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Differential with car gearbox bearing at shallow depth of field

Front and Rear Differential Servicing

The term car differential may sound like a math problem, but it is actually one of the most important components included in any vehicle that uses a drive train. A differential is a box or globe-like assembly that is located underneath a car, positioned either on the rear or front end of your vehicle.

The differential, with the help of several gears of different sizes, distributes torque force in a way that allows the wheels to spin at different speeds.
It is engineered in such a way that when making a turn, the interior wheels can turn slower than the exterior wheels. This is because if they all turn at the same speed while cornering, it would create damage to the wheels, and the turn itself would not be smooth.

Differential Service

Differential service involves the procedure/maintenance of the differential system by periodically changing its lubricating oil. It works to keep the gears cool and prevent accelerated wear. Just like most lubricants, differential oil also breaks down over time. We recommend that you may want to pay attention to it as much as you do your engine oil.

If your vehicle is under normal payloads, or even when subjected to extreme payloads, know that your car’s differential takes on incoming pressure from both the engine and the wheels. This makes it a critical component of your car that needs at least some periodic care. Differential servicing will remove old and aging gear oil from your car, replacing it with fresh fluid.

This will help you avoid a potential gear lock-up that can render your car immobile.

Front and Rear Differential

If your vehicle is a two-wheel drive, it is powered by two wheels only. The differential could either be located in the rear or in front, just below the engine.

For a rear-wheel drive, your car will have a differential that is mounted on the rear axle. The engine will be upfront, and it will drive the wheels via a drive shaft that is connected to the differential located at the rear between the 2 wheels.

For a front-wheel drive, your car will have a transaxle that is part of the transmission which functions as a differential as well. It is driven by the gearbox using helical gears.

A four-wheel drive, on the other hand, will have an engine that has the capacity to send power to all four wheels. Hence, a differential on both the front and the rear wheels.

Gear Oil

Also referred to as gear oil, differential oil is deposited and contained in the axle housing. It serves to lubricate the different gears inside that are mashing together while working with hydraulic clutch packs. Being thicker than engine oil, it is formulated to perform under high pressure and high-temperature environments.

Made for a tough job, differential oil lasts longer than most fluids. It is periodically replaced every 30,000 to 60,000 miles of drive time. It is important that the fresh replacement fluid must not mix with the old fluid, and that’s why differential oil change needs some level of expertise for successful servicing. We recommended having your expert technician handle the job.

Signs of Differential Problems

You may want to stick to a regular maintenance schedule for differential service to avoid problems like the ones listed below:

1. Strange Noises Coming from Underneath the Chassis
Whirring, rattling, and some whining noises are indicators of a differential problem. Sometimes you may hear that distinct sound of gears grinding underneath your car.

2. Difficult and Hard Steering
When you have difficulty cornering with a steering box problem already ruled out, it is that likely your differential is already shot.

3. Weird Uneven Wear on your Tires
Strange-looking damage on the outer tread and sidewalls of your tires could be a result of a failing differential system. It is likely that your wheels are being forced to spin at the wrong speeds when you are turning a corner.

4. Differential Oil Leak
If you are seeing a leak that is not coming from the crankcase and is obviously coming from either the rear or front wheel transaxle, you will want to have your differential checked out.

5. Strong Vibrations Coming from the Drive Shaft
If the joints of your differential are damaged or worn out, the drive shaft will vibrate. It then becomes more pronounced when you accelerate rapidly.

Gears are parts of your car that you would seldom see. But that doesn’t mean they are not there. They work even harder when you drive your car hard. It is better to take a day off for some routine gear oil change than not having a car for a week, while spending a fortune on major repairs that would have otherwise been avoided. Drive safe and enjoy the road in Kelowna, B.C.