The drivetrain is perhaps the most important part of an automobile. After all, an automobile, by definition, provides motion dependent upon engine power. The engine and transmission are such important parts to a vehicle that when things go wrong it’s often thought that the whole vehicle should just be replaced. This isn’t always the case though. And more likely than not, the issue at large is easier to address than you’d think.
If you’re a Do It Yourself-ER, you may be considering tackling this sort of job—and more power to you! For newcomers, however, this can be a pretty intimidating task. For instance, you’ll be handling components that can easily weigh several hundred pounds. But if you take your time and do the job right, there’s really no reason to stress. With that in mind, we’re going to kick off a two part article to cover the do’s and don’ts when pulling an engine and drivetrain.
In this piece, we’ll be specifically looking at the engine and drivetrain components. We’ll discuss their functions and when to consider removal. In the next piece, we’ll offer some tips to keep in mind when in the process of pulling those components.
Let’s begin, well, at the beginning: the engine. It’s the powerhouse of your ride and is responsible for many of the vehicle’s major functions—the most important of which, is allowing you to move from Point A to Point B. For the purpose of this article we’ll be specifically discussing internal combustion engines, which is what you’ll find in most cars on the road today.
The major components of an engine are the valve train, cylinder heads, the block, and the rotating assembly. There are many other parts involved, but to keep things simple we will focus on these areas, as they are the parts that scare the living daylights out of owners when they fail. Now, when something goes wrong with the valve train or cylinder heads, the engine can likely be left in the vehicle and the repairs performed on it as it sits. However, if something goes wrong with the rotating assembly or the block, you’ll need a hoist. Remember though, not all vehicles have the room for you to work under the hood, so sometimes smaller issues can require you to pull the engine as well.
While the engine is extremely important, it’s not the only rockstar in the drivetrain lineup. An equally valuable component is the transmission. The transmission is an incredibly complex device that performs a simple job. As the gear box of the vehicle, it allows the engine to spin at a speed within its RPM range and keep the car accelerating.
Unlike the engine, there aren’t many situations of operation failure when you won’t have to pull the transmission out. Not being able to get the car in gear, grinding sounds, or only having a few gears are all symptoms of transmission woes. If you’re lucky, you might only be looking at a fluid change or replacement of an easily-accessible small part. But unfortunately, most of the important components are hidden within the transmission case, meaning a complete tear-down is necessary.
The last component up to bat is the differential. Not because it is any less important, but because it is the last part of the drivetrain to move you forward. The differential is the device responsible for taking the turning motion of the driveshaft and converting it into wheel motion. Much like the transmission, most issues will require complete removal of the assembly for repair. Whining sounds from the axel or a situation where the driveshaft is spinning but the vehicle is not moving, are strong signs that the differential will need to be addressed.
In any situation, safety is the absolute most important part of the job. You’ll be dealing with some extremely heavy components, and it’s really easy for something to go wrong. So before we move on to a guided breakdown of removing anything within the drivetrain, we want to stress this point: do not attempt these jobs without the proper planning and equipment. And always have someone nearby to advise and assist. Accidents hurt a lot more than safety.