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

Vanessa Rawlings
Vanessa Rawlings

5 out of 5 stars

posted 1 month ago

These guys know how to treat their customers. My car had a weird ABS problem and Tracy and the team knew exactly how to handle it. Very flexible with my schedule and we’re so informative and knowledgeable. They were honest about pricing and very realistic about my car’s issue. Thank you for the outstanding care I will be back no question. Although hopefully not that soon ha ha!

Christine Cranston
Christine Cranston

5 out of 5 stars

posted 1 month ago

I tried Tom's after years with another shop. The other shop's service had deteriorated over time and I could no longer trust them to do the right thing for my car and for me. The Tom's Automotive Service team is warm, friendly and most importantly, competent and honest. They first did an assessment of the car. Then, I got a call with each needed improvement estimated and prioritized. Now, that the car is fixed, it drives SO much better. It's a 2006 Honda CRV with lots of pep and strength. I will go to Tom's again. It's great to find such high quality car services in West Seattle (my own neighborhood). Thank you!

sam brenner
sam brenner

5 out of 5 stars

posted 6 days ago

I had a snag on my latch to open my car hood and John at Toms was very helpful at fixing the problem. He also graciously replaced both of my headlight bulbs while he checked to make sure everything was good to go! Awesome service and will be taking my business to Tom’s from now on.

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!!