What is a Car Powertrain?

by Cayden ConorUpdated August 06, 2023


The powertrain provides power to the car. Power is made by the engine, then transferred to the driveshaft through the transmission. The driveshaft, in a rear wheel drive car, turns the gears in the rear, which in turn turns the axles and finally, the wheels. The rear and the axles are also part of the drivetrain.


There are two types of powertrain setups---the front wheel drive and the rear wheel drive. The front wheel drive powertrain employs a horizontally opposed engine. The transmission also sits sideways. The driveshafts (there are two of them) go to the front wheels via a hub bearing. In a rear wheel drive powertrain setup, the engine faces the front of the car, and the transmission is behind the engine. There is one driveshaft (it may be in more than one piece, as in some trucks), which leads to the rear end. The axles protrude from either side of the rear to the wheels.


The sensors that are included in a powertrain warranty do not provide direct power to the vehicle, but for warranty purposes are considered part of the powertrain. They provide input and output to and from the powertrain control module (PCM). Some sensors send the computer information, which transcribes the information and sends it to output sensors. They all work together to make the car run cleanly, smoothly and efficiently.


The engine is located in the engine compartment. Each sensor is located in its proper location on the engine. The transmission, in both front and rear wheel drive vehicles, is attached to the rear of the engine. In front wheel drive vehicles, the transmission can also be accessed via the engine compartment. In rear wheel drive vehicles, the transmission must be accessed from below the vehicle. Transmissions can be automatic or manual.


The engine, which is the main part of the powertrain, comes in various sizes, from a 3-cylinder in a Geo Metro to big V-10 in some trucks. The most common engine sizes are the 4-cylinder, 6-cylinder and 8-cylinder engines. Depending on the year, make and model, each type of engine has different sizes (i.e. the 4-cylinder has 1.8, 2.2 and 2.4 liter engines, 6-cylinders have 2.8 and 3.0 liter engines and the common sizes in an 8-cylinder engine are 5.0 and 5.7 liter engines).

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