Front-Wheel-Drive Transmission Problems

by Jacquelyn Jeanty

Front-wheel-drive transmissions are touted for their compact designs, added traction and improved fuel economy. For those reasons, many new cars are built with these systems. And while they do offer certain benefits, problems can develop over time with front-wheel-drive vehicles. Some of these problems may not become apparent until repairs are needed.

Identification

When it comes to driving in snow or slick conditions, a front-wheel drive can keep a good grip on the road surface. This strong grip is the result of how the transmission system is designed in a front-wheel-powered car. The transaxles that connect the wheels to the transmission are both located in the front end, along with the engine and torque converter, according to Family Car Parts, an automotive resource site. As a result, most of the weight of the car is in the front, which accounts for the added road traction. Unfortunately, this same design can become problematic, causing components within the system to break down.

CV Boots

CV joints--also known as constant velocity joints--are specialized components that sit on both ends of a front-wheel-drive transmission, according to the website of AA1Car. They're typically enclosed inside a boot compartment that works to protect the joint from the elements; the boot contains the grease, or lubricating fluids, that keep the machinery working. Over time, the boot casing may become worn and develop cracks or even break altogether. When this happens, the joint can become dry because of a leaking boot. A front axle that has a cracked or broken boot typically makes a clanking or clicking noise when the steering wheel is turned all the way to the right or left while accelerating.

Shifting

Front-wheel-drive transmissions include a set of CV joints on each front wheel, according to AA1Car. Each wheel has an inner CV joint and an outer one. In some cars, the inner joint also contains a set of differential gears that work in tandem with the transmission system. Cars that make a clunking noise when accelerating, decelerating or shifting into drive may be showing signs of a worn inner CV joint. This noise can indicate either the joint itself is damaged or can suggest problems with the differential gears.

Vibration

The axle, transaxle and drive shaft are the components that connect the transmission system to the front wheels. As most of the car's power is concentrated in the front, over time, wear and tear can take a toll on any one of these components, according to AA1Car. In most cases, the drive shaft is little more than a metal, hollow tube held in place by the surrounding axles. When off balance, it can cause a shudder or vibration, especially when accelerating. Wear and tear can also affect the axle and transaxle joints.

Prevention/Solution

In any transmission system, maintaining required fluid levels and proper servicing go a long way toward preserving the life of the system. With front-wheel drives, the CV boots that house the primary joints in the system are also critical. Regular inspections for cracks, punctures, tears, splits or loose clamps can help identify problems before they result in huge repair bills. As the CV joint relies on the grease contained inside the boot to function normally, preventing it from contamination or leakage will greatly prolong the life of a front-wheel-transmission system.

About the Author

Jacquelyn Jeanty has worked as a freelance writer since 2008. Her work appears at various websites. Her specialty areas include health, home and garden, Christianity and personal development. Jeanty holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Purdue University.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera front wheel and headlight image by Milovanoff from Fotolia.com