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The drivetrain refers to a series of components in your vehicle that are responsible for making your car move. They include the engine, transmission, driveshafts, drive axles, and differentials. You will often come across the term “drivetrain” at the car dealership – a “drivetrain rating” refers to the amount of power the vehicle is capable of generating and a “drivetrain warranty” is typically included with all new vehicle purchases which covers each of the components that make up the drivetrain for a certain period of time.

Key components


The engine uses an internal combustion process to translate your fuel into motion. A mixture of air and gasoline is used to create a chemical reaction that moves the engine pistons. The motion of the pistons translates to the crankshaft, which power your wheels through the rest of the drivetrain components.


The transmission receives power, also known as torque, from the engine and sends it to the differential. As the torque moves through the transmission, a collection of gears determines how much engine power reaches the differential. In manual transmissions, this is controlled by the driver through the clutch. In automatic transmissions, the best gear is selected automatically based on various driving conditions, such as speed and engine power.


The differentials receive engine power from the transmission which allows them to move your wheels. Your vehicle has two differentials – one in the front controlling the front two tires and one in the back controlling the back two tires. Each differential contains several gears and pinions that are connected to the drive axle and move when torque is received from the transmission.

Drive Shaft

The drive shaft connects the two differentials together and directs the incoming torque to the differential that is needed. For example, if the vehicle is in rear-wheel drive mode, the drive shaft will direct power to only the rear differential. In front-wheel drive mode, torque is directed to the front differential. The drive shaft is especially important in all-wheel and four-wheel drive vehicles, where the drive shaft directs torque to both differentials.

Drive Axle

Drive axles are long metal rods connected to each differential that complete the final transfer of motion to make your wheels turn. They rotate as your wheels rotate and are controlled by the motion of the gears and pinions from the differential.

Drivetrain maintenance

Be sure to refer to your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendations on how to best take care of your drivetrain. Sometimes issues may arise, especially in the engine and transmission when your vehicle starts to get older and have more miles on it.

The best way to get maintenance done on your drivetrain components is to book your appointment through CarAdvise. CarAdvise makes car care simple and guarantees that you’ll pay less than retail price on all of your maintenance services.

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