissions
- Manual (sometimes called standard): In our day, learning to drive manual, or stick shift, was almost a rite of passage. To us, stick shift has always been more fun to use than an automatic! Nowadays, fewer young drivers experience the joys of driving a vehicle with a 4-speed or 5-speed transmission; thus, they will never know about shifting into the right gear at the right time, mastering the H pattern, or the multitasking of smoothly operating three pedals, the left foot for the clutch and the right foot for the accelerator and brake.Learning to drive on a manual transmission is the best way to learn how a transmission works: it’s hands-on learning. You learn to appreciate your transmission as more than just something that gets you from point A to point B. And the effort required for driving manual leaves less brain power (not to mention hands) for texting while driving.With manual systems, you move a gearshift (usually located on the floor between the front seats) with your hand and thus tell the transmission what to do. The transmission, in turn, tells your wheels what to do through the driveshaft.To improve fuel economy for sustained high-speed driving on highways, many manual transmissions offer overdrive. Overdrive gear allows the rear wheels to turn faster at the same engine RPM. Some overdrive setups use an electric clutch and a switch to engage the overdrive function. Some “clutchless” manual transmissions also exist, which combine a stick shift with an automatic electric clutch.
Fewer vehicles come with a manual transmission these days. Something has been lost!
- Automatic: An automatic transmission is less labor intensive and requires less concentration than a manual. It shifts the gears for you. Still, you can downshift an automatic to control your transmission as an alternative to your brake for safely slowing your vehicle (especially useful in slippery winter conditions).Automatic transmissions typically use three forward gears to mix speed and power. In a three-speed transmission, first gear gives maximum power and minimal speed for starting. Second gear gives medium power and speed to accelerate and climb hills. Third gear gives maximum speed and minimum power for highway driving. A reverse gear lets you move backward (something you don’t have on a bike).
Other important drivetrain components
Clutch: In a manual transmission, you step on the clutch pedal with your left foot. The clutch either disconnects your engine from your transmission for times when you’re not moving or times when you’re between shifting; or the clutch connects your engine and transmission for those times when you’re accelerating.
Torque converter: In an automatic transmission, a torque converter performs the same job as the clutch: it allows you to switch gears.
Transfer case: Found in four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive vehicles, a transfer case splits the power from the transmission between the front and rear axle.
Drive shaft: In rear-wheel drive vehicles, your drive shaft transmits power from the transmission to the differential, the rear axle, and the rear wheels. Front-wheel drive vehicles feature two drive shafts that send power from the transaxle to the front wheels.
Your drive shaft consists of a metal tube with joints on each end, called universal joints. These U-joints, as they are often called, allow your transmission and differential to operate at different levels.
Axle: An axle is a metal shaft that sends power from your gearbox to your wheels. In a rear-wheel-drive car, with axle is in the rear. Your driveshaft moves relative to your suspension and sends engine power from your transmission to the rear axle.
Transaxle: In a front-wheel-drive vehicle (and sometimes in mid and rear-engine vehicles), the axle and transmission are blended into one assembly and thus called a transaxle. A transaxle combines your transmission with your differential. Some vehicles, for weight balance, are designed with the engine in front and transaxle in back.