Diagnosing Differential Problems

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Driveline, Axle, Ring and Pinion Gear and Differential Noise

Diagnosing differential problems can sometimes be tricky. Noises, vibrations and other irregular driving characteristics can often help diagnose a differential or driveline problem. Here are a few typical symptoms and their possible cause:

  • Whirring noise only while decelerating at any or all speeds is most likely caused by bad pinion bearings or loose pinion bearing preload, and almost never by bad ring and pinion gears.
  • A howl or whine during acceleration over a small or large speed range is usually caused by worn ring and pinion gears or improper gear set up.
  • Rumbling or whirring at speeds over about 20 mph can be caused by worn carrier bearings. The noise may change while turning.
  • Regular clunking every few feet may indicate broken ring or pinion gears.
  • Banging or clunking only on corners can be caused by broken spider gears, lack of sufficient positraction lubrication, or worn positraction clutches.
  • Rumble while turning may indicate bad wheel bearings.
  • A steady vibration that increases with the vehicle’s speed can be caused by worn u-joints or an out of balance driveshaft.
  • Clunking only when starting to move or getting on and off the gas might be loose yokes, bad u-joints or worn transfer case or transmission parts

If you have the differential cover removed, or the third member out of the vehicle, our Failure Analysis page can help you understand what may have caused your differential issue. This page contains images of gear sets with normal wear and various stages of damage and their likely causes.

At West Coast Differentials, we have been diagnosing, repairing and upgrading axles and differentials since 1982. We’re confident we can help with your diagnosis, and we can also provide you with the parts needed to fix it! Give our tech and sales experts a call at (800) 510-0950 and we’ll be happy to help.

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