Here at Loren’s Auto Repair, people routinely ask us about their differential service and the recommended maintenance intervals for it. Differential service covers a lot of things, so it’s important that we first discuss the purpose of your differential.
When you make a turn in your vehicle your outside wheels and inside wheels turn at different speeds. The wheels on the outside of the turn have a greater distance to travel than the wheels on the inside. The differential ensures that the outside wheels and inside drive wheels can rotate at slightly different speeds. This prevents the tires from hopping or skipping around corners, or from loosing traction in the dirt or snow. Differentials have gears that transfer the power from the drive train to your wheels, which is why they are also referred to as gearboxes. Your gears need to be properly protected so that they can do their job—and last as long as possible.
Your differential is slightly different based on the type of vehicle you are driving. For example, the differential for a front-wheel drive vehicle is called the transaxle and it is located in the front of the vehicle. For vehicles with rear-wheel drive, the differential is in the back of the car. If you have a four-wheel drive vehicle, your differential is located in the front, in the back, and in the middle of the car. 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 ground metal and debris, because the additives that keep the fluid clean and protect the differential break down over time. That is why we recommend having your differential fluid changed at certain maintenance intervals.
Your differential, along with the gears in a manual transmission, require regular service for optimal performance. Your Kalispell automotive service advisor can give you more information about when to schedule your next differential service. 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, you will want to service your differential more frequently. "Severe service" conditions are defined in most owners' manuals as frequent starts and stops, short trips, sever weather conditions, and towing. All these conditions add to the stress of the vehicle and its parts. Off-roading in Montana can be especially hard on differentials. Proper service will extend the life of your gears and keep them running smoothly. If you have never had your differential checked, visit us at https://lorensauto.com/contact-us/ for more information.