How Much Horsepower Is Lost Through the Drivetrain?

Drivetrain power loss is an inherent aspect of any vehicle's performance that often goes unnoticed by the casual observer. It refers to the amount of horsepower that’s lost between the engine and the wheels as the power is transferred through various components of the drivetrain system. While it may seem counterintuitive, this loss is a result of several factors including friction, heat generation, and mechanical inefficiencies. Despite advancements in technology and engineering, a general rule of thumb suggests that drivetrain power loss typically amounts to around 15% of the total horsepower generated by the engine. This means that when a car with, for instance, 400 horsepower at the engine is fully engaged on the road, only approximately 340 horsepower will actually reach the wheels. Understanding and accounting for this power loss is crucial for automotive enthusiasts, engineers, and manufacturers alike, as it directly impacts vehicle performance, acceleration, and overall driving dynamics.

How Do You Calculate Drivetrain Loss?

Calculating drivetrain loss is an essential step in accurately measuring a vehicles overall power output. This process involves two main parts, starting with the wheel horsepower figure (WHP) obtained from a dynamometer. This measurement reflects the actual power reaching the wheels. By subtracting the WHP from the brake horsepower (BHP), which represents power at the engine, we can determine the horsepower loss.

To express the drivetrain loss as a percentage, we divide the horsepower loss by the BHP and multiply the result by 100. This value gives us the drivetrain loss percentage, indicating the proportion of power that isn’t effectively transmitted from the engine to the wheels. A higher percentage denotes a less efficient drivetrain, suggesting that a significant amount of power is being lost during the transfer process.

By understanding the power losses within the drivetrain, adjustments or upgrades can be made to improve overall efficiency and enhance the vehicles performance.

It’s important to note that drivetrain losses can vary depending on factors such as the type of drivetrain (front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive), the condition of the drivetrain components, and even the type of dyno used for testing. These variations emphasize the importance of conducting multiple tests under varying conditions to obtain a more comprehensive understanding of a vehicles drivetrain loss.

Factors Affecting Drivetrain Loss: This Topic Could Delve Into the Specific Factors That Can Affect Drivetrain Loss, Such as Mechanical Friction, Aerodynamic Drag, Tire Rolling Resistance, and Other Variables That Impact the Efficiency of Power Transfer From the Engine to the Wheels.

Drivetrain loss refers to the power that’s wasted or lost during the transfer of energy from the engine to the wheels of a vehicle. Several factors can affect the amount of drivetrain loss experienced. These include mechanical friction, which occurs within the engine and transmission components and can lead to energy loss. Aerodynamic drag, or the resistance a vehicle encounters from the air, can also impact drivetrain efficiency. Additionally, tire rolling resistance, which is the energy required to overcome friction as the tires roll on the road surface, plays a role in drivetrain loss. Other variables, such as drivetrain design and condition, can also influence the efficiency of power transfer. Understanding and addressing these factors can help improve overall vehicle performance and fuel efficiency.

When it comes to measuring horsepower on a dyno, it’s important to consider the factors that might affect the results. One commonly observed issue is the loss of horsepower through the chassis, which typically amounts to around 15%. For instance, if the dyno shows 380HP, after accounting for the chassis loss, the actual power at the flywheel would be around 450HP. Additionally, it’s worth noting that using a “load” chassis dyno may result in approximately 140HP less compared to a “non-load” or inertia dyno.

How Much HP Do You Lose on a Dyno?

When it comes to measuring the true horsepower of a vehicle, a dynamometer, or dyno for short, is often used. However, it’s worth noting that the results obtained on a dyno may not always match the advertised horsepower figures. In fact, it’s common to experience a loss of horsepower during dyno testing.

Typically, on a chassis dyno, you can expect to lose around 15% of your horsepower. This means that if your vehicle was initially measured at 380 horsepower, you’d calculate the estimated flywheel horsepower by dividing this number by 0.8In this case, you’d obtain approximately 447 horsepower at the flywheel.

