When you take a corner in your car, the outside wheels have a slightly longer distance to go than the inside wheels. That means that the outside wheels have to turn a bit faster than the inside. The mechanical wizardry that makes this possible is called the differential. It is important to make sure that your differential is checked regularly so that you never deal with this function not functioning properly during your drive.
Whether or not your car has one or two differentials depends on how the wheels of your vehicle are powered. If you have an all-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicle your car is built in a way that allows the engine to send power to all four wheels, so you will have both a front differential and rear differential. If you have a front-wheel drive vehicle, instead of a differential you will likely have a transaxle that functions as both the transmission and the differential.
Inside your differential you’ll find lots of interlacing gears and bearings. These gears all rely on each other and a lubricant called differential fluid to keep the differential transferring power smoothly and seamlessly. Front differential, rear differential and limited slip differential (LSD) all require gear oil to lubricate and keep the differential drive components cool.
If one of the bearings in your differential becomes loose, or if thin differential fluid is causing metal on metal grinding and untimely wear you might experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- A whirring noise either while decelerating or at speeds that exceed 15 mph
- A rumbling sound that starts when the car is traveling faster than 15 mph
- A persistent clunking sound
- A high pitched howling sound during acceleration
- A banging or skipping when cornering
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms it’s a good indication that you may already have a problem, or are well on your way to having a problem with your car’s differential. We recommend reaching out to Lake City Auto Care if you notice more than one of these symptoms happening to your car.
Since a vehicle cannot function without a differential, we would recommend getting your differential inspected, and the differential fluid changed, as a part of your regular vehicle maintenance routine.
How often differential service is required will vary from car to car based on vehicle make, model and mileage. To learn more about your vehicle’s recommended differential service interval, consult your vehicle owner’s manual or contact a certified technician at your nearest Lake City Auto Care Shop.