Signs Your Vehicle’s Differential Is Failing

The differential, or simply diff, is a component in your car that uses a series of specialised gears to allow wheels connected to a similar axle to turn efficiently at different speeds. The diff is crucial to the functioning of your vehicle, especially when it comes to making effective turns. Like many vehicle components, your vehicle's diff may become faulty over time. Knowing the symptoms of a failing or bad differential is essential and can save you from drivability problems. Fortunately, your vehicle will always exhibit specific signs and symptoms when your differential starts failing. Here are some of the signs you should be keen to notice.

Unusual Noises

Unusual sounds are some of the most standard signs of a problematic component in your vehicle. Therefore, you will start noticing strange sounds when your differential becomes faulty. The noises can vary from whining sounds, whirring noises, humming sounds, howling noises and the like. Generally, this is often a result of worn or loose worn carrier bearings, bad wheel bearings, broken cornering gears or broken pinion-gear teeth. In most cases, you will notice these sounds when making turns or during acceleration or deceleration.


Strange vibrations are also other common signs of a problematic differential. These vibrations typically intensify upon acceleration and tend to be constant. And generally, they are caused by worn-out differential joints. However, like strange sounds, unusual vibrations can signify many other issues with your car. Therefore, have a professional mechanic check it out before you conclude that it's a differential problem.

Difficulty In Handling

The differential is the component that allows you to make perfect turns with your vehicle. Therefore, when it starts failing, you will notice a difference in your drivability. Most significantly, you will notice a reduction in precision when making turns. Since the diff helps the wheels turn smoothly and quickly when driving at speeds, they may not readjust correctly when the diff starts failing. Therefore, handling your vehicle may become difficult, especially when driving at speeds that can be dangerous.

Leaking Differential Oil

Leaks are other common signs of vehicle issues. Unfortunately, it's not always easy to figure out what the leak is because vehicles rely on many different types of fluids. However, one quick way that can help you know whether the leak if from your differential is to check the leak's origin. For instance, if the leak is from under the axles, chances are it's a differential leak. However, it's always best to check with a professional mechanic to confirm whether your diff has a problem. Contact a mechanic to learn more.