Updated at: 26-08-2022 - By: Lucas

You may have a faulty rear differential if you hear or feel unusual noises or vibrations emanating from your vehicle. Because the symptoms of a malfunctioning rear differential can manifest in a variety of ways, it’s critical to diagnose the issue and remedy it as soon as feasible.

We’ll go over the most prevalent signs of a malfunctioning rear differential in this article. You may find out more by reading on.

What’s A Differential?

What Are Rear Differential

All modern wheeled vehicles have a differential as an essential component. It connects the engine to the wheels of your vehicle.

Using a differential is as simple as connecting a wheel to the output spindle of the transmission and the other wheel to the other end of that spindle.

What Does A Differential Do?

Inside and outer wheels travel at different speeds when an automobile is turning a corner. If the two driving wheels were attached to the same axle or spindle, they would simply spin at the same rate.

When making turns, the differential allows the two driving wheels to revolve at different speeds since it acts as a compromise between them.

A differential is a device that divides the engine’s torque between the wheels of your car. To put it another way, each axle houses a set of shafts that transmit torque from your transmission to a certain tire’s contact patch.

With a suitable differential, you may apply throttle input and let your car do all of the work in going ahead, something that would not be feasible without this type of gearing.

What Are The Different Types of Differentials?

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It is possible to further subdivide differentials into two main types. In addition, there are the open and limited-slip differentials, both of which include locking and clutch mechanisms.

Limited Slip (LSD) Or Clutch-Type Diff

An LSD is meant to improve traction on slippery conditions like ice and mud by distributing torque to the wheel with the most traction. Axles are made to rotate at a constant rate in order to do this.

In slippery conditions, such as gravel roads, when one tire has less traction than the other, this helps you maintain control when accelerating out of a bend (s).

Clutch-Type LSD

There may be one or more clutch plates between the left and right driving wheels in this limited slip differential.

Because of a difference in wheel speed between the two driven wheels, the torque transmitted to the slower wheel increases when the car begins to spin out on a turn (s).

Applying extra strain to the wheel’s axel, the opposite side is forced to rotate at the same speed.

Locking Differential

When the traction on both wheels is equal, a locking differential is a good option. Allowing each wheel’s axle shaft to rotate independently of the other while keeping a consistent speed during acceleration is how it accomplishes this.

Open Differential

In today’s passenger cars, open differentials are a common and simple type of differential. When both wheels are rotating at roughly the same pace, it distributes torque evenly between them.

When one wheel loses grip while the other has adequate traction, open differentials can’t provide any accelerating torque, thus you’re less likely to get stranded off road because your drive wheels don’t spin together.

What Is A Limited Slip Differential (LSD)?

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Sliding surfaces like snow and mud necessitate the usage of differentials that are restricted slip or locking in order to increase traction and performance.

With an LSD, you can shift power from one wheel to another without the risk of damaging any of the components. By shifting power to a tire that has higher traction, a limited-slip differential reduces wheel spin.

Locking Differential

If one of the wheels gets stuck in ice while the other isn’t, then the locking differential will keep the two wheels spinning at the same speed regardless of where they are. This prevents your vehicle from getting stuck by transferring power to the ground via the non-slipping wheel.

Many heavy loads and steep incline pressures will eventually lead an open differential to fail. This is especially true for vehicles that need to function well in these types of conditions.

Early automobiles were equipped with differentials, which allowed them to travel at high speeds while turning without causing their tires to skid. Electronic and hydraulic differentials are used today, but the essential principle remains the same.

It’s better to have a car with two wheels with more grip in case one gets stuck on ice or otherwise loses traction. This way, you can use the wheel with more traction to help you get out of trouble.

What’s The Difference Between A Limited Slip And Open Differential?

If you have an open differential, you will always get the same amount of torque from both wheels, regardless of their speed or grip.

Nothing can be done to stop the tire that has strong grip from spinning when one wheel starts slipping because of too much power applied to it. As a result, you may become stuck in mud or snow because you’re only moving two wheels instead of four.

When one wheel spins faster than the other due to excessive torque, an LSD will automatically engage.

Since there is no torque being applied to one wheel while the other receives an excessive amount, your car will have a difficult time driving without slipping or perhaps getting stuck.

If one of the wheels gets stuck in ice while the other isn’t, then the locking differential will keep the two wheels spinning at the same speed regardless of where they are. In order to prevent your vehicle from getting stuck, this transmits the vehicle’s power to the ground via the non-slip wheel.

When big loads or steep hills put a lot of pressure on an open differential, it can fail, especially if the vehicle is expected to perform well in these situations..

An open differential is more likely to fail on slick conditions like ice and wet mud, hence a limited slip or locking differential can be employed to improve vehicle stability and performance.

With an LSD, you can shift power from one wheel to another without the risk of damaging any of the components. By shifting power to a tire that has higher traction, a limited-slip differential reduces wheel spin.

In a nutshell, open diffs allow each axle shaft to spin at different speeds, whereas LSDs are normally designed to keep both wheels in a straight line, ensuring equal power distribution.

What Is The Difference Between Modern and Old School Differentials?

When compared to older, simpler designs, modern differentials are incredibly complicated, yet they all function by limiting slippage between the driving tires.

It is possible for one wheel to spin if there is too much engine torque going through a particular tire when using an open differential.

This means that if one of your driving wheels loses traction, you’ll lose some of your forward momentum if you have an open diff.

LSDs are designed to minimize the amount of slip between the driven wheels under certain scenarios, such as when the driver shifts their weight from one side of the driven axle to the other during a turn.

Modern differentials are far more sophisticated than the simple open or closed style, but they still work on the same principle of limiting the amount of slippage between the driving tires.

As a result of excessive engine torque being supplied via a particular tire, an open diff might cause one wheel to spin. As a result, if one of your drive wheels loses traction and starts spinning, you will experience some loss of forward momentum.

For example, during cornering when weight is changed from one side of the driven axle to another, LSDs try to restrict the slip between the driven wheels in an effort to avoid this loss of momentum from occurring.

What Are The Symptoms Of A Bad Differential?

First, assess whether or not your differential is in need of replacement or repair. While travelling at regular speeds, one wheel may begin to spin at a rapid rate of speed.

When you take off from a stop sign, if one wheel in front of your car spins constantly yet both wheels spin simultaneously before accelerating, you have an open differential problem.

However, if both rear tires spin at the same time when accelerating or cruising at highway speeds, you have an LSD issue that has to be addressed.

The transmission and/or driveline may vibrate while driving at a steady pace, especially during corners, as a possible sign of a problem. There is a possibility that your differential is faulty if this happens.


Can You Drive With A Bad Rear Differential?

As long as the problem does not cause one tire to spin faster than the other, you can drive with a bad rear differential. It is possible that your automobile will not be able to move in a straight line if this is the case, and you will need to pull over and call for help.

What Kind Of Sound Does A Bad Differential Make?

An out-of-service differential will cause the vehicle to create a grinding noise as it accelerates or makes sharp turns. In the absence of action, the difference will inevitably fail.


The best thing to do if you’re having issues with your differential is to get it checked out by an expert. The transmission or driveline may vibrate excessively or one wheel may spin rapidly while driving normally, all of which are signs of a faulty differential.

Lack of lubrication and overheating are the most typical causes of differential damage. If you want to avoid problems in the first place, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s service interval recommendations and keep a watch on your differentials!