How to Tell if Your Car Is Front or Rear-Wheel Drive

It's not easy to tell if your car is a front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive vehicle, but there's a few things to look out for, such checking the owner's manual or searching the vehicle online.
Written by Cheryl Knight
Reviewed by Carrie Adkins
There are several ways to check what kind of wheel drive your car has, and they're all pretty simple.
Rear-wheel drive cars offer a much different experience compared to driving a front-wheel drive vehicle, so it's important to know which kind of vehicle you have. 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 a rear-wheel drive (RWD) and a front-wheel drive (FWD) can help when it comes time to choose a
, especially if the distinction is important to you. Here are four ways to tell the difference.
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Check the engine

The orientation of the
is an easy way to tell if you have a front or rear-wheel drive car.
Cars with the engine 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 at the
owner's manual
is another easy way of checking 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
and the
Check between the front and rear wheels. Whichever set of tires has an axle shaft between the two wheels is the one with 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 be about the size of a pumpkin, and sit directly between the two rear tires. In addition, the differential should have a long solid tube connecting it to the transmission, located directly behind the engine.
Regardless of whether you have a front- or rear-wheel drive vehicle, you need to look for cars with
safety features
. And while
car insurance
premiums for front- and rear-wheel drive cars are the same, the improved handling of a front-wheel drive vehicle makes it less likely to be involved an
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