What is a Powertrain? (2023)

In this article we discuss:

The standard drivers of 2019 are not familiar with the increasingly sophisticated parts that operate within their motor vehicle, let alone answer “what is a powertrain.” The powertrain is listed as the most important mechanical systems in a vehicle which generates power and delivers it to the road in an automobile.

  • What a Powertrain is for a Vehicle.
  • What Powertrain Faults and Powertrain Malfunctions Are.
  • What Powertrain Component Failures Can Cost You.
  • What a Powertrain Warranty Is.
  • What a Powertrain Warranty Covers and Doesn’t Cover.

What is a Powertrain?

What is a Powertrain? (1)

A vehicle’s powertrain system includes: the engine, transmission and drivetrain. A well-treated powertrain system will always optimally perform to the vehicle’s manufacturer standards. It will have proper fuel and oil consumption efficiency which will allow a vehicle to drive smoothly. Symptoms of a malfunctioning powertrain can include overheating, unusual handling, shaking/vibrating, whining and growling noises. The louder your vehicle is, the more concerned you should be. Additionally a powertrain warranty covers the cost to repair/replace these components when they malfunction or fail.

What is Powertrain Fault?

Having a powertrain failure or powertrain fault tends to happen to older and or higher mileage vehicles and can cause your vehicle’s power components to overheat. If you ignore these warnings, your vehicle may operate in a defaulted “safe mode” until the issue has been resolved/repaired.

Powertrain Malfunction?

Any type of powertrain malfunction correlates directly with the most important vehicle components such as: the engine, transmission, transfer case and drivetrain. Any of these mechanical breakdowns can also be called a “drivetrain malfunction.” In the case of a powertrain malfunction, a vehicle will activate the powertrain warning light (lamp) when a vehicle is experiencing a concerning power related condition. If the vehicle is continually driven with the concerning condition, chances are that there will be damage done to the engine, transmission, and drivetrain. Any powertrain malfunction will re-actively reduce the power and speed of your automobile until the component is repaired.

Whatis a Power Warning Lamp

The powertrain warning lamp is an indication to decrease your vehicle’s workload. There are causes for the powertrain warning light to come on that doesn’t necessarily mean the vehicle is having a powertrain malfunction. The most common case would be if you pull a trailer on the back of your vehicle and your warning light comes on. The vehicle is warning you that it’s struggling with its workload and you should remove the trailer before the vehicle starts overheating. If ignored you risk additional damage to your powertrain system due to its overloaded-workload. This leaves you susceptible to powertrain failure.

Powertrain Failure Repair Cost:

Powertrain failures are among the most expensive repair bills in the auto industry. Depending on the vehicle, transmission repairs can cost about $2,000, with the engine alone costing $3,000 or more. A mechanic would have to take your engine/transmission apart to service or rebuild it, which would be time-consuming. With labor costs constantly increasing (current rate of $125/hour), expenses can easily exceed the entire cost of an extended vehicle protection policy. This is especially true if your vehicle is required to be held in the shop for more than one day.

Protect Your Vehicle Against Powertrain Failure. Coverage Designed to Save You Money!

Should I have a Powertrain Warranty?

What is a Powertrain? (2)

Since the 1990s, nearly all automobiles were sold paired with a “manufacturer guarantee“, also known as a Manufacturer Warranty. This warranty covered practically everything that can go wrong with the vehicle during its time of coverage. However, the majority of all limited manufacturer’s warranty will not be used during their service term throughout their vehicle’s lifetime.

Just like any other new car warranty, powertrain coverage will be limited in terms of time or mileage (whichever comes first). Powertrain warranties service terms are always longer than other warranties, like the “bumper-to-bumper” coverage. After all, powertrain components are typically more expensive to replace and service than exterior cosmetics(depending on the car) or suspension parts. Some automotive dealerships can offer the “industry standard” Five years or 60,000 miles of powertrain coverage. Kia Warranty and Mitsubishi Warranty are the exceptions to this standard as both extended coverage to Ten years or 100,000 miles. Therefore, if your car is older than the warranty coverage period or has more miles than allowed, then those repairs won’t be covered. Extra exceptions arise when considering a hybrid vehicle, as hybrid components usually have their own warranty. These hybrid components are typically separate from the powertrain coverage. Hyundai Warranty offers lifetime coverage and unlimited mileage on its hybrid components, while Toyota Warranty parts are limited to Eight years and 100,000 miles.

