Important Drivetrain Components
Your transmission is the first part of your heavy-duty drivetrain. It’s essentially a series of gears designed to optimize your engine’s power output. Your transmission needs regular fluid changes every 30 to 60 thousand miles to ensure friction and heat don’t build up. Transmissions will also often have transmission coolers which are designed to disperse the radiant heat that your transmission fluid absorbs.
Your transfer case allows you to switch between different drive modes. Heavy-duty trucks are generally rear-wheel drive until switched into a different drive mode, like four-wheel drive or six-wheel drive. How does this work, you may ask? When your transfer case is shifted into another drive mode, it essentially locks in a new driveshaft. This driveshaft then sends power to your front differential, which in turn distributes power to your wheels. Do keep in mind that transfer cases are usually only found on trucks that need different drive modes, like logging trucks and construction vehicles.
Driveshafts and Axles
Your driveshafts and axles are rotating shafts designed to transfer power from one component to another. Your biggest and most important driveshaft transfers power from your transmission to your first differential. In trucks with multiple differentials, you’ll have another significantly smaller driveshaft connecting one differential to another. Axles, on the other hand, allow for power to be transferred from your differential to your wheels.
Your differentials are designed to distribute power in different directions. Differentials are only used when power is transferred to the wheels attached to it. As such, rear-wheel drive vehicles will not have a front differential.
How do differentials work, you may ask? Differentials operate based on the path of least resistance. Whichever wheel has less resistance gets more power. This allows your truck to take turns and go over uneven terrain without smoking your differential gears.
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