Diagnosing Differential Problems

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Driveline, Axle, Ring and Pinion Gear and Differential Noise

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.

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Ring & Pinions

Sierra Gear

Sierra Gear and Axle produces a premium line of aftermarket ring and pinion sets. These are available for Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, GM, Jeep, Toyota, and Suzuki. These gear sets are designed and engineered to the highest quality specifications for use on the street, off road or on the track.

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