Differential Service at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley: Viva la Difference
Apr 25, 2016
Every vehicle on California roads has a differential, and it is important to the proper operation of the vehicle. But most Lancaster residents don't have a clue what it is.
The differential compensates for differing wheel speeds. For example, when you turn, the inside tire on the turn travels a much shorter distance than the outside wheel. So the inside wheel of the vehicle must move at a slower speed than the outside wheel. Without a differential, the wheels would hop and scrape while turning.
Have you ever seen the large bulge in the middle of the rear axle of a truck? That's the differential. In a rear-wheel drive vehicle, the differential is located on the back axle. Four-wheel drive vehicles and SUV's have differentials on both the front and the rear axle.
You might expect that the differential is located on the front axle of a front-wheel drive vehicle. You'd be right. But the differential is called a transaxle on a front-wheel drive vehicle because its location allows it to be combined with the transmission.
In an all-wheel drive vehicle, an additional differential or transfer case is located between the front and rear axles. Differentials are strong: They have to be because of the job they do. But those tough parts need proper lubrication. You don't want your differential to seize up. That results in damage to your vehicle.
So you need to have your vehicle differential serviced regularly. It's not a complicated job. At The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley in Lancaster, we've been servicing differentials for years. The used lubricating fluid is simply drained and then replaced. Some vehicles require specific additives in the differential fluid; your Lancaster service center will ensure you are getting what your vehicle needs.
The intervals in time or mileage for servicing your differential vary greatly from vehicle to vehicle. Check with your owner's manual or The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley service advisor to find out how often your vehicle differential needs to be serviced.
The The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley Guide to Servicing Your Differential
Jul 14, 2015
Differential? What's that? And what's it for? I've been told by my service advisor that I need to get it serviced, but is that on the level?
Do these questions sound familiar? They're not uncommon for Lancaster drivers. A lot of us in Lancaster don't know what a differential is or what it's for. Every vehicle has a differential, and, yes, it does need to be serviced. In fact, it's more important to the operation of your vehicle than the air conditioner or windshield wipers.
A differential allows your vehicle tires to move at different speeds. This happens more than you think. The best example is when a vehicle is turning. The inside wheel travels a much shorter distance than the outside wheel during a turn. This means the outside wheel has to move faster than the inside wheel. Without a differential, your tires would hop and skip while turning. They would also lose traction in sand or snow.
The location of your differential depends on what kind of vehicle you drive. On a rear-wheel drive vehicle, the differential is located in the back. For a front-wheel drive vehicle, it is located on the front, but it is usually called a transaxle. Four-wheel drive vehicles have three differentials: one on the front, one in the back and one in the middle. This center differential compensates for differences in speed between the front and rear wheels.
Your differential contains strong gears that need to be protected from dirt, debris, water and other contaminants. A differential is sometimes referred to as a “gear box.” The work of these gears is to transfer power from the vehicle drive train to the wheels.
Your differential needs fluid to lubricate and cool the gears. This fluid, even though enclosed in the “gear box,” can get dirty because the gears grind down over time, releasing tiny bits of themselves into the fluid. Also, the additives in the differential fluid break down and need to be replaced. That's why preventive maintenance for your vehicle needs to include servicing the differential.
Your owner's manual can give you recommendations on how often to service your differential. But you should also consult with your friendly and knowledgeable The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley professional. The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley can give you some good auto advice on whether your vehicle needs to be serviced more frequently. For example, if you drive in hot or cold California weather conditions, your differential will need to have its fluid changed more often.
Severe conditions will also affect your vehicle care routine and your differential. Check your owner's manual for a definition of “severe service” conditions that affect your vehicle. Examples may include driving with frequent stops and starts, a lot of short trips around Lancaster, hot or cold California weather conditions and towing.
Off-roading is particularly hard on a vehicle's differential. If you are an off-roader, especially if you cross California streams or waterways, it is important that you service your differential more frequently than the recommendations suggest.
Properly servicing your differential will extend its life and keep you out of Lancaster auto repair shops. A smooth ride is the result of proper preparation and smart choices.
When you take a corner in your car, the outside wheels have a slightly longer distance to go than the inside wheels. That means that the outside wheels have to turn a bit faster than the inside. The piece of mechanical wizardry that makes this possible is called the differential.
The differential allows the drive wheels to rotate at different speeds in turns without the wheel binding or hopping. If you have a rear-wheel drive vehicle, the differential is on the rear axle. You've seen that bulge in the middle of the axle when you're behind a truck; that's the differential.
If you have a front-wheel drive vehicle, the differential function is handled by your transaxle. Of course, all-wheel drive vehicles have differentials on both axles. They also have a center differential or a transfer case between the front and rear axles to compensate for speed differences between the front and rear.
Because all the power of the engine is transferred through the various differentials, you can imagine that they are very strong and are built last a long time. That's why it's important to keep your differential properly lubricated. Differential fluid cools and protects the gears.
Your Lancaster, California service technician will check differential fluid level and top it off if necessary. With low fluid, the differential will run too hot and wear prematurely. Ask your service advisor for when it's recommended to change your differential fluid. Fresh fluid will extend the life of your differential. Your technician will also inspect the u-joints which connect your driveshaft to the differential and may recommend service. Some u-joints can be lubricated as part of a routine lube, oil and filter change as well.
Now, of course, differentials eventually wear out and need to be replaced. You might notice a strange noise from you axle area as one of the first warning signs. When the differential shows signs of failing, it's important to repair it. If you leave it too long and it freezes up when you're driving, you could lose control of your vehicle, and other parts like the axle, driveshaft, and transmission could be damaged.