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How to Detect Problems with Your Rear Differential Using Just Your Ears

November 20th, 2014 · 3 Comments

Zumbrota Bearing and Gear sells new, used, and remanufactured rear differentials for a variety of makes and models.

Fortunately for drivers of rear wheel drive vehicles, the rear differential is extremely reliable and gives vehicle owners years of trouble free service. There are, however, times when problems may develop. Many of the most common problems can be detected early, and with proper service and repair, vehicle owners may avoid some hefty repair costs. Every driver has two indispensable tools at their disposal to detect early problems – their own two ears.

By listening to how your vehicle normally operates and developing an awareness of the sounds it makes on a daily basis, you can “tune your ears” to pick up anything that sounds abnormal. Why is it so important to become familiar with these sounds?

The differential of a rear wheel drive vehicle is a fairly complicated assembly. They operate in demanding conditions at high speeds of rotation. That means the tolerances for how gears and bearings are balanced and mesh are exact. What does a rear differential do? The power of the engine, through the transmission and drive shaft, is transferred to the rear differential. Through the differential, all of that power and torque is delivered to your vehicle’s drive wheels.

To make that process even more complicated, the power that is delivered to the rear wheels can’t always be delivered with the same speed of rotation to both rear wheels. When turning a corner, the inside wheel has to spin at a lower rate than the outside wheel. That difference in speed varies depending on how sharp the turn is. That’s where the term “differential” comes from. This makes it all the more important to properly maintain this important part of your vehicle’s drivetrain.

As you “tune your ears” to listen for potential problems, here are some sounds to listen for:

  • Clunking, rumble, or howl when cornering: This may indicate a problem with the spider, or side gear. Depending on how extreme the sound, it could mean there has been a leak of lubricant, a worn spider gear, or even a broken gear.
  • Clunking sound every few feet: Such a sound at fairly regular intervals could be a sign of a broke ring gear or pinion gear.
  • Howl or whine while driving straight: That sort of sound may be an indication of a number of problems. A whine during deceleration may mean there is a bad or loose pinion bearing. A howl during acceleration may indicate the same problem. Rumble or whining sounds only at speeds greater than 20 mph could be a sign of a worn carrier bearing. The sound may change while cornering.

The rear differential in your car or truck is built to be tough and reliable, but always keep in mind what a complex assembly it is. It’s made up of numerous gears, bearings, and assemblies of various types, operating at fine levels of tolerance. If you need a new or rebuilt differential, or the assemblies to rebuild one yourself, there is no better source for parts and service than Zumbrota Bearing and Gear.

At Zumbrota Bearing and Gear, we are experts in what it takes to keep you on the road. The combination of our extensive inventory, quality products, and team of experienced technicians guarantee your satisfaction and thousands of miles of trouble free driving on the road ahead.

Tags: Differentials · Zumbrota Bearing and Gear ·


 

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Lillian Schaeffer // Aug 5, 2016 at 10:16 am

    This is some great information, and I appreciate your suggestion to tune your ears to listen to the sounds your car makes so you can detect problems. I haven’t really paid much attention to what my car sounds like, but it makes sense that doing so could be really useful. I’ll definitely try to learn what noises my car normally makes so I can hear if there are problems with things like the rear differential. Thanks for the great post!

  • 2 Kenneth Gladman // Sep 29, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    I like that you mentioned that costly repairs can be avoided if problems are detected early enough. I would recommend before blasting the radio or music that you take a listen to how your car is running. Pay attention to small noises that could detect problems.

  • 3 siaosi // Nov 3, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    I think identifying the problem is so important. I would not want to get my diff fixed if it was not the problem. I really appreciate you helping me out on being able to identify the problem. I think that gaining an awareness now of how the vehicle sounds and operates is a great way to know if something changes or goes wrong in the future.

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