Transmitting the power
There are two main types of transmission system. The traditional one has the engine at the front of the car driving the two rear wheels. In the increasingly common front-wheel-drive system, the engine is at the front driving the front wheels. Some vehicles have a rear engine driving the rear wheels, and some - mostly those for use in rough terrain - can have just two or all four wheels driven. In normal conditions, only the two rear wheels are driven, but the drive can be switched to the front wheels as well by using an extra gear lever.
In a front- engined rear-wheel-drive car, the engine transmits the drive to the rear wheels through a clutch, gearbox, propeller shaft and the final drive.
A front-wheel-drive car has no propeller shaft because the engine is close to the driving wheels. The clutch, gearbox and final drive are usually incorporated into a single unit.
The clutch is incorporated with the flywheel, and allows a smooth and gradual take-up of motion from the turning crankshaft through the gearbox to the stationary propeller shaft when the car starts moving.
A simple clutch consists essentially of a driven plate and a pressure plate. In normal driving the driven plate is sandwiched against the flywheel by the pressure plate. When the driver presses the clutch pedal, the pressure plate is sprung away from the driven plate, which moves out of contact with the flywheel, so drive to the gearbox ceases. When the driver releases the clutch pedal, drive through the gearbox is resumed. The clutch is operated either mechanically by means of a cable or hydraulically by liquid pressure.
On a car with manually operated gears, the clutch acts as a kind of switch, allowing the driver to disconnect the engine from the rest of the transmission when changing gear. A car with automatic gears does not have a normal clutch; it uses a device called a torque converter, in which whirling oil is used to transfer motion from the flywheel.
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