The Powertrain Warranty: Solving Powertrain Failure

A powertrain service plan covers the components of a car that provides power, these components are often referred to as the “Big-Three”: the engine, transmission and drivetrain. Essentially, these parts are responsible for making the vehicle move. If any of these components are found to be malfunctioning or damaged within the original service term, the manufacturer is obligated to fully pay for the components repairs or replacements.

Why Manufacturers Warranties Aren’t Lifetime Warranties:

Manufacturers understand their cars will inevitably experience failures, but they can only financially cover the first Three years of a car’s life cycle. They simply can’t afford to fix every issue with their car models that age past Three years old; As they have new inventory they’re attempting to sell that also comes with the same Three-year service guarantee. With that said, it’s clear that the extended powertrain warranties have a relevance for every vehicle owner at some point. Powertrain warranties are extremely popular for drivers who wish to protect their car’s powertrain after their original limited manufacturer’s warranty expires. This is because once the manufacturer warranty expires, your vehicle is no longer covered for mechanical breakdowns and any repairs would be out of pocket. Therefore you may decide to purchase an extended vehicle protection plan from either the dealership you purchased the vehicle from or a reputable third-party protection service provider like DriveSmart Warranty.

How Long Does a Powertrain Warranty Last?

A powertrain warranty that covers your vehicle’s mechanical breakdowns gives you the financial peace of mind to invest your money into something other than your car when it comes time to bring it into a repair shop. For this reason alone, many vehicle owners decide to get a powertrain protection plan that would cover nearly everything in their vehicle for Five years or 100,000 miles upon enrollment.

When Should You Buy a Powertrain Warranty?

Consider what is covered and what is not covered within the Powertrain Warranty, and decide if it’s valuable for your vehicle as well as these Key factors before purchasing a powertrain warranty:

Are you going to keep the car for a long time?

If you plan on driving your car for a long time, powertrain warranties help pay for inevitable repairs down the road.

How reliable is your vehicle?

As vehicles age, breakdowns become much more common so if your car is aging or is known to need powertrain repairs, a warranty can mitigate some of these costs.

Looking to sell your vehicle?

A powertrain warranty can increase the vehicle’s resale value as they are transferable.

What’s Covered in a Powertrain Warranty:

An industry standard powertrain warranty will cover these powertrain system components:

Control Module

Starter Motor

Engine Radiator

Coolant Hoses

Heater Core

Fuel Pressure System



Transmission Control Module

Transmission Cooling Lines


Electrical Connectors

Clutch & Pressure Plate




Drive System Control Module

Electrical Connectors


Drive System Cooling

Locking Hubs

Wheel Bearings




What is a Powertrain? (3)

Within the details of a powertrain warranty, the engine components that can be covered are as follows: crankshaft, pistons, timing belt and gears, intake and exhaust valves, and the oil pump, among other items. Other internal parts may be covered in some warranties, depending on where and how the damage occurs.

General cost to repair engine components: (these values may fluctuate depending on the year, make, model and zipcode you reside in)

  • Timing Chain Replacement: $900–$1200
  • Head Gasket Replacement : $1,500–$2,250
  • Engine Front Cover Gasket Replacement: $600–$900
  • Oil Pump Replacement: $900–$1500


What is a Powertrain? (4)

When it comes to powertrain warranty coverage, transmission protection will often include internal parts like the mounts and torque converters. However, a powertrain warranty often excludes cables and electrical items, so be sure to read the fine print.

General cost to repair Transmission components:(these values may fluctuate depending on the year, make, model and zipcode you reside in)

  • Transmission Mount Replacement Cost: $300–$400
  • Transmission Position Sensor Replacement Cost: $150–$300
  • Transmission Replacement Cost: $2150–$3000
  • Transmission Fluid Change Cost: $50–$100


The drivetrain is a mechanical system with-in a motor vehicle which connects the transmission to the drive axles. A typical drivetrain contains a series of parts working together to transfer the rotational power produced by the car engine: drive shafts, differentials, drive axles and the final drive all of which is covered with standard powertrain warranty.

General cost to repair drivetrain components: (these values may fluctuate depending on the year, make, model and zip-code you reside in)

  • Axle Shaft Replacement: $400– $600
  • Drive Belt Tension-er Replacement Cost: $300-$600
  • Constant Velocity Boot Replacement Cost: $300–$500
  • Constant Velocity Joint Replacement Cost: $500–$1500

What’s Not Covered By a Standard Powertrain Warranty

The coverage of a Powertrain warranty will vary based on the provider; as well as year, make and model of the vehicle. Standard powertrain warranty covers the engine, transmission/transfer case and drive axles (for non heavy duty vehicles).

