Driving a rear-wheel drive car provides a much different experience compared to driving a front-wheel drive vehicle. Rear-wheel drive cars tend to have more power, while front-wheel drive vehicles exhibit more control, especially on wet or slick roads.
Learning how to tell the difference between the two can help when it comes time to choose a car, especially if the distinction is important to you. Here are four ways to tell the difference.
Check the Engine
The orientation of the engine represents an easy way to tell if you have a front- or rear-wheel drive car.
Cars with the engines in the back always have a rear-wheel drive. Cars with the engine in the front are either rear- or front-wheel drive, depending on the position of the belts.
Engines mounted sideways, with the belts facing one side of the car or the other, most likely belong to front-wheel drive vehicles.
Engines mounted front-to-back, with the belts facing the front of the car, most likely belong to rear-wheel drive vehicles.
Check the Owner’s Manual
Looking in the owner’s manual represents another easy way of determining if you have a front- or rear-wheel drive. Most often, you can find this information at the front of the manual under the vehicle specifications.
Trucks, full-size SUVs, and muscle cars tend to have rear-wheel drives. Family cars, compacts, minivans, and luxury cars tend to feature front-wheel drives.
Search the Vehicle Online
You can also research the vehicle online to see what type of drivetrain it has.
Do a web search for your vehicle’s make, model, and year and look for the car’s specifications in the results.
Look for abbreviations such as RWD for rear-wheel drive and FWD for front-wheel drive. Other abbreviations include AWD for all-wheel drive and 4x4 for four-wheel drive.
The vehicle manufacturer’s website is also a great place to find specifications for newer cars.
Look for an Axle or Rear Differential
Some other components that can help you determine if you have a front- or rear-wheel drive include the axle and the differential.
Check between the front and rear wheels. Whichever set of tires has an axle shaft between the two wheels represents the drive wheels. If you notice both a front and rear axle, then you either have an all-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicle.
You can also look under the rear of the car for a differential. A differential, if present, should sit directly between the two rear tires and is about the size of a pumpkin. In addition, the differential should have a long solid tube connecting it to the transmission, located directly behind the engine.