Here at AutoNetTV, we have national viewers, like your neighbors, who write to us with questions or feedback. One common question we're asked is: "What is a differential and what does it do?
" You may have been told by your Precision Tune Auto Care technician that your differential needs service, or seen it as an option up on the service menu. Differential service at Precision Tune Auto Care
covers a lot of things, so let's first talk about what a differential does.
As you drive through a turn, your outside wheels and inside wheels turn at different speeds. Kind of like the cars going around a race track - the ones driving in the outside lanes have a greater distance to travel than the cars in the inside lanes. The differential is what allows the outside and inside drive wheels to rotate at slightly different speeds so that the tires don't hop or skip while taking corners, or lose traction in dirt or snow on freeways. Differentials have gears in them that transfer the power from the drive train to your wheels - which is why they're often referred to as gear boxes
. The gears need to be very strong to do this work, and they need to be properly protected so that they'll last.
All vehicles have some form of differential. If you have a front-wheel drive car, your differential is sometimes called a transaxle
and is located in the front. If you have rear-wheel drive, the differential is in the back of the car. Drivers with a four-wheel drive vehicle have a differential in the front and the back - and in the middle as well. The center differential adjusts for differences in speed between the front and rear wheels.
Differential fluid lubricates and cools the gears. Over time, the fluid can get dirty from bits of the gears grinding off. The additives that keep the fluid clean and protect the differential break down over time. So your auto manufacturer has scheduled intervals for you to have your differential fluid changed. Talk to your Precision Tune Auto Care service advisor if you are not sure about your recommended schedule.
Differentials are hard working mechanisms, and, along with the gears in a manual transmission, need to be serviced regularly at Precision Tune Auto Care with high-quality, replacement fluid. Your technician can give you more information as to when your next differential service is recommended. You can also ask if they have a record of when the service was last completed.
As with most service intervals, if you are driving under more severe conditions
in the area, you will want to service your differential more frequently
. "Severe service" conditions are defined in auto makers' owners' manuals, and include: frequent starts and stops, short trips, cold -- weather, hot weather and towing. All these factors add to the stress of the vehicle and its parts. Also, off-roading can be especially hard on differentials, especially if you cross streams. Proper service at Precision Tune Auto Care will extend the life of your gears and keep them running more smoothly.