How to Get a Powertrain Coverage?

What is a Powertrain? (5)

DriveSmart has a program designed to protect older and higher mileage vehicles from the high cost of repair bills. This protection plan is called Powertrain Plus, and covers the following components:

  • Engine
  • Transmission
  • Transaxle
  • Drive Axles
  • Air Conditioning
  • Cooling
  • Heat
  • Fuel System
  • Seals and Gaskets

Coverage also comes with 24-hour emergency roadside assistance for towing, lockout assistance, fuel delivery, battery jumpstart and flat tire assistance. In addition, it comes included with travel reimbursement allowance for meals and lodging if you break down away from home. This is very helpful considering that most folks between the ages of 45 and 65 buy a vehicle and plan on keeping it whether it’s paid off or still being financed. This service can be used in the United States and Canada with any licensed mechanic of your choice.

Interested in a Powertrain Coverage?

Get a Quote

Our’s comes with Included Introductory maintenance+ more!

When it comes to major components like your drive axles, you’re going to want the best service and the best parts. As your vehicle ages, its worth diminishes because it’s a depreciating asset. With a DriveSmart Warranty, you’ll prolong the value of your vehicle, making it worth more and not become a money pit. The policy is transferable, so you can sell your car along with the extended coverage attached to it to the next owner and expect more in return.

Powertrain Coverage Alternatives

Now that you know what a powertrain warranty is and what it covers, you shouldn’t expect engine, transmission or drivetrain maintenance to be covered under a limited manufacturer’s warranty. This leaves you responsible for engine tune-ups and oil changes.

A common alternative that manufacturers will offer is an “introductory maintenance package”. This type of maintenance package allows you to pay for a few service visits in advance, which can save you some money.

An introductory maintenance program is becoming more appealing than a longtime powertrain warranty – which for a while were the biggest selling points for domestic automakers. Nowadays, it seems like the warranty isn’t as important anymore. It’s believed that because of this, Chrysler Warranty and GMC Warranty needed to drop their warranty coverage down to Five year or 60,000 miles from Ten year or 100,000 miles. The biggest problem with the 100,000 mile manufacturer warranty is that it will not transfer from the original owner to the next buyer. Where as extended auto warranties can transfer with the ownership of the car.

With more and more folks buying cars with the intention of keeping them for the extent of their lifecycle, it only makes sense for consumers to protect their largest investment. No one wants to pay for an expensive repair bill in full. Next time you need help with a powertrain malfunction or a notice a dashboard warning light, DriveSmart will be there for you!


What does powertrain mean in a car? ›

A powertrain is an assembly of every component that pushes your vehicle forward. Your car's powertrain creates power from the engine and delivers it to the wheels on the ground. The key components of a powertrain include an engine, transmission, driveshaft, axles, and differential.

What is considered a powertrain? ›

A car's powertrain refers to the critical components that produce the power for a car and deliver it to the wheels. These parts include the engine, transmission, differential, axle shafts, and, depending on whether a car is front-wheel, rear-wheel, or all-wheel drive, the transaxle, driveshaft, and transfer case.

Is powertrain the same as engine? ›

The powertrain includes the engine. If the term powertrain is used, it should refer to the power going to the wheels. The drivetrain includes the kinetic parts, but not the engine. The drivetrain is the term for all of the parts your vehicle's mechanics employ in order to move.

Is powertrain and transmission the same? ›

Powertrain –The powertrain refers to everything that powers the vehicle. This includes the engine, the transmission and the driveline components. Drivetrain – The drivetrain refers to everything in the powertrain except the engine. In other words, this is the transmission and the driveline.

How much does it cost to fix powertrain? ›

Depending on the type of vehicle, the powertrain repair cost can be anywhere between $60 and $2500. A simple routine service can be the difference between a fully functioning vehicle and a vehicle that needs a complete transmission rebuild or replacement.

Can you drive with wrench light on? ›

A helpful tip is not to travel more than 7,500 miles or 12 months (whichever comes first) without a car oil change. When the wrench light illuminates, it is letting you know it is time to make an appointment for your next service. This mostly serves as a warning or a reminder to make the appointment now.

Is timing chain part of powertrain? ›

In general, the powertrain warranty covers the: Engine (cylinder block, cylinder heads, fuel pump, engine mounts, injection pump, manifold, oil pump, seals & gaskets, thermostat, timing chain, etc.)

