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The Components that Make Up Your Challenger’s Drivetrain

The Components that Make Up Your Challenger’s Drivetrain

The engines underneath commonly characterize the anatomy of muscle cars like the Dodge Challenger. For instance, a Hemi in a Challenger is usually given the credit for the performance characteristics of the car. Though a Hemi engine by itself is an impressive piece of machinery, by itself, it’s pretty useless. In order for the engine to apply the power to the ground and actually move the car it must utilize the drivetrain. That’s right; a car with an engine and no transmission or differential is nothing more than a fancy decoration taking up space in the garage.

Shop Challenger Drivetrain Parts

Your Challenger's drivetrain supports your engine's power mods by ensuring every ounce of power makes it through to the rear wheels. Improving the strength of the system and lightening certain pieces will let you add more power than stock without running the risk of damaging key components and leaving you stranded at the drag strip.

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The Components that Power Your Challenger

As the engine cycles, it turns the crankshaft. The turning of the crankshaft is what eventually moves the car but in order to actually do so, there are a number of mechanical workings the power must pass through. In the Challenger we find a rear-wheel-drive system. This works simply by sending power to the rear wheels in order to move the car. In an all-wheel-drive setup, like what is found in GT Challengers, many of the internal workings are the same except power sent through to the rear tires is also sent to the front. So what are the basics of the system? Well, immediately after the engine the power runs through the transmission and then to the differential which directly turns the wheels.

What’s After the Engine?

  • Clutch (Manual)
  • Torque Converter (Automatic)
  • Transmission
  • Driveshaft
  • Differential


With a manual transmission, a clutch is used between the engine and transmission. It bolts to the flywheel and uses friction material, much like the materials found in brake pads, in order to operate properly. 

With a manual transmission, the clutch is used in order to allow smooth changes through gears. As the clutch pedal is depressed, the clutch’s friction disc separates from the engine’s flywheel, freeing the transmission from the engine and making it possible for the gears to be changed. 

A keyword to pay attention to here is the word “flywheel.” These are only found on manual transmissions. Automatic transmissions have what is known as a “flexplate.” In appearance they are very similar but play very different roles in the shifting process of transmission types. 

Clutch’s Role

  • Separating manual transmission from the engine for shifting

Torque Converter

In an automatic transmission, a torque converter is found between the engine and transmission. Like a clutch, the torque converter is used to allow the engine to turn freely of the transmission. This is done by a method of fluid coupling. 

As the engine spins at different rates, the amount of fluid within the converter is responsible for when the engine and transmission actually become engaged. This device is bolted to a flexplate. A flexplate takes its name based on its design to flex as the engine spins. This flex separates it from a standard flywheel as it plays a role in the shifting points of an automatic transmission. 

Torque Converter’s Role

  • Allows the engine to spin freely of the automatic transmission for shifting


The transmission within a Challenger, or any car for that matter, tends to be the most intimidating component of a vehicle’s drivetrain. For introductory level purposes, we will avoid getting overly involved in the science of how they worked, but they aren’t as intimidating as you may think. 

As the engine spins the input shaft, the shaft is connected to a series of gears ranging from low to high. Whatever gear you select dictates the ratio in which the input shaft spins the output shaft. Automatic and manual transmissions use a few different methods to do this but the principle remains the same. 

Transmission’s Role

  • Transferring power from the engine to the differential with various gear ratios


In order for the transmission to turn the differential, both units must be connected in some manner. In a rear-wheel-drive Challenger, this is done with the use of a driveshaft. The driveshaft is connected to the output shaft of the transmission and then to the pinion of the differential.

Its job sounds pretty basic, but this is more than just a tube that spins. Driveshafts sit at an angle so the use of universal joints at either end of the shaft can be found in your Challenger. It’s also important that the driveshaft is perfectly balanced; otherwise the vibration can result in unpleasant road noise and even destruction of moving parts. Should you find a dent or other damage to your driveshaft, make replacing it a priority.

Driveshaft’s Role

  • Properly connecting the transmission to the differential 


The differential is used to send the power to each wheel. It does more than just transfer the power to the wheels though. As the power moves the differential, it can dictate the amount of power sent to either side of the axle. 

In a Challenger this is done with a limited slip unit. Limited slip differentials allow the tires to spin at different rates through turns but at the same rate when in a straight line. They are ideal for many performance situations but are the perfect unit for daily drivers which is why you can find them in a Challenger. 

Differential’s role

  • Transferring power from the transmission to the rear tires

Ring Gears Axles

The transmission may be the central point for most of the vehicle’s gearing but the ring and pinion in the differential is the gear set, which most prominently defines the vehicle’s acceleration and driving characteristics.

As the pinion is turned by the driveshaft, it turns a ring gear that is responsible for the rate at which the wheels turn in coordination with the transmission. A lower ring gear (higher in number) is great for acceleration and a higher ring gear (lower in number) is great for cruising. 

Depending on the model of Challenger purchased, this ratio can vary. Although, if you wanted to address these characteristics, it’s not that hard to find the parts or even perform the work in order to alter this gear ratio.

Fitment includes: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, SRT-8, RT, SE, SXT, RallyeRedline, ScatPack, Hellcat, GT, TA, Demon