Scratching your head? Don’t worry, if you don’t know what a differential is – you will in a moment. That fact is that if you drive a car anywhere in , , you have a differential. Whether your vehicle is front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, you have a differential. Some auto owners might even have two or three.
Not surprisingly, a differential’s job is to compensate for differences. Specifically the differences in wheel speed when turning. For instance, imagine taking a corner near your , home. Your inside wheel has a shorter distance to travel than the outside wheel as you turn the corner. That means that your outside wheel has to turn faster to keep pace with the inside wheel.
The differential allows the wheels to turn at different speeds while still providing power to your vehicle. Without a differential, auto owners’ tires would scrub and hop along the pavement during turns like the early cars.
Ever noticed the big bulge in the middle of the rear axle on trucks? That’s the differential. Rear-wheel drive vehicles have a differential in back. Most four-wheel drive trucks and SUVs will also have a similar differential on the front axle. Front-wheel drive vehicles’ differential is called a transaxle because it combines the differential and transmission in one unit. An all-wheel drive vehicle will have a differential or transfer case that adjusts for speed differences between the front and rear drive wheels.
It can seem a little complex to some drivers – but you can see that all of the engine’s power is routed through your differentials. They’re strong enough to handle the work, but- we’ve said it before – they need to be properly lubricated in order to stay strong. So from time to time, you need to schedule a differential service in at . The used fluid is drained and replaced with clean fluid. Some auto makers advise certain differentials to have special additives installed.
Get your differential serviced at in .
Recommendations for the time and mileage interval for servicing your differential can vary greatly by vehicle. A front-wheel drive vehicle’s transaxle will need servicing more frequently than the rear differential on a pick-up truck, so check with your , technician or your auto makers owner’s manual for recommendations.
How and where you drive in will have a key impact as well. If you drive on dirt roads or through streams around , , you’ll need to service your differential much sooner than if you always stay on highways.