For example, the drivetrain, transmission, and wheels contribute to power loss. Additionally, factors such as mechanical friction, hydraulics, and electrical components also play a role in the reduction of horsepower.

Moreover, the type of dyno being used can further impact the power loss experienced. In comparison to a “non-load” or inertia dyno, a “load” chassis dyno typically results in approximately 140 horsepower less. This type of dyno applies a simulated load on the vehicle, imitating real-world conditions, which can lead to a greater loss of power.

Other factors such as environmental conditions, the vehicles condition, and the expertise of the dyno operator can also affect the outcomes of a dyno test.

Therefore, it’s crucial to take dyno results with a grain of salt and consider them as an indicator rather than an absolute measurement.

Source: Dyno Confusion FINALLY Cleared Up – Bad Ass Engines

However, it’s essential to understand that the power generated by an engine isn’t fully transmitted to the wheels due to various mechanical losses. Approximately 15 percent of the engine’s peak power is lost as a result of friction and other factors in the process of transferring power from the crank to the wheels. As a result, when manufacturers measure the power output, they typically do so at the crank rather than at the wheels. This means that the advertised power of a vehicle may not accurately reflect the actual power available for driving.

How Much Power Is Lost Between the Engine and the Wheels?

When it comes to the power lost between the engine and the wheels, it’s crucial to acknowledge that friction plays a significant role. Approximately 15 percent of the engines peak power undergoes loss while making it’s way from the crank to the wheels. This percentage accounts for the energy dissipated due to various sources of friction present in the drivetrain.

For instance, components such as bearings, gears, and differentials contribute to power losses through mechanical friction. Additionally, the energy required to propel the vehicle through the air resistance and to overcome internal losses in the engine further reduces the power reaching the wheels. Thus, to provide a rough estimate, it can be assumed that around 250 kilowatts/horsepower reach the wheels when the engine operates at it’s peak power of 300 kilowatts/horsepower at the crank.

Interestingly, manufacturers typically measure and advertise the power output at the crank rather than at the wheels. This approach allows them to promote the capabilities of the engine and attract potential customers. However, it’s important to note that the power delivered to the wheels is ultimately what propels the vehicle forward.

Although it can be deduced that a notable amount of power is lost between the engine and wheels, it’s important to bear in mind that these are general estimates and can vary depending on the specific drivetrain components and design choices made by manufacturers. Engine technology advancements and improvements in drivetrain efficiency continue to seek ways to minimize power losses and improve power transfer from the engine to the wheels.

The Effect of Drivetrain Components, Such as Bearings and Differentials, on Power Loss

  • Drivetrain components like bearings and differentials play a crucial role in power loss.
  • Bearings are responsible for reducing friction and supporting rotating parts, such as the wheels and axles.
  • If bearings are worn out or improperly lubricated, they can increase power loss due to increased friction.
  • Differentials are used in vehicles with multiple driven wheels to distribute torque efficiently.
  • A poorly functioning differential can result in power loss as it may not effectively transfer torque to all wheels.
  • Another factor impacting power loss is the quality of drivetrain components.
  • Low-quality bearings and differentials may have higher friction, leading to increased power loss.
  • Proper maintenance and regular lubrication of these components are essential for minimizing power loss.
  • Additionally, using high-quality bearings and differentials can help reduce friction and power loss.
  • Optimizing drivetrain components can improve overall vehicle efficiency and enhance performance.

The difference between engine horsepower and wheel horsepower, also known as WHP, isn’t insignificant. It’s commonly accepted that the amount of power generated by a vehicle’s engine is generally higher than what reaches the wheels. This discrepancy can range from approximately 20% to 45%, indicating a notable loss of horsepower along the drivetrain.

How Much HP Is Lost From Engine to Wheels?

