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Summary
  • The transaxle is a combination of the transmission and differential in one assembly. It’s in any vehicle where the engine and drive wheels are on the same side.
  • Driving with a bad transaxle is not recommended because it can make the transmission malfunction.
  • Some signs of a bad transaxle include a burning smell, difficulty shifting gears, a noisy transmission system, and a slipping transmission.

Not all vehicles have transaxles. Those that do are usually front-wheel drives. But why is that the case, and why are they considered a crucial part of the transmission system?

What is a Transaxle in a Car?

The transaxle is a combination of the transmission and differential in one assembly. It draws power from the engine and allocates it to the drive wheels.

diagram showing a manual transaxle
Diagram showing a manual transaxle. There are automatic transaxles as well. | Image Source: Richard McCuistian

Transaxles are an important component of any vehicle that uses front-wheel drive — or any vehicle where the engine and drive wheels are on the same side.

The transaxle is typically between the drive wheels, meaning you’ll have to raise the vehicle with jack stands to access it.

photo of hybrid vehicle transaxle
A hybrid vehicle transaxle, which contains two high voltage electric motors and a planetary gearset. | Image Source: Richard McCuistian

Can You Drive with a Bad Transaxle?

For safety reasons, driving with a bad transaxle is not recommended. But the answer may also depend on the actual problem with the transaxle and what symptoms you observe. Is the transaxle making whining noises? Do you feel any vibration? If it is an automatic transaxle, is it slipping or does it engage harshly when you put it in gear? If it’s a manual transaxle, do you get gear clash when you shift from one gear to the next?

See also  How to Take Care of Your Manual Transmission

Regardless, it’s best to have a bad transaxle repaired or replaced as soon as possible.

, What is a Transaxle on a Car?

Pro Tips are nuggets of information direct from ASE-certified automobile technicians working with CarParts.com, which may include unique, personal insights based on their years of experience working in the automotive industry. These can help you make more informed decisions about your car.

Pro Tip: Note that on some Toyota Camrys in the ‘80s and ‘90s, the differential part of the transaxle doesn’t share the oil that lubricates the rest of the transaxle. The differential/final drive chamber has its own supply of oil, and CV axle seals can leak enough oil from the differential that the transaxle locks up driving down the highway.

Signs of a Bad Transaxle

The symptoms of a bad transaxle include difficulty in shifting gears, noises in the transaxle housing, and transmission slipping. If your vehicle displays any of these warning signs, it might be time to get your transaxle checked by a mechanic.

Difficulty Shifting Gears

Jerky, clunky transmission clutches are a sign that there’s something wrong with the transaxle.

If the gear stick feels stiff, there might not be enough lubrication in the transmission. It could also mean something’s damaged the transmission system.

Noisy Transmission System

Grinding, high-pitched noises from the transmission could mean there’s damage in the transaxle, usually because of friction. When parts grind against one another, it creates a shrill whining noise.

See also  Bad Differential: Symptoms, Replacement Cost, & FAQ

Transmission Slipping

A transmission clutch that slips and shifts gears too easily can be just as dangerous as a clutch that refuses to change gears. Either way, unreliable clutches could indicate that the transaxle is malfunctioning.

How Do Mechanics Perform Transaxle Lubricant Checks?

While it is technically possible to check the level of transaxle lubricant yourself, it’s usually best to leave it to a professional.

Mechanics know what type of fluid to use on a vehicle depending on its make and model. There are four different kinds of lubricants to keep in mind.

If you’re curious about lubricant checks, here are the steps mechanics usually take to conduct one.

  1. Lift the vehicle with jack stands or a car hoist. Ensure it remains level at all times.
  2. Check the fluid level by removing the transmission/transaxle inspection (fill) plug.
  3. Determine if the level of transaxle lubricant is correct by checking if the fluid drips out of the hole. If the fluid runs out of the hole, the level is too full and must flow out until the fluid stops.
  4. If the transaxle lubricant levels are low, determine which fluid to use on the vehicle before filling it. Then, fill the hole until the fluid level is at the bottom of the inspection hole or until the fluid runs out of the inspection hole.
  5. Reinsert the fill plug and lower the vehicle from its elevated position.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about the transaxle.

See also  12 Reasons Your Car Is Making a Whistling Noise

Do all vehicles have transaxles?

No, not all vehicles have transaxles. Transaxles are in most modern vehicles, but they’re typically not a part of rear-wheel drive vehicles. It just so happens that most vehicles nowadays use front-wheel drive drivetrains, which need transaxles.

Can rear-wheel drive vehicles have transaxles?

Yes, rear-wheel drive vehicles can have transaxles. Transaxles can work with any vehicle where the engine and the drive wheels are on the same end of the car. This is because transaxles are both the transmission and the differential.

How long does the average transaxle last?

Without maintenance, a transaxle can last roughly seven years or approximately 100,000 miles. If the transmission is properly taken care of, the transaxle might never need replacement.

What is a transaxle control module, and is it the same as a transmission control module?

Transaxle control modules are not the same as transmission control modules because they don’t exist. Transmission control modules control all the operations of the transmission of a vehicle.

About The Authors
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Reviewed By Technical Reviewer at CarParts.com

Richard McCuistian has worked for nearly 50 years in the automotive field as a professional technician, an instructor, and a freelance automotive writer for Motor Age, ACtion magazine, Power Stroke Registry, and others. Richard is ASE certified for more than 30 years in 10 categories, including L1 Advanced Engine Performance and Light Vehicle Diesel.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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