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  • Writer's pictureAleko Kavouras

What Does the Differential Do?

Updated: Apr 28, 2021

Your car is an intricate machine that gets you from place to place, but how much do you know about what’s under the hood? Let’s learn a little bit more about your car’s differential and get a feel for why it’s so important to maintain it!

What is a Differential?

The differential in your vehicle is a mechanical component that splits your engine’s torque two ways, allowing each output to rotate at different speeds. The differential helps compensate for the distance the outer and inner wheels travel as your car goes around corners.

Differentials require oil to lubricate the gears that transfer power from the driveshaft to each wheel’s axle. Changing your differential’s oil is as important as changing your engine’s oil, as it keeps the metal gears from wearing down and weakening.

Where is the Differential Located in my Car?

If you own a modern vehicle, your differential’s location depends on your car’s drive train:

  1. Front-Wheel Drive Vehicle (FWD): In a front-wheel drive vehicle, the differential is located in the front of your car, nearest the engine. It is usually integrated into the transmission housing, and often shares the same fluid.

  2. Rear-Wheel Drive Vehicle (RWD): In a rear-wheel drive vehicle, the differential is located in the back of your car, between your two back wheels. It has its own housing and lubrication, and often gets overlooked because it is separate from the RWD vehicle’s main mechanical components which are housed at the front of the vehicle, under the hood.

  3. All-Wheel Drive Vehicle (AWD): In an all-wheel drive vehicle, there are three differentials (front, center, and rear). An all-wheel drive vehicle requires a differential between each set of wheels and between the front and back wheels (center differential), so that all your vehicle’s wheels can be driven at all times.

How Can I Take Care of my Car’s Differential(s)?

There are step-by-step guides are available to help you navigate your car’s mechanics and give you an idea of how to maintain your differential. However, it can be a rather difficult and messy job for someone not well educated in car repair.

Taking your vehicle into a professional Maryland auto care shop for regular maintenance lets experienced and qualified technicians take specialized care of your car’s differential(s). It also allows the other mechanical components of your vehicle to be inspected for issues you may miss on your own.

Hillmuth Auto Care is your best choice for reliable and professional vehicle maintenance and repairs in Maryland. Contact us today to schedule routine maintenance, or to inquire about the additional services we offer.

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