Fact Checked

What is a Ring Gear?

Troy Holmes
Troy Holmes

Gears have been used by mankind for many centuries. These are the mechanical devices that force objects to create a rotary motion. There are multiple applications that use a ring gear. Many ancient artifacts document the use of a ring gear configuration within gear drives for chariots, clocks, locomotives, and airplanes.

The first use of differential gears has been traced back to the early western Zhou dynasty in China. These gears were used as a differential torque gear to assist in moving chariots. This gear assemble forces the wheels of a chariot to move as one unit.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

Some of the earliest known gears were made from wood. These early ring gears were used in the area of text mills and grind mills. In the Middle Ages many gears were designed from stone. The ring gear technology quickly evolved into electric motors and steam engines during the industrial revolution.

The automobile is a mechanical engineering marvel. Each component is designed to work in unison based on gears, electronics, and basic mechanics. The automobile uses a gear drive that connects to the drive train of a vehicle which causes the wheels move. This gear drive is connected to the transmission, which is connected to the motor, causing the wheels to turn as the motor is accelerated.

Ring gears are available in many different sizes. The gear ratio is the number that represents the size of the ring gear as compared to another gear drive. This ratio determines how many rotations it will spin before the wheels will turn. Lower gear ratios cause the wheels to spin more often than higher gear ratios.

In an automobile, the ring gear can also affect the overall fuel economy. Most performance cars have lower gear ratios, which increases the acceleration of the car. This added performance comes at the cost of gas mileage.

Most large trucks require a lower ring gear ratio for increased towing force. This force is best described as the torque capacity of the vehicle. The gear ratio directly affects the torque capacity as it creates more movement and power at a lower RPM.

A ring gear can be best described with a gear on a bicycle. The wheels of a bike spin easiest with smaller gears but they require more rotations to move forward. As the gear is adjusted into a larger, lower gear ratio it becomes difficult to turn the wheel, but more acceleration is produced with fewer rotations.

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Discussion Comments


I don't know a whole lot about gears other than they do make a difference in the kind of gas mileage I get on my car.

I like to drive a car that gets really good gas mileage, so I have a higher gear ratio than the sports car my son drives.

Fuel efficiency and reliability are more important to me than speed and acceleration. He likes the performance that he gets from a lower gear ratio.

My husband also has a motorcycle and I don't know how these gears compare to the gears on our cars. I have never driven a motorcycle, but know the ring gears on a motorcycle are just as important as any other vehicle.


I have never given much thought to what early gears were made of, but find it interesting that they were made of wood and stone. It makes sense because they were using materials they had available.

The early ring gears that were used to grind grains must have made the process so much more efficient for them.

We would look at those early gears and think they looked ancient compared to the electric gears we take for granted today.


When I was a kid I had a bike that I rode all over my small town, and it only had one gear. I didn't think anything about it because that is all I had ever ridden. Thank goodness that bike had brakes though!

My next step up was riding a bike that had three gears. This was a significant improvement, and made riding up hills a whole lot easier.

Now I have a ten speed bike and can't imagine riding anything with fewer gears than that. When I was young, I would have never imagined how a bike could have so many gears.

Riding my bike is one of my favorite things to do, and I like being able to easily adjust the gears for whatever conditions I am riding in.

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