Details About Differentials

What are they, and what does it mean when they need to be replaced?

What do differentials do, exactly?

A differential set of gears allows you to go around a corner without your wheels skipping. Meaning, the way the gears turn on a curve keeps your wheels on the ground.

The differential has a set of gears inside of another set of gears that allows one wheel to spin faster while the other one’s going slower as you take a corner or sharp curve. They help you to smoothly go around the corners and provide power to turn the wheels from the driveline.

How do you know when a differential is going bad? 

Sometimes we can tell by the color of the fluid, it will start to change. We may also notice small flecks of metal around a magnet that is usually mounted on the inside. 

For you, the driver or passenger, you’ll hear a noise coming from the wheels that sounds like a “whir-whir-whir-whir”.

Awareness is what will help you

Some people will get used to the new noise instead of bringing their car in to be looked at. Then, they’ll continue to drive the car and tune out the noise it’s making.

When a technician gets in the car with them to do a little road test, the tech will be able to hear the differential problem immediately.

How expensive is differential repair?

Differentials, for the most part, are fairly maintenance free as long as you’re changing fluids regularly. We see a lot of service work on differentials, but not a lot of repairs. Service has to do more with maintaining your fluids and making sure there are no leaks.

Expense for differential repair can increase if you have a noise coming from the tire areas. It will get even higher if you ignore or tune out those noises. If you go too long, then you may end up doing damage to the gears… and when you do damage to the gears, then it gets very expensive. 

When you discover a fairly new noise and bring it in, we can get in there and just replace the bearings, rebuild it, and put it back together. It’s not horrible. The point here is not to let it go for too long. It’s an important part of the vehicle and it affects many other parts and systems in your car.

Your safety on the road is so important. We want to be the team that takes care of your car.

Schedule your next service with us today.

Our Reviews

Tom's Automotive Service
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4.7 out of 5 stars

Joan McCoy
Joan McCoy

5 out of 5 stars

posted 1 month ago

Great service. Everyone is so professional - I know exactly what they are going to do and how much it costs. It is so helpful that they call and remind me when my car needs service, and then they send me a thank you note after the service. They also offer a shuttle that will take you home.

Jeff Dixon
Jeff Dixon

5 out of 5 stars

posted 3 months ago

I have been going to Tom’s for a while now to have my 2006 Scion worked on. They do quality work and at a good price. Very professional and honest, great staff to work with. I am saddened that I am moving down to Arizona at the end of the month and will no longer be able to have my car serviced at Tom’s. I hope I can find a new one like them down there. Thanks for all your services over the years. Jeff

This is a video of an axle that goes into the front differential of a four wheel drive vehicle. There should be no movement but as you can see here there’s quite a bit. No bueno!!