What is not covered in a powertrain warranty? ›

Anything that does not directly affect the power of your vehicle is not covered by a powertrain warranty. This includes parts such as radios, air conditioners, windows, and add-on features. Additionally, powertrain warranties don't cover normal wear-and-tear parts that are expected to be replaced at regular intervals.

What voids a powertrain warranty? ›

Misuse of vehicle: If you use your vehicle for anything other than day-to-day driving, such as off-roading or racing, your warranty will be voided. This also includes using improper fluids. Total loss: If your vehicle was given a salvage title after a severe accident, your warranty is void.

What happens when the powertrain goes out? ›

It will have proper fuel and oil consumption efficiency which will allow a vehicle to drive smoothly. Symptoms of a malfunctioning powertrain can include overheating, unusual handling, shaking/vibrating, whining and growling noises. The louder your vehicle is, the more concerned you should be.

Is turbocharger part of powertrain? ›

A powertrain warranty covers major components like the engine, transmission, drive axle, and turbocharger if applicable. These are the parts that power the car forward, and they can be expensive to repair.

Which is better drivetrain or powertrain? ›

Simply put, powertrains and drivetrains essentially do the exact same thing. They generate kinetic energy to make your car or truck 'go'.

What does a powertrain warning light mean? ›

If your car's powertrain light is on, it means the vehicle has detected a fault and has disabled some of its functions. This can be due to lack of oil, overheating, or even low fuel levels.

Is the axle part of the powertrain? ›

The powertrain

Among these parts are the engine, transmission, and axles. The axles are shafts that spin and move the wheels of a vehicle.

Is power steering part of the powertrain? ›

Among items not covered by powertrain warranties are suspension and steering parts; brake components; wheels and tires; radiators and hoses; alternators; air-conditioning compressors; and accessory drive belts.

How do you know if your powertrain is bad? ›

Let's get started!
  1. Your 'Check Engine' Light is On. ...
  2. Your Car Won't Start or Starts Roughly. ...
  3. Sudden Loss of Gas Mileage. ...
  4. You Failed Your Emissions Test. ...
  5. Your Engine Stutters or Stalls. ...
  6. Erratic or Random Shifting. ...
  7. You're Receiving a PCM-Related Error Code. ...
  8. What to Do If You Experience PCM Failure Symptoms.
Aug 23, 2019

What can cause powertrain issues? ›


How do I reset my powertrain control module? ›

How To Reset All ECU's and Control Modules in your Car or Truck

What does orange wrench light mean? ›

Maintenance Minder is a unique feature in the Honda vehicle lineup. In your Honda Accord, this symbol looks like an orange wrench, and it works to keep you on top of any recommended service appointments.

What does the yellow wrench light mean? ›

This lets you know when there's a message regarding your vehicle's condition on the multi-information display. Maintenance Minder™ Indicator Light: A yellow wrench on your dashboard means your Honda Accord is due for routine maintenance.

What does the wrench symbol mean on my dashboard? ›

What does the wrench light mean? Both of these symbols indicate that your car needs service. Usually, it's because of some sort of time-based milestone not being met, or there's a fault with the car that needs professional attention.

Is the catalytic converter part of the powertrain? ›

The funny thing about your catalytic converter is that it's not actually part of the engine and usually sits towards the rear of your car. It's part of your emissions control system, but it can throw a check engine light at you regardless.

Is water pump part of powertrain? ›

This typically covers everything in the engine block including the cylinder block and heads, the engine's seals and gaskets (including the head gasket), the fuel injectors, and the water and oil pumps. A powertrain warranty also covers the timing belt for older cars.

How much does it cost to fix a timing chain? ›

Timing chain replacement can cost between $600 and $800 for a DIY repair, or between $1,600 and $1,800 with a mechanic. The cost is high due to the complicated nature of replacing this part.

Is check engine light covered under powertrain warranty? ›

The engine light is only going to be covered if the failed part is part of the powertrain or emissions warranty. If the failed part was only covered part of the bumper to bumper warranty, then you will have to pay.

Are oil leaks covered under powertrain warranty? ›

Ultimately this depends on where the oil is leaking from and why, but generally, most oil leaks are covered under the powertrain warranty. If you're experiencing an oil leak and are unsure whether you're covered, check your terms or speak with your provider.

