How a Differential Works and Types of Differentials

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Without a differential an automobile is very dangerous and ineffective, it is likely that your automobile will last about half its intended lifespan and will also create huge difficulties in turning. The differential is a key part of an automobile’s drivetrain, it allows the vehicle to effectively maneuver turns and cornering. Different differentials approach the goal of increasing a vehicles maneuverability around corners and in sticky situations with different mechanical approaches; there is an ideal differential for snow and ice, dirt and offroading, and for street driving.

To understand why an automobile needs a differential one must first have a basic understanding of physics and geometry. The driven wheels on a car are the wheels that are given power through the engine and transmission, on a rear wheel drive it is the rear wheel and on a front wheel drive it is the front wheels (How Differentials Work). When cornering a turn the driven wheels of a vehicle go in an arcing path, an arc is part of a circle and because the outside wheel (the wheel opposite the side of the car in which the direction you are turning) is further from the turning point than the inside wheel. Because of the larger distance from the turning point the outside wheel must travel farther than the inside wheel. You must take notice that the equation for speed is distance divided by time, so one can infer that the outside wheel must travel the farