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What is a Differential?
Imagine this: You’re taking a walk and one of your legs takes a longer stride than the other. This will probably throw you off just as a differential that needs a replacement will throw your vehicle off.The differential consists of numerous gears that control how the drive wheel axle spins. Remember that geometry lesson? Basically, during a turn, the car’s inner wheel travels a shorter distance than the outer wheel. So, the outer wheel needs to spin faster than the inner wheel. The differential does gearing wizardry to maintain the speed of your front and rear wheel axles during this turn.Also, the differential transfers power to the front or rear drive wheel when you’re traveling in a straight line.It’s also worth noting that front-wheel drive vehicles do not have a separate differential. Instead, the differential is located inside the transmission (aka transaxle). Which is kind of nifty if you think about it. Similarly, the majority of rear wheel drive cars have an open or rear differential system. The rear differential system for rear wheel drive cars operates in the same manner. However, the rear differential might connect to a different axel or part of the transmission. Differentials are pretty sturdy parts of your vehicle. You don't need to replace them often. But like most parts, they do undergo some wear and tear.
Symptoms of a failing Differential
Driving feel is off
Notice any weird feelings, such as shudders or vibrations in the front or rear of your vehicle while driving or while turning a corner? This can indicate poor functionality of the differential inside the transmission system. Try to be observant while you’re driving. Not only will it make you a safer and smoother driver, but it will allow you to spot things that you might need to replace as soon as they go awry.
This shouldn’t be news to you, but weird sounds coming from your vehicle usually aren’t a good thing. The gears or bearings inside the differential might whine or make other abnormal noises when the unit is on its way out and in need of a replacement. Furthermore, unusual sounds could be due to a low fluid level…which brings us to our next symptom.
Sounds simple, but you should occasionally check for fluid leaks coming from the transmission. Those gears like to be bathed in fluid all day, every day. Make sure they live in the oily spa they deserve.
Car doesn’t move
If your differential has failed completely, power can’t be transmitted to the drive wheels to move your vehicle. Have you ever tried operating a car that doesn’t move? Not so fun is it?
How urgent is a Differential replacement?
If your differential or rear differential is toast, it could make your vehicle unsafe and possibly leave you stranded and dangerous driving conditions are no bueno. So, get that vehicle off the road until your differential or rear differential is fixed.