The team at Advanced Transmission Center has inspected, serviced and repaired countless differentials and transfer cases. In addition, we will inspect U-joints which help secure your driveshaft to the differential. We’re Geared For Customer Success and encourage you to call in for a free TrueTest Inspection at any of our locations.
Put simply, the differential allows for wheels on the same axle to spin at different speeds which is particularly important when making turns. This is important because the outside tire must travel a longer distance (therefore faster speed) relative to the inside tire while taking on a turn.
Often the differential is referred to as “the rear end” – this is somewhat misleading. On a rear-wheel-drive vehicle, there is a large pumpkin shaped item on the middle of the axle; that is the differential. However, on front-wheel drive vehicles, the differential is actually built within the transmission. To be more precise, a transmission is technically called a transaxle on front-wheel drive vehicles. There is also the case where a vehicle has 4-wheel drive capabilities. In this case, there are differentials in the front and back. In addition, there is a transfer case that accommodates for differing speeds between the front and rear wheels.
Noise from your axles could be one indicator of a differential in need of repair. Also, if the vehicle is not turning properly and feels as if it is momentarily locking up, this is a sign to immediately schedule an inspection from an expert. Untreated, these symptoms only get worse and may lead to a dangerous failure while operating the vehicle.
In many cases, the fluid condition is less concerning than fluid level. Over time the seals that keep fluid within a differential or transfer case wear out. Alternatively, an unknown rock or seemingly innocent collision to the underside of the vehicle may cause an unnoticed crack or rupture. Under these circumstances, fluid will leak and ultimately the lubrication of the components will suffer. This leads to excessive heat within the differentials and/or transfer cases which ultimately causes deterioration. Also, on front-wheel drive vehicles, recall the differential is built into the transmission. If this differential fails, the cost of repair could be significant given the substantial labor hours required to pull out, rebuild and re-install the entire transaxle assembly. A small bit of maintenance can go a long way in avoiding a large bill.
Unlike other major components of a vehicle, the differential is largely mechanic and built to last. Like all parts, it will wear and need replacement but rest assured, it requires less pampering than other parts of your vehicle. That does not mean regular maintenance is not required. The most important maintenance task for a differential is regular inspection and replacement of fluid. Our TrueTest Inspection can be adapted to focus on the differential and transfer case components of a vehicle. Most often transfer cases and differentials take some variation of gear oil or transmission fluid. It varies by make and model, therefore, it is important to seek advice from a professional specializing in the drive-train.