What is A Differential : Types, How Does a Differential Work?

A differential is a type of device used in vehicles, which is used in vehicles of 3 wheelers or more wheels.

Through the transmission gearbox, differentials are used to transmit the power of the vehicle’s engine to the wheels.

What Is A Differential (Mechanical Device)


The differential divides the engine’s torque into two outputs, enabling each to spin at a separate speed. The wheels of the vehicle are differentially connected to the axles.

In three- or more-wheeled vehicles, the differential is used to increase or decrease the speed of the wheels when the vehicle turns.

The differential unit divides the torque of the engine into two separate parts according to the situation and reaches the drive wheel.

Thereby, the drive wheel reduces the movement of the inside steering wheel while cutting turns and the speed of the outer wheel increases automatically.

The set of wheels, drive shaft, solid shaft, ring gear, pinion gear, spider gear, differential cage and side gear are fitted in the differential, which gives movement to the drive wheels of the vehicle through the axle.

Types of Differential Gear

Commonly, four types of differential systems are used in vehicles.

1. Open Differential

Usually, this type of differential is used in cars meant for personal use. This type of differential is used in cars in which engine torque is transmitted to the rear wheel by the propeller shaft.

In those cars, the drive is fitted in the center of the wheels and the front drive wheels are fitted in the transmission gearbox by shortening this, which changes the speed of the drive wheels when the car takes a turn.

2. Locking Differential

This type of differential is used for trucks, tractors and heavy vehicles. In which rotation power is added to the drive wheels through differential lock according to the need and situation. so that both the drive wheels can achieve the same speed.

And according to the need, both the wheels can exert equal thrust. This differential has a separate lever for the lock on the outside. which can be used as per the requirement. And this lock can be opened when not needed.

3. Limited Slip Differential

This type of differential is used in sports cars when one of the drive wheels loses traction while taking turns. This locking differential is then transferred automatically.

This allows the wheels to have more control and traction with the road surface. A limited-slip differential also works on the mechanism of an open differential.

4. Torque-Vectoring Differential

Such differentials are used in trains. which fine-tunes the engine torque given to each wheel. Due to which each wheel turns and adjusts the speed according to the need.

How Does A Differential Work?

Differential is a kind of mechanism system. The differential controls and manages the rotation speed of the vehicle’s drive wheels when a vehicle is moving in a straight direction.

So the differential unit transmits the torque of the engine to the drive wheels at the same speed.

But when the vehicle is turned in any direction, the differential then slows down, by an automatic mechanism, the movement of a drive wheel on the inside of the vehicle in the turning direction. and accelerates the speed of the drive wheel on the outside site. This happens for this.

When the vehicle takes a turn in any direction. Then the wheel on the inner side covers less distance. And the outside-facing wheel covers more distance.

Therefore, there is a difference in the speed of both wheels at the time of taking a turn. Because if the speed of one wheel is not reduced at the time of taking a turn, the vehicle cannot turn properly.

Due to which there will be more friction in the tires. And the vehicle will sleep in the event of a turn. But this speed remains the same when the vehicle is moving straight.

How Do Differential Gears Work?

1. Vehicle Moving in Straight Direction

In the differential, the torque power of the engine is transmitted through the pinion to the crown ring. The crown is attached to the ring with the spider gear.

The spider gear in the differential unit manages two types of rotation speed, pin on the crown ring and the other on the rotation axis.

The teeth of the spider gear meet with the teeth of the two side gears and through these gears, the torque power of the engine is transferred through a pinion to the right and left drive wheels.

When the vehicle is moving in a straight direction. Then the spider gear does not rotate on its axis. But the crown will rotate with the ring. This causes the spider gear to turn the side gear.

Due to this, both the gears rotate at the same speed. and provide equal speed to the right and left drive wheels. So when the vehicle moves in a straight direction. Then the speeds of the right and left drive wheels remain the same.

2. When The Vehicle Starts Turning

In this case, the spider gear of the differential rotates on its axis while rotating with the crown ring. Thereby, the spider gear makes a combined rotation. In this position, the spider gear is spinning as well as rotating. So the left peripheral velocity of the spider gear remains the same.

When spinning and rotating, increase the velocity according to the direction of the turn. Then the spider gear on the left gets the peripheral velocity.

And when spinning and rotation decrease the velocity, Then the speed of the spider gear on the right side will increase. Due to this, the speed of the right side drive wheel will increase.

Symptoms Of A Bad Differential

A differential is a mechanical gear system. in which wear and tear is a natural process over time.

Hence, the symptoms and signs of a bad or worn differential should be taken care of, so that you can fix it in time and avoid any major breakage. Some of the symptoms and signs of a bad or worn differential are as follows:

  • Driveline noise and vibration
  • Screeching sound under the vehicle
  • Strange noises when turning the vehicle
  • Whispering Sound
  • Oil leakage from the differential area
  • Vehicle turning problem
  • Feeling of vibration in the cabin while the vehicle is moving
  • Jerking on slow or high acceleration

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