Apart from the engine, no other part in your car works as hard as the differential. Think of what it has to do. It needs to convert the energy produced by the motor into traction, divert this energy through 90° and deal with the resistance created by the road surface beneath. It's amazing how the internal components put up with this type of stress and also not surprising that they can fail occasionally. What should you know about differential operation, so that you can help to ensure that it lasts?
How Does This Work?
The differential is something like a sporting referee. It has to balance both sides by allowing the engine to run at full capacity, while the road wheels encounter a variety of different conditions in rapid succession. It's very carefully engineered, so that the car can travel at different speeds and tackle obstacles or gradients. Much of its work is in stepping down the power so that it doesn't overwhelm the road wheels and is appropriate for whatever conditions are encountered.
The Great Protector
Internally, rugged mechanical components work together to cater with enormous forces. Engineers have developed the right type of lubricant to deal with these stresses and without this specific type of oil, your differential would not last very long. The friction would cause overheating and the metal components would invariably fail. When you realise exactly what is going on in there, you know how important it is to get the top-of-the-line differential oil and always make sure that it is there in sufficient quantities.
Even though this oil represents a masterpiece of design, it cannot last forever. When metal encounters metal under pressure, miniature specks will break off and over time the buildup will contaminate the fluid. As this happens, it will become less consistent and not able to provide as much protection as before. In this situation, the transmission components will be subject to an increased amount of wear and tear.
Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind?
All of this is going on within the differential casing and is of course out of sight. Many motorists won't act until they can actually see, feel or hear any potential trouble. Consequently, they ignore the manufacturer recommended instructions to check or change the oil, but they do this at their peril. If you don't take the car in for a regular service according to these intervals, you shouldn't be surprised if problems do arise. If the oil is compromised or may be beneath the recommended level, the entire unit could suddenly fail.
When you look at it this way, your responsibility is clear. All you need to do is ensure that the oil is the correct grade, is always at a sufficient level and is changed regularly. Maybe it's time for you to schedule a visit to your mechanic?