Whenever a vehicle turns, the outside tyres travel farther than the inside tyres. The vehicle's differential compensates for this by rotating the tyres at different speeds. This allows for a smooth turn, and it also prevents tyres from wearing unevenly. Vehicle owners should know the types of differentials, how to maintain them, and how to identify potential problems. Knowing this information helps drivers stay safe and cut down on repair costs.
Types of differentials
There are three categories of differentials. Vehicle owners should know which type of differential they have in their automobiles. This helps them know what to expect when navigating turns while driving.
The open or standard differential is the oldest and simplest of the three options. Vehicles with this type of differential use a pinion gear to transfer power to the ring gear. Then, a spider gear disperses the power. The spider gear uses two types of rotations to distribute power to the left and right wheels. When vehicles turn, the spider gear rotates and spins, which changes the speed of the left and right side gears. This causes the wheels to turn at different speeds on a turn.
When one wheel is on a surface with solid traction and the others are on a surface with slippery traction, the open differential sends most of the power to the wheels on the slippery surface, causing the automobile to stop moving. This is not an issue for those who drive in mild conditions, but those who drive in ice and snow often choose one of the other types of differentials for this reason.
The limited-slip differential is similar to the open differential except that it also has a clutch system. If wheels slip, the clutch system locks the axles together so the driver remains in control of the vehicle, even when driving on surfaces with different types of traction. With the exception of the clutch system, this system uses the same parts as the open differential. It also disperses power in the same way, meaning the spider gear rotates and spins in order to send power to the left and right wheels.
The most modern type of differential, the torque-vectoring differential, represents the most high-tech of the three categories. It uses sensors to determine how much power should go to the wheels, directing the power with a clutch system and electronic controls. The system distributes power front to back and side to side, making it the most complex of all of the differentials available. The system also has the ability to reduce the engine's torque or stop one of the wheels from spinning if necessary. The torque-vectoring system works with all-wheel drive vehicles and handles various types of traction with ease.
Care and maintenance
Vehicle owners can avoid many common differential issues by conducting regular maintenance. Mechanics should check the differential any time they conduct transmission work or maintenance. Differential maintenance includes checking the rear-end lubricant. Mechanics also need to check for leaks, loose pinion-yoke nuts, excess backlash, broken springs, and broken mounts. This type of maintenance improves the life of the differential and saves owners money on repairs.
Even with regular maintenance, differentials still might suffer from issues at some point. It is important that vehicle owners know how to identify a problem. In most cases, owners use sounds to diagnose issues. Whirring, rumbling, howling, whining, clunking, and banging are signs of differential problems. Vibrations that become more powerful as the car increases in speed also indicate issues.
Differential problems may include bad or loose pinion bearings, broken or worn rings and gears, worn clutches, and insufficient lubrication. Because various issues produce the same types of sounds, mechanics often remove the differential to find out which part needs replacing. They may replace that part or the entire differential, depending on the severity of the issue.
How to buy differentials on eBay
It is easy to find complete differentials or parts on eBay. Type the part you need into the search box located on any page. Look through the list of new and used items from various sellers. Filter a long list by price, brand, and seller location to narrow the choices. Select the differential that you want, being sure to familiarise yourself with the seller's return and shipping policies. Once the part arrives, take it to the local mechanic, or put the vehicle up on your own rack and make the necessary repairs.