What Is a Differential and How Can It Cause Problems?

If you’re like most drivers in Bloomington, MN, differential problems don’t top your list of routine car repairs. Still, the components that help keep your wheels on the road can develop serious issues. Head off differential trouble by getting to know the mechanism a little better with some information from Kennedy Transmission.

What and Where Is the Differential?

Your vehicle’s differential is a critical part of its drivetrain. Positioned midway between the driving wheels, it works with your transmission to get the car moving. The differential helps control steering as you turn corners by distributing proportional RPMs between the two opposite driving wheels.

As you take a corner, the outside car wheel covers more ground than the inside wheel. The differential splits engine torque so that each wheel can spin at a different speed. You enjoy smooth cornering because the differential transfers adjusted power to both wheels as needed.

What Are the Signs of Differential Trouble?

It’s not unusual to mistake noisy differential problems for transmission problems. An automotive professional can quickly pinpoint the trouble, but these are typical signs of differential issues:

  • Clunking sounds as you drive
  • Vibrations that increase with speed
  • Whirring noises when you slow down
  • Reddish stains on your parking spot

Can the Problems Become Serious?

When the differential doesn’t perform well, it creates metal-on-metal friction that wears down surfaces. The resulting heat weakens gears and can cause component failure and transmission problems. A bad differential makes the car harder to control turning corners, and that can be dangerous. Faulty performance also causes extra wear and tear on tires. Replacing or rebuilding a failed differential can be expensive.

How Do Pro Mechanics Fix Bad Differentials?

Professional mechanics address differential problems by diagnosing exactly what’s wrong. Most issues can be solved by changing out the differential fluid. This gear oil keeps axle bearings, pinion gears, and the ring gear operating smoothly.

Your automotive technician can also work on the differential’s side and spider gear set, roller bearings, and carrier. If necessary, a pro mechanic can replace or rebuild the entire differential.

We’re Always Here to Help

Now that you know your car’s differential a little better, you can head off trouble before it takes a bad turn. We’re here to help at our Bloomington, MN, auto shop or any of our other Kennedy Transmission locations across the state. If you are interested in reading more about our auto services and repairs, click here! Our automotive experts are always at your service.

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