Volvo Coupes/Sedans/Wagons 1970-1989 Repair Guide

Determining Gear Ratio


Determining the axle ratio of any given axle can be a very useful tool to the contemporary car owner. Axle ratios are a major factor in a vehicle's fuel mileage, so the car buyer of today should know both what he or she is looking for, and what the salesperson is talking about. Knowledge of axle ratios is also valuable to the owner/mechanic who is shopping through salvage yards for a used axle, or who is changing ratios by changing rear axles.

The rear axle is said to have a certain ratio, say 4.11. It is called a "4.11 rear" although the 4.11 actually means 4.11 to 1 (4.11:1). This means that the driveshaft will turn 4.11 times for every turn of the rear wheels.

The number 4.11 is determined by dividing the number of teeth on the pinion gear into the number of teeth on the ring gear. In the case of a 4.11 rear, there could be 9 teeth on the pinion and 37 teeth on the ring gear (37 divided by 9 = 4.11). Counting the teeth provides a sure way, although troublesome, of determining the ratio for your car. The axle must be drained and the rear cover removed to do this, and then the teeth counted.

A much easier method is to jack up the car and safely support it with jackstands, so BOTH rear wheels are off the ground. Block the front wheels and put the transmission in NEUTRAL. Make a chalk mark on the rear wheel and one on the driveshaft. Turn the rear wheel exactly one revolution and count the number of turns that the driveshaft makes. (Having an assistant to count one or the other is extremely helpful). The number of turns the driveshaft makes in one complete revolution of the rear wheel is a close approximation of the rear axle ratio.