Differential & Drivetrain

A well-maintained differential will keep your vehicle's gears and wheels turning and pulling smoothly and repair-free.

DIFFERENTIAL SERVICES

When a car makes a left turn, the interior-facing wheels (on the left side) naturally turn slower than the exterior-facing wheels (on the right side) because the exterior-facing wheels have to travel farther to get the car around the corner. For this reason, the wheels of a car need to be able to revolve independently and at varying speeds to prevent slipping, and to keep the car moving with power around corners.

A car’s differential is a mechanical set of simple planetary gears that allows wheels to spin at independent speeds, and to be independently powered by the engine through the car’s drive-train.

FRONT AND REAR DIFFERENTIAL

Whether or not your car has one or two differentials depends on how the wheels of your vehicle are powered. If you have a rear-wheel drive vehicle your car uses engine power to move only the rear wheels, so you will only have one differential mounted on the rear axle. If you have an all-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicle your car is built in a way that allows the engine to send power to all four wheels, so you will have both a front differential and rear differential. If you have a front-wheel drive vehicle, instead of a differential you will likely have a trans-axle that functions as both the transmission and the differential. Rear wheel drive vehicles will have a differential in the rear end of the car.

DIFFERENTIAL FLUIDS:

Inside your differential you’ll find lots of interlacing gears and bearings. These gears all rely on each other and a lubricant called differential fluid to keep the differential transferring power smoothly and seamlessly. Front differential, rear differential and limited slip differential (LSD) all require different gear oils to lubricate and keep the differential drive components cool.

DIFFERENTIAL PROBLEMS AND SYMPTOMS:

If one of the bearings in your differential becomes loose, or if thin differential fluid is causing metal on metal grinding and untimely wear you might experience the following symptoms:

  • A whirring noise either while decelerating or at speeds that exceed 15 mph
  • A rumbling sound that starts when the car is traveling faster than 15 mph
  • A persistent clunking sound
  • A high pitched howling sound during acceleration
  • A banging or skipping when cornering

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms it’s a good indication that you may already have a problem, or are well on your way to having a problem with your car’s differential. For this reason we recommended you bring your vehicle into your neighborhood Castrol Premium Lube Express for a Inspection as soon as possible. During every oil change service, our technicians inspect your steering and suspension components, including the differential.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD I COME IN FOR DIFFERENTIAL SERVICE?

Since your vehicle cannot function without a differential, we highly recommend getting your differential inspected, and the differential fluid changed, as a part of your regular vehicle maintenance routine.

How often differential service is required will vary from car to car based on vehicle make, model and mileage.

To learn more about your vehicle’s recommended differential service interval, consult your vehicle owner’s manual or contact a certified technician at your nearest Castrol Premium Lube Express.

CV JOINTS/AXLES

CV joints (constant velocity joints) are flexible joints that evenly transfer power from a vehicle’s transaxle or differential to the CV axle half shafts and onto the wheels. There are several intricate parts that make a CV joint work, but the two most important parts – and the parts most likely to need service – are the cage and bearings that give the joint its fluid flexibility, and the CV boot that protects the bearings. 

Constant velocity joints are special – and especially important to front-wheel and all-wheel vehicles – because of the flexibility their ball-bearing construction lends to the vehicle’s drive axles. Because CV joints are equipped with roller bearings, they are able to continuously transfer a constant velocity from the transaxle or differential, to the CV axle half shafts. CV joints even transfer power while absorbing the up and down motion that naturally happens with the suspension components and tires rolling on bumpy roads with debris, and the left and right motion of front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive steering. 

Front-wheel drive vehicles have two CV axles in the front, rear-wheel drive vehicles with independent rear suspension have two CV axles in the rear, and all-wheel drive vehicles have four CV Axles connected to the drive wheels. The CV axles are always connected to a transaxle and/or a differential, giving power to the drive wheels. 

Since functioning CV axles and CV joints ensure that power is continually transferred to the drive wheels, a corroded, locked up or otherwise malfunctioning CV joint will often result in lost power transfer and CV axle failure.

SYMPTOMS YOUR CV JOINTS MAY NEED TO BE REPLACED

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms when driving your vehicle, it may be time to replace your CV joints:

  • Unnatural humming or clunking sounds coming from your vehicle when you are accelerating or decelerating with engine load
  • A clicking noise that occurs when driving around corners
  • A clicking noise when performing a sharp U-turn
  • Noticeable vibrations felt in the cab of the car, especially while accelerating
  • A burning smell (this can be caused by a CV Joint leaking grease onto exhaust or brake systems)
  • A visible broken, displaced or cracked CV joint boot (you will be able to see this by simply looking under the vehicle, and at the CV joint with a flashlight)
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I GET MY CV JOINTS SERVICED?

Your CV joints are a critical component that keeps the wheels on your car moving, and you on the road. For this reason we highly recommend a drive-train the CV joint and CV boot components as a regular part of your vehicle maintenance routine. It’s relatively easy to visually inspect your own CV boot at home; simply inspect the exterior of the boot looking to make sure the boot is sealed tight and undamaged.

Another option is to bring your car into Castrol Premium Lube Express for regular steering and suspension maintenance checks. During these checks our technicians will inspect your vehicle’s CV joints and boots, as well as your CV axle half shafts, universal joints and 10 other critical steering and suspension components.

If you are experiencing unnatural vibrations, clunks, clicks or any of the other symptoms outlined above, we highly recommend bringing your vehicle in for service as soon as possible since those indicators are a good sign your CV joints may already be damaged and on its way out to failure.

OUR GUARANTEE:   We promise that every service we perform at Castrol Premium Lube Express will be done right, period.  We stand behind our work 100%. 
Service RecommendationService Takes
Every 1 to 2 Years5 to 10 Minutes

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