Automobile Transmission System- Types Of Transmission Drives And How They Function

In a car, power is transmitted from the engine through the clutch and the gearbox to the axle by means of a tubular propeller shaft. in the case of a front-wheel-drive, the axle that receives power via the propeller shaft is the rear axle.

For this to be possible, however, the following is the case

  • The rear axle must be able to move up and down on the suspension according to variations of the road surface. The movement causes the angle of the propeller shaft, and the distance between the gearbox and the rear axle, to change constantly.
  • To allow for the constant movement, splines on the front end of the propeller shaft slide in and out of the gearbox as the distance changes; 
  •  The shaft must also have universal joints at each end, and sometimes in the middle. The universal joints allow the propeller shaft to be flexible, while constantly transmitting power.

      The last part of the transmission is the final drive, which incorporates the differential and is sometimes called the differential. The differential has three functions:
      • to turn the direction of drive through 90 degrees to the rear wheels; 
      • to allow either rear wheel to turn faster than the other when cornering; 
      • and to effect a final gear reduction. 

      A pinion gear inside the differential is driven by the propeller shaft and has its gears beveled - cut at an angle. It meshes with a beveled crown wheel so that the two gears form a 90-degree angle.

       Front Engine - Rear Drive

      In this situation, the engine is mounted at the front, however, it is connected to the rear wheel which now serves as the driving wheel. The drive is transmitted from the differential to the rear wheels by means of half shafts, or drive shafts.

      The engine and the gearbox are bolted together, with the clutch between them. The engine is rigidly mounted, but the propeller shaft must be flexible to allow for movement of the back axle. The crown wheel usually has about four times as many teeth as the pinion gear, causing the wheels to turn at a quarter the propeller-shaft speed.

      Also at the differential end of each half shaft, a beveled pinion gear is connected to the crown wheel by means of an intermediate set of bevel pinion  

      Front-Wheel Drive

      Front-wheel-drive cars use the same transmission principles as rear-wheel-drive cars, but the mechanical components vary in design according to the engine and gearbox layout.

      Transverse engines are normally mounted directly above the gearbox, and power is transmitted through the clutch to the gearbox by a train of gears.

      In-line engines are mated directly to the gearbox, and the drive passes through the clutch in a normal manner.
      In both cases, the drive passes from the gearbox to a final-drive unit.

      In a transverse-mounted engine, the final-drive unit is usually located in the gearbox. In an in-line engine, it is usually mounted between the engine and the gearbox.

      Engine mountings

      Power is taken from the final-drive unit to the wheels by short drive shafts. To cope with suspension and steering movement in the wheels, the drive shafts use a highly developed type of universal joint called a constant-velocity (CV) joint.

      A CV joint uses grooves with steel ball bearings in them instead of the `spider' found in a universal joint, and transmits power at a constant speed, regardless of the angle and the distance between the final-drive unit and the wheels.
      Some cars, such as earlier Minis, also have drive-shaft couplings which are 'spider' joints, and do the same job as universal joints in rear-wheel-drive cars, allowing up-and-down movement of the suspension. They are usually made of rubber bonded to metal.

      Rear Engine - Rear Wheels Drive

      Some cars, such as VW Beetles and smaller Fiats, have rear-mounted engines and gearboxes, driving the rear wheels.

      Power is transmitted through the clutch to the gearbox, passing to the wheels through drive shafts.
      The layout is similar to some front-wheel-drive cars, except that no allowance need be made for steering movement of the wheels.

      Sometimes the shafts are connected to the flanges at the gearbox by `doughnut' couplings.

      The shafts and flanges are bolted on either side of the couplings, and drive is transmitted through the flexible rubber.

       Four Wheel Drive

      There are almost as many different types of four-wheel-drive systems as there are four-wheel-drive vehicles. It seems that every manufacturer has several different schemes for providing power to all of the wheels.

      Usually, when carmakers say that a car has four-wheel drive, they are referring to a part-time system. For reasons we'll explore four-wheel drives and all-wheel drive in our next article, these systems are meant only for use in low-traction conditions, such as off-road or on snow or ice.

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