Transmission Wind Up | What Is It | Why You Should Avoid It

Source: Pajero 4WD Club of Victoria – User: Pickle

If you’ve ever driven your vehicle in 4WD mode and turned some sharp corners you more than likely would have noticed that things won’t be working normally afterwards. I know firsthand that it can be easy to forget that you left your car in 4×4 mode which in turn can do some long turn damage.

Transmission wind up, drive-line building, or axel wind up is the stress created within some of its components when it is on 4WD and made to do turns on corners. All three terms refer to the same thing. It can lead to damage of your transmission, tyres, axels, CV joints, transfers cases, and drive shafts.

While racking up a big bill is a good enough reason to make sure that your vehicle doesn’t experience transmission wind up, there are also many other factors that you need to be aware of. For instance if you do get this error present how do you get rid of it?

If this situation sounds all too familiar for you, I have created a short but sweet guide to help you get your car back on the road so you can hit the treks in no time.

How Does Transmission Wind Up Occur?

When you are turning a corner in your car, all of your wheels will travel different distances which means that they will rotate at different speeds during this time. A good analogy is to think of professional athletes who run around a track and field course.

The runners in the outside lane of the track will get a head start in order for them to travel the same amount. Your wheels don’t get that luxury which means they aren’t travelling the same distance.

Two wheel drive vehicles with rear wheel drive give the wheels at the front are free and require them to rotate at the speed that they require. However, when the 4×4 mode is activated they are all rotating at the same speed which isn’t physically possible when turning sharp corners. Hence the wind up in your transmission will occur.

It is highly recommended that you try to avoid transmission wind up at all costs as the damage it can cause to your vehicle can rack up a hefty price tag. The parts that are involved are key components in allowing your vehicle to move.

Some of these key parts include your differentials, axels, transmission components and even your tyres. While the tyres might not break in a blaze of glory, they will get shredded as your vehicle will refuse to move. From such if these components break you won’t be able to drive home which means you will have to add a tow truck to your list of expenses.

Part Time 4WD

Part time 4WD units work in the same manner as a normal vehicle until the 4WD mode is activated. That means that the front wheels locks have been activated turning the entire unit into 4WD mode. To summarise, when you activate this locking mechanism the vehicle becomes a 4×4 unit which means there will be equal power being supplied to all four wheels.

When you are turning a corner some wheels require less power than others which is how the transmission wind up occurs in the first place. Usually part time 4WD vehicles don’t have centre differentials, however when you do activate the locks they do occur.

Constant 4WD

Vehicles that are constant 4WD will have a centre differential that provides power to both the rear and front wheels at the same time. The centre differential allows the both sets of wheels some margin of “slippage” so that it can still make turns but not to the same degree that most regular vehicles have.

Some constant 4WD vehicles may come with a feature that allows you to lock the centre differential which means that both your rear and front wheels will be getting the same amount of power. This is similar to what part time 4WD vehicles have installed in them.

It is common for transmission wind up to occur on these vehicles when the true four wheel drive setting has been selected while the vehicle is driving on a non-slip surface. Gravel, snow, dirt roads and many other loose surfaces allow your tyres to compensate for the continuously powered drive by breaking traction.

Hard surfaces such as bitumen and concrete can really damage your vehicle if you are using the 4WD mode incorrectly. This is because the harder surfaces don’t allow for free wheel spin which can cause a build-up in stress and torque which are both the contributing factors for transmission wind up. Activating the 4WD mode on a hard surfaces causes torsional stress in your drive-lien to occur.

You will notice that transmission wind up will start to occur when your wheels start skipping over the surface you are driving on. You may also notice that steering becomes very heavy and your vehicle may begin to shudder. Your transfer case will eventually become locked in 4WD and won’t be able to be reversed. It is also common that your vehicle will not be able to move any further and if you try to push it something could break.

Your tyres may begin to tear as the weakest link will be found and it will break. Transmission parts, axels and differentials are all in the firing line as well and are very expensive to replace if they are damaged or broken.

How To Stop Transmission Wind Up

If you think about the problem logically, you have created excess stress and torque within your vehicle so to undo it you simply need to let that torque and stress out slowly as to not break anything.

The easiest way to get rid of transmission build up is to look for the symptoms and if you notice any stop driving immediately. If you find you can’t deselect from the 4WD, put your vehicle into reverse so that the wind up can be released. Reverse slowly as to not let the stress and torsion out all in one go.

If you notice that you are stuck in low mode, attempt to change it to high. As we mentioned before you need to get the stress out of your vehicle so that it doesn’t cause any damage to your car. Think of it as a spring that has been wound up very tightly. If you were to keep winding in it, eventually it would come up as either it would break or your hands wouldn’t be able to withstand the torque any longer.

From such another useful way to get rid of transmission wind up is to elevate one of your wheels while shifting your vehicle into High 2WD mode. The elevation should allow the torsional stresses in your drive live to be expelled by spinning your elevated wheel very quickly. Be sure to stand clear of the raised wheel as you don’t want to get hurt yourself.

Related Questions

Is Transmission Wind Up Dangerous? 

Transmission wind up has the potential to be dangerous if you let it get out of control. Transmission wind up occurs when you have a build-up of torsional stress in your drive line from turning too sharply while in 4WD mode.

If left unattended to, the stresses will build up to a point where something will have to give. This can be your tyres, axels, differentials and even transmission parts. All are very essential parts to your vehicle and will cost a hefty price tag to replace.

What Causes Drive-line Vibration?

Vibration in your driveshaft can be caused from many different factors. Common causes include worn-out U joints or slip splines, yokes out of phase, misaligned angles, out of balance components, yoke ears not concentric with their splines or even approaching a critical speed range.

If you have witnessed a few of these factors or don’t know where to start looking, it is recommended that you take your vehicle into the shop to ensure that your small problem doesn’t turn into a big one later on down the track.

How Do I Balance My Drive-line? 

To balance a driveshaft you should start by raising your vehicle parallel to the ground so that it can be started and the wheels can rotate freely. Measure 15cm from your yoke end and mark four points 90 degrees apart around the driveshaft. Numbering them allows you to identify which is which while you are trying to balance it evenly.

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