One of the most important car parts, yet very less known, is the rear differential. It plays a big role in the functioning of the automobile. Understanding any problem requires you to know the working of a car and its basic mechanism. One of the most fundamental things that you need to grasp, is the generation and distribution of torque.
What drives a car is the torque generated in the engine. This is common knowledge but very few people can explain how that torque is translated into the rotational movement of wheels.
Engine torque drives the crankshaft, which is conveyed to the drive shaft, via transmission and it ultimately reaches the wheels through the rear differential. It is made of gears and it works to control the speed of wheel rotation. When turning, wheel speeds need to differ and this is made possible by this mechanism. Whenever you make a smooth turn, the differential comes into play.
Modern cars come with many types of built-in rear differential mechanisms. The most common ones are limited slip and locking rear differentials. You must have noticed a pumpkin-shaped mechanism between the rear car wheels. That's the differential.
After that brief overview, let me discuss some of the most common problems that may crop up.
One of the prime problems is noise, resulting from the friction between internal gears of the differential mechanism. This noise is more of a growling kind and becomes louder when you bank into a turn. The reason for noise may be a drop in the differential's lubricant levels. If left unchecked, this problem can grow, ultimately resulting in a complete breakdown and major car repair. So, at the slightest inkling of noise, it is best to get the mechanism checked out by a car mechanic. The inner mechanism is just too complex for you to handle on your own.
Another common problem, which often goes unnoticed, is leaking of lubricant. As discussed in the previous point, if lubricant levels drop down, then friction between gears increases. Over a period of time, this may lead to major wear and tear in the gears. That's why, you need to keep an eye on fluid leak, if it ever occurs. If the lubricant level has dropped down substantially, noise may occur. You must immediately replenish the fluid levels to normal, to prevent any further wear and tear.
At the slightest doubt of an impending problem, it is best to get your car to a service center for checkup. Ignoring the signs of a bad rear differential may ultimately cost you a lot in repairs.