A black and white photo of vehicle components.Differentials give your vehicle’s the ability to turn at different rates. This provides better handling and better torque efficiency. Front-wheel drive vehicles will have a front differential, while rear-wheel drive cars and trucks have a rear differential. All-wheel drive and 4-wheel drive vehicles have both front and rear differentials. The differential is a key part of the vehicle’s drivetrain system connecting the transmission to the wheels.

If your differential is damaged, you may start to notice some problems. They may be subtle at first, but will get worse over time if left ignored. It’s best to pay attention and deal with any issues that arise before they lead to much more costly differential, transmission and drivetrain repairs.

Here are 5 signs of a damaged or failing differential, according to the Central Valley transmission and drivetrain repair experts at Ralph’s Transmission:

1. Poor Handling

Probably the first thing you might notice when a differential isn’t working properly is a loss of handling and control while driving. The vehicle may pull hard to one side or feel “loose” when turning corners. Acceleration may also feel a bit sluggish. These could be signs of wheel alignment problems, as well.

2. Tire Damage

Your tire treads can tell you a lot about your vehicle. Significant damage along the sidewalls is a very common sign of differential issues. Severely uneven treads might also be telling you that you have a differential problem, or it could be a number of things like the wheel alignment, brakes, suspension or wheel bearings.

3. Grinding Gears

Grinding gears could be a transmission issue, but also might be the sign of a damaged differential. It also has a complex internal gear system that will usually let you know if something isn’t right inside.

4. Fluid Leak

The differential has gear oil inside that maintains proper lubrication and temperature control while the vehicle is driving. It is not good if the differential is leaking fluid because it will ultimately lead to significant internal damage, so get your vehicle looked at by a drivetrain specialist before it gets any worse.

5. Vibrations & Whining Sounds

It’s never good when your vehicle starts vibrating or making strange sounds. Common noises associated with damaged differentials include humming, grinding and high-pitched whining. Again, strange sounds can be the sign of many different automotive issues, so trust a professional mechanic to get to the source of the problem.

These are some of the common signs of a failing front or rear differential. If you have any differential or transmission problems, call Ralph’s Transmission today at 209.526.1909 or schedule your service appointment online.

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