What Is the Drivetrain on a Car?

by Richard Rowe

Most new vehicles are engineered to do one thing above all else: outlive their warranties by 10 minutes or less, and then disintegrate into their component atoms. This aspect of planned obsolescence makes learning to read warranty jargon critical when comparing new cars for purchase, or arguing with your car's manufacturer regarding the parts that should be covered. Aftermarket warranties have varying definitions of covered drivetrain components, so do your homework before you buy.


A drivetrain is any part of an automobile that transfers power from the engine to the wheels, though the exact definition can vary slightly depending on who you ask. The accepted definition includes the vehicle's torque converter or clutch, transmission, driveshaft or shafts, universal or constant velocity joints, differential or differentials, and the center differential or transfer case for four- or all-wheel-drive vehicles. You could also include the wheel hubs or axle locking hubs on a four-wheel-drive vehicle. It's worth noting that where warranties are concerned, "drivetrain" and "powertrain" are not synonymous terms. A "powertrain" includes the entire drivetrain, plus the engine. So, if your vehicle has a 50,000-mile powertrain warranty and a 100,000-mile drivetrain warranty, your manufacturer will foot the bill for a new transmission, torque converter or axle if any of them fail at 65,000 miles. But if the engine explodes at that same mileage, you're on your own.

About the Author

Richard Rowe has been writing professionally since 2007, specializing in automotive topics. He has worked as a tractor-trailer driver and mechanic, a rigger at a fire engine factory and as a race-car driver and builder. Rowe studied engineering, philosophy and American literature at Central Florida Community College.

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