5 Symptoms of a Bad Front & Rear Differentials and Repair Cost

When you approach a corner with your vehicle and go to make a turn, the wheels may start revolving at different speeds. This is only able to happen because of the front and rear differentials of the vehicle. They allow you to make smooth turns around corners, since inner wheels will rotate faster than outer wheels while turning. If you did not have any differentials in your vehicle, then all the wheels will revolve at similar speeds. The same outcome would apply if your differentials were to malfunction. Then, as you try to turn a corner with wheels spinning at the same speed, it will create all kinds of stress on various parts and components.

The Top 5 Symptoms of Bad Front & Rear Differentials

There are lots of noticeable symptoms that will present themselves if your front and/or rear differentials start to wear out or get damaged. Below are the top 5 symptoms that you can expect to happen if your differentials go bad.

  1. Tire Damage – If you have wheels and tires traveling at the same speed as you turn a corner, the inner tires are going to have more wear put on them because they’re rotating faster. This means the treads of your tires are going to get worn or possibly even damaged. Since new tires cost at least $100 each these days, you don’t want to chance getting bad tires from having bad differentials.
  2. Difficult Handling – Differentials are what help you handle your vehicle when you make a turn. Since the wheels are not able to readjust their speeds if you have bad differentials, this means you will have a much more difficult time handling your vehicle. In fact, the handling will be quite unpredictable, and this could easily lead to an accident. Anytime you notice handling difficulties, get your vehicle to a mechanic right away and have your differentials checked out.
  3. Vibrations – If the universal joints of your differentials get too worn out, the drive shaft will start to vibrate. You will feel the vibrations even more as you step on the gas pedal to accelerate your vehicle. The vibrations will get even worse if there is a differential fluid leak. Although this might not seem serious, you should let this be an early warning sign that you need to have your differentials checked.
  4. Whining Noises – Whining Noises are actually the most common and noticeable symptom of bad differentials. This could be due to the components of the differentials not being lubricated properly. Perhaps the differentials are leaking fluid and that is causing them to malfunction and go bad. Whenever their components are not being lubricated properly, the whining noises will be there.
  5. Gear Grinding – If you have a worn differential, its gears will start to grind a lot more. This may even cause humming noises to emerge from the grinding of the gears. You will hear the humming sound get louder as you accelerate the vehicle. If you hear this, check your differential gears to see what their condition is like. You’ll likely find that they’re in rough shape and need to be replaced.

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Average Cost of Repair

The average cost of repairing bad front differentials and rear differentials will depend on the severity of their condition. Generally speaking, it should not cost more than $400 to repair most rear or front differentials. Most people pay $200 to $300, though. This would involve repair work related to adjusting the backlash and replacing the oil seal of a differential. But if you need to completely rebuild a differential, then your repair costs will be between $400 and $800. This is still cheaper than having to replace an entire differential, which would be between $1,000 and $2,000.

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