Front Wheel Drive Versus Rear Wheel Drive – Your Car’s Transmission

STERLING HEIGHTS, MI  - MAY 6:  Transmission c...
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Transmissions are one of the most complex systems your car has. In fact, that’s the reason many auto repair garages will refuse to work on them. Some might perform minor repairs, but will refer you to a transmission shop for anything more extensive. There are a lot of parts involved in the system, and mechanics hate to cause bigger problems.

This level of complexity often makes transmissions one of the least understood components to drivers. Adding to the confusion, they’re designed differently. Some are designed for front wheel drive while others are designed for rear wheel drive. In this article we will look at some of the differences. I’ll tell you all about your transmission’s job and help you understand the pros and cons associated with RWD and FWD.

Understanding Its Job

Your car’s engine generates power through its 4-stroke combustion process. That power must be delivered to your drive wheels in order to turn them. Also, it’s worth noting that your engine has a range of RPMs in which it operates at maximum efficiency. Your transmission has two jobs. First, it needs to deliver the power generated by the engine to the drive wheels. Second, it needs to perform this task while keeping your engine operating within its optimal range of RPMs.

This is accomplished through several gears. In low gears, the engine must turn more quickly in order to power the wheels. In higher gears, it doesn’t have to work as hard. The transmission helps the engine advance from first gear to higher gears while keeping your car moving at higher speeds.

RWD Versus FWD

If your car has rear wheel drive, the transmmission will be located on the back part of your engine. A drive shaft will connect it to the rear axle. As your engine generates power and turns the crankshaft, that power is transferred though the transmission to the drive shaft and ultimately, to the rear axle. The rear axle spins, which causes your tires to rotate.

While the concept behind the power flow is similar, a front wheel drive car works a little differently. The transmission is still located near the engine. With the final drive, it forms a transaxle. A front axle connects to the transaxle, which in turn delivers power to rotate the front tires.

To keep the explanation simple, I’ve ignored the torque converter. In reality, power travels from the engine through the torque converter into the transmission. The other components work as described.

Is One Better Than The Other?

Modern vehicles usually have front wheel drive. An FWD weighs less, costs less to manufacture, and usually delivers higher fuel efficiency. On the other hand, an RWD distributes the weight more evenly across a car’s frame, which improves braking ability. Plus, because the design is less crowded than an FWD, it’s easier to service without taking everything apart. In the end, when choosing between RWD and FWD, consider your driving needs and the factors on which you place a high priority.

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This post was written by admin on January 12, 2010

1 Comment so far

  1. admin January 27, 2010 3:23 pm

    Thank you for the feedback, it’s always appreciated.

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