A Familiarization of Drivetrain Components PD730555

Topics: Powertrain & Propulsion

An efficient, durable, and quiet running drivetrain is as essential to customer satisfaction as styling and interior creature comforts. This seven-module, on-demand course is designed to expose you to various methods used to accomplish this goal and will help you to visualize individual components and their functions within the entire drivetrain system, without reference to complicated equations. Instructor Joseph Palazzolo provides an introduction to the terms, functions, nomenclature, operating characteristics, and effect on vehicle performance for each of the drivetrain components, including the clutch, torque converter, manual and automatic transmissions, driveshaft, axle, wheel ends, and brakes.


Insights into the structure and function of each component, vehicle performance, and related noise, vibration, and harshness issues are provided. You'll also be equipped to evaluate the space requirements, mounting needs, and clearances required.


By participating in this on-demand course, you'll be able to:

  • Discuss both practical and technical aspects of smoothing clutch operation by incorporating cushion and torsional dampers
  • Compare different types of transmission synchronizers, automatic transmission torque converters, hydraulic clutch operation and epicyclic gear trains
  • Describe the interaction of gear ratios and vehicle performance as related to engine horsepower and torque curves
  • Explain phasing and mounting of propeller shafts as related to torsional excitation and secondary couple loads
  • Describe different types of differentials
  • Compare common misconceptions of limited slip devices to their actual performance
  • Recognize four-wheel drive systems and the need for an inter-axle differential
  • Appraise electronic control of torque through braking and clutching devices
  • Evaluate the total drivetrain package as a system

Materials Provided

  • 90 days of online single-user access (from date of purchase) to the 11-hour video presentation
  • Integrated knowledge checks to reinforce key concepts
  • Course handbook (downloadable, .pdf's)
  • Online learning assessment (submit to SAE)
  • Instructor follow up to your content questions
  • 1.2 CEUs*/Certificate of Achievement (upon completion of all course content and a score of 70% or higher on the learning assessment)

*SAE International is authorized by IACET to offer CEUs for this course.

Is this On Demand Course for You?

This course has been developed for engineers working with passenger car, sport utility, truck, bus, industrial, and off-highway vehicles who have had minimal prior experience with the total drivetrain. An engineering undergraduate degree in any discipline would be beneficial.

This course is the equivalent to the classroom seminar, A Familiarization of Drivetrain Components.

Have colleagues who need this course? See Special Offers to the right.

Click on the Requirements tab to make sure you are properly equipped to interact with this course.

For More Details

Email CustomerService@sae.org, or call 1-877-606-7323 (U.S. and Canada) or 724-776-4970 (outside US and Canada).

Module I: Manual Transmission Clutch
[Total Run Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes]

  • Explain the function of a manual transmission clutch system
  • Identify all the components of the clutch system and their function
  • Calculate clutch torque capacity and explain the significance of each parameter
  • Explain the difference between pull and push type clutch actuation systems
  • Identify the different clutch pedal travel positions
  • Troubleshoot common clutch problems and potential solutions

Module II: Manual and Automatic Transmissions 
[Total Run Time: 2 hours, 19 minutes]

  • Explain the functionality of torque multiplication and its relationship to speed
  • Identify the components that comprise manual and automatic transmissions
  • Explain the need and function for energy absorbing devices like synchronizers and clutches
  • Graphically illustrate the underlying fundamentals of gearing and multi-speed transmission powerflow
  • Describe the basic function of fluid couplings

Module III: Propshaft and CV Joints 
[Total Run Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes]

  • Define the primary function of prophafts
  • Explain lead-lag phenomenon of single cardan joints and phasing to correct
  • Explain the difference between static and dynamic balance
  • Interpret the concept to constant velocity joints
  • Explain the function and use of halfshafts

Module IV: Axles 
[Total Run Time: 3 hours, 10 minutes]

  • Distinguish the different drive gear types
  • Define the need for differentials and their function in the a vehicle
  • Explain the inherent pros and cons of open differentials versus limited slip
  • Identify the axle wheel end types along with common complaints and concerns

Module V: Transfer Case/Power Transfer Units 
[Total Run Time: 30 minutes]

  • List the different types of all-wheel drive systems
  • Compare and contrast the different modes of operation and their use
  • Identify typical transfer case design parameters

Module VI: Wheel Ends 
[Total Run Time: 10 minutes]

  • Explain the difference between live and dead spindle
  • Name the requirements for wheel end bearing packages

Module VII: Brakes 
[Total Run Time: 1 hour, 12 minutes]

  • Explain the basic brake system function
  • Identify the different types of line routing methods and why they are used
  • Define the basic function of the master cylinder, brake booster, calipers, and wheel cylinders
  • Compare and contrast disc versus drum brake systems
  • Articulate the basic function and concept of anti-lock brake systems


  • Windows or macOS
  • Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari (Other OSs and browsers including mobile devices are not supported by may work)
  • Broadband-3Mbps minimum

Joe Palazzolo
Joe Palazzolo

Joe Palazzolo is Director of Business Development and Electrified Product Strategy at Dana Incorporated’s Light Vehicle Drive System business where he is responsible for managing business development for electrified systems and guiding the strategy for electrified products. Previously, Joe was at GKN Automotive where he held roles of increasing responsibility, including chief engineer for geared products. Prior to that, he was a development engineer and technical fellow at other automotive suppliers.

Mr. Palazzolo holds more than a dozen patents and is an award-winning author of two books, High-Performance Differentials, Axles & Drivelines and How to Rebuild the Ford 8.8 and 9-inch Axles. He also wrote three chapters in the Automotive Engineering Encyclopedia. He maintains the ASE certified Master Technician and Undercar Specialist certifications, has chaired the SAE All-Wheel Drive Standards Committee, and has been an active SAE member since 1990. Mr. Palazzolo was a recipient of the SAE Forest R. McFarland Award for distinction in professional development and education in 2007. In 2010, he achieved the SAE Master Instructor designation and continues to maintain this in his three seminars, which he has been teaching globally since 1999. In 2013, he reached the SAE Fellow membership grade which recognizes his technical and professional accomplishments to the industry.

He has designed, built, campaigned, and supported various race cars and teams for both professional and amateur racing organizations. His scope of work has been inclusive of the entire vehicle but also focused on competitive, high-performance drivetrain systems. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Cleveland State University and a master’s degree in Automotive Engineering from Lawrence Technological University. He has received numerous patents for his work and creativity in advancing mobility systems.

Access Period: 90 Days      CEUs: 1.2

Duration: 12 Hours
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