The differential is designed to ensure that during a turn the outer drive wheel of your vehicle rotates faster than the inner drive wheel. For rear-wheel-drive vehicles, the differential housing is at the rear and it contains a thick dark oil that is normally heavier than 75 weight. In front-wheel-drive vehicles, it is normally part of the transmission housing and uses the same fluid. The differential fluid lubricates the ring and pinion gears which transfer power from the driveshaft to the wheel axle. If your vehicle experiences differential fluid leaks, the fluid lubricating these gears will run low and as a result, the gears can be seriously damaged.
Identifying Differential Fluid Leaks
When your vehicle is leaking differential fluid, you may notice traces of oil on the underside of the differential or even puddles of fluid on the ground directly beneath your differential. You may also notice a whining sounds as the gears mesh since there may not be enough fluid for the gears to operate smoothly.
The most Common Causes of Differential Fluid Leaks
There is a number of causes for differential leaks which you need to have repaired as soon as possible before you damage the gears inside your differential housing. The cause for a leak could be a leaking gasket, a leaking pinion seal or a differential side seal.
The gasket for differential housings is usually silicon or rubber which can wear out with normal wear and tear. If this gasket deteriorates, then you may experience a leak.
Differential Pinion Seal
At the front of the differential, there is a yoke that attaches to the driveshaft. The seal around the yoke is made of rubber which may be damaged or eventually wear out and develop a leak.
Differential Side Seals
Differential side seals prevent differential fluid from leaking onto the brakes. Like the differential pinion seal, they are made of rubber which may be damaged or deteriorate with the passage of time and develop a leak.