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When looking for a car, most shoppers hunt for one that’s reliable. And why not? Many drivers likely want to know that the car they bought will last them for years without too many issues. As such, a reliable car should have durable parts that will last years without worrying about breaking. Here are three important drivetrain parts you should consider before shopping for a new or used car.

1. Does the engine use a timing belt or timing chain?

A V6 Ford engine found in the Ford F-150 EcoBoost.
3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost | Ford

Every internal combustion engine has a timing system that keeps everything working in unison. The timing system keeps the pistons and valves working together, so it’s important to ensure the engine is timed correctly. If not, the pistons could come in contact with the valves and cause significant costly damage.

One important part of the engine’s timing system is the belt or chain that connects the crankshaft to the camshaft gears. How Stuff Works states, “Timing belts are made from steel-reinforced rubber and naturally wear out over time.” Depending on the vehicle, they usually must be replaced every 60,000 to 100,000 miles. They’re not cheap to replace; many mechanics can charge between $500 to $1,000 to do the job.

On the other hand, timing chains are made from metal and usually last the engine’s lifetime. In this case, a timing chain can last for many years and save the driver plenty of money. For that reason, it’s important to know whether the car you’re buying has a timing belt or chain. If it has a timing belt, be sure to know if and/or when it needs to be replaced.

2. What kind of transmission does the car have? A geared transmission or a CVT?

2023 Nissan Frontier automatic transmission shifter
2023 Nissan Frontier automatic transmission shifter | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

Speaking of costly repairs, a car’s transmission can cost a lot to repair. For the unaware, cars with an automatic transmission are either equipped with a traditional geared transmission with a torque converter or a continuously variable transmission (CVT). A geared transmission needs to have its fluid replaced regularly and be costly to fix should anything break.

On the other hand, a continuously variable transmission is more efficient since it doesn’t have gears at all. Instead, a CVT uses a steel belt that drives two pulleys; one is connected to the engine, and the other is connected to the driveshaft. With this simple design, a CVT requires routine fluid changes and is shown to be similarly reliable to a geared transmission. In that case, it’s important to stay updated on fluid changes no matter which automatic transmission your car is equipped with.

3. Is the car gas-powered or electric?

A gray 2023 Toyota bZ4X small electric SUV is driving on the road.
The 2023 Toyota bZ4X | Toyota

If you’re shopping for a car, there’s a good chance that you’ll know whether or not it’s powered by an internal combustion engine or an electric motor. It’s still worth noting that an electric vehicle won’t need as much maintenance since they don’t require engine oil or coolant. This can save some money during the life of the car.

Gas engines don’t require a lithium-ion battery like electric cars do, so drivers won’t have to worry about replacing the battery, which can save money. Both types of vehicles have their pros and cons, so it’s important to know which type of car best fits your budget and lifestyle before purchasing.

These drivetrain parts are at the heart of the matter

If you’re looking to purchase a new or used car, it’s important to take these drivetrain parts into account. Although none of them should be deal breakers, they are costly to maintain and/or repair. So ensure you know what kind of car you’re buying before signing the paperwork.


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