What does 5 year 60000 mile warranty mean? ›

Powertrain: The powertrain warranty comes hand in hand with the bumper-to-bumper warranty, but it typically lasts a little longer; most automakers offer it for up to five years or 60,000 miles, whichever comes first. It covers only the parts that make the vehicle go: the engine, transmission, and drivetrain.

Does adding a cold air intake void warranty? ›

Will a Cold air Intake Void my factory warranty? No. In the United States, for the manufacturer of a warranted product (in this case, a vehicle) to void or deny warranty coverage of a repair due to the use of an aftermarket part (a Cold Air Inductions, Inc.

Is my car warranty void if not serviced? ›

Short Answer: No. By law, automakers and dealerships cannot make you perform regular maintenance at a dealership for a new car warranty to remain valid.

How do I check the warranty on my car with a VIN number? ›

With your VIN number and mileage in hand, you have all the information you need to determine if your vehicle's warranty is still active. Now, all you need to do is call a dealership and inquire. If you have a good working relationship with a particular dealer, start by giving them a call.

What does a powertrain light look like? ›

These are Drivetrain or Powertrain trouble symbols or lights, and will be red or yellow/amber if it comes up. This same symbol is also used as an Electric Shift Control System Warning Indicator. It indicates a problem has been detected generally in an automatic transmission or transaxle, or its shift system.

How much does a PCM cost? ›

Prices could range from $80 to $150, depending on the service location you choose. The process takes around about half an hour, but keep in mind that most auto-electricians charge you for at least one hour of work. PCM reprogramming is also one of the few times we'll recommend a dealership over an independent mechanic.

Is a starter part of the powertrain? ›

The starter must have a powertrain warranty as well. A powertrain warranty does not cover the starter, which gets the gasoline engine started. instead, if you purchased an extended warranty, you could do so under the “electrical” section of the factory warranty.

Is a head gasket covered under extended warranty? ›

For the head gasket, the best extended warranty plan would be the powertrain warranty. A powertrain warranty will not only cover the head gasket but the entire powertrain components. This plan is necessary since repairing and fixing most powertrain parts is usually very expensive.

What is a drivetrain do? ›

A drivetrain is not actually a solitary part of your car – it's a group of drivetrain parts that collaborate with the engine to move the wheels and various parts of the car to drive it into motion. These parts usually include the transmission, differential, driveshaft, axles, CV joints, and the wheels.

What is AWD FWD RWD? ›

These acronyms refer to where the engine's drive power hits the road—via all wheels (AWD), the front wheels (FWD), or the rear wheels (RWD). The world's first car was front-wheel drive.

What is a powertrain warranty? ›

A powertrain warranty is just one specific type of warranty. In a general, it is a promise from the seller or manufacturer to repair or fix an issue with the parts of the powertrain should a malfunction arise. The powertrain of a car consists of many components, including: Engine. Transmission.

Is drivetrain and transmission the same? ›

The term “drivetrain” usually refers to all the parts that transfer power from the engine to the wheels, so the transmission is actually part of the drivetrain, along with the axles, torque converter or clutch. “Power train” usually refers to all of these and the engine.

What does it mean when it says powertrain malfunction? ›

The Powertrain malfunction/reduced power is a warning that is illuminated when the vehicle is experiencing a condition - that if driven can cause damage to the engine, transmission or drivetrain.

Where is powertrain control module located? ›

The PCM is most often located in the engine bay near the fuse box or inside the car near the fuse box. It can often also be located under the front windshield behind some covers. There are a few different locations that the manufacturer can place your vehicle's PCM, but the most common location is in the engine bay.

What causes service engine soon light? ›

There are various reasons why your "check engine" or "service engine soon" light will flash or light up. These include issues and repairs needed with the oxygen sensor, mass airflow sensor, catalytic converter, vacuum leak, or issues with spark plugs, ignition coils, or faulty gas caps.

Is a driveshaft and driveline the same thing? ›

As nouns the difference between driveline and driveshaft

is that driveline is (automotive) the drivetrain minus the engine and transmission while driveshaft is a shaft used to transmit rotary motion.

Is throttle body part of powertrain? ›

The electronic throttle body most likely is not part of the powertrain warranty, but may be covered under the emissions warranty.

What does bumper to bumper warranty not cover? ›

A bumper-to-bumper warranty does not cover parts of the vehicle that wear and tear with time, such as brakes, brake pads, windshield wipers, and tires. It does not cover routine maintenance tasks like oil changes and tire rotations. Parts damaged by you, an accident, or improper maintenance are also not covered.

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