The loss of horsepower from the engine to the wheels is a complex process that involves various factors. One of the main reasons for the difference between engine horsepower and wheel horsepower is powertrain loss. This includes losses in the transmission, driveshaft, differentials, and axles. These components are necessary for transferring power from the engine to the wheels but they also create friction and resistance, resulting in power loss.

Different types of drivetrains, such as front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, and all-wheel drive, can also affect the amount of power loss.

It’s important to note that the percentage of power loss can vary depending on the vehicle and it’s specifications.

How Powertrain Loss Differs Between Manual and Automatic Transmissions

Powertrain loss refers to the energy lost in the transfer of power from the engine to the wheels of a vehicle. It’s commonly known that powertrain loss varies depending on the type of transmission, whether manual or automatic. In manual transmissions, powertrain loss is typically lower because the power is transmitted directly from the engine to the wheels through a clutch and the gear system. This direct connection results in fewer mechanical components and less energy lost during transfer. Conversely, automatic transmissions use a complex system of fluid-filled torque converters, planetary gearsets, and hydraulic systems to change gears automatically. These additional components and fluid coupling result in higher powertrain loss compared to manual transmissions. Therefore, manual transmissions are generally considered to be more efficient in terms of powertrain loss when compared to automatic transmissions.

the drivetrain is balanced and maintained. It’s important to note that these numbers can vary depending on the specific design and condition of the drivetrain components, as well as factors such as friction, lubrication, and overall efficiency. Nonetheless, understanding the average drivetrain loss can provide valuable insights for automotive engineers and enthusiasts seeking to optimize performance and efficiency in rear-wheel drive vehicles.

What Is the Average RWD Drivetrain Loss?

These components are engineered and maintained. The drivetrain loss refers to the power that’s lost from the engine to the wheels due to various mechanical inefficiencies. This includes losses in the transmission, driveshaft, differentials, and other components that transfer power from the engine to the wheels.

In the case of RWD vehicles, the drivetrain losses are primarily determined by the type of differential used. Hypoid-type gearsets are commonly used in RWD differentials, and they typically result in drivetrain losses in the range of 6 to 10 percent. This means that around 6 to 10 percent of the engines power is lost in the differential alone.

Apart from the differential, the driveshaft(s) and prop shaft(s) also contribute to drivetain loss. These components transfer power from the transmission to the differential and wheels. On average, they account for about 0.5 to 1 percent of the total drivetrain loss. However, this percentage can vary depending on various factors such as the efficiency of the driveshaft design and the condition of the components.

It’s important to note that these figures are averages and can vary across different RWD vehicles and drivetrain configurations. Factors such as the vehicles weight, tire grip, gear ratios, and overall drivetrain efficiency can all influence the actual drivetrain losses experienced. Additionally, wear and tear, as well as regular maintenance, can also impact drivetrain efficiency over time.

Efforts are constantly made by manufacturers to reduce drivetrain losses and improve overall efficiency. This includes advancements in gear design, the use of lightweight materials, and the implementation of advanced lubrication systems. By reducing drivetrain losses, manufacturers aim to optimize power delivery and enhance fuel efficiency in RWD vehicles.

Factors That Can Affect Drivetrain Losses in RWD Vehicles

Drivetrain losses in rear-wheel drive (RWD) vehicles can be influenced by various factors. These include the type and condition of the transmission, the efficiency of the differential, the weight and aerodynamics of the vehicle, tire size and grip, and drivetrain components like u-joints and driveshafts. Additionally, factors such as driving style, road conditions, and mechanical wear can also impact drivetrain losses. It’s important to consider these factors as they can affect the overall performance and fuel efficiency of RWD vehicles.


The intricacies of power transmission from the engine to the wheels involve a complex interplay of components, each introducing it’s own degree of power dissipation. Therefore, it’s crucial to approach power loss calculations with caution and consider them as rough estimations rather than definitive values. As automotive technology continues to advance, improvements in drivetrain efficiency and the introduction of new technologies may further mitigate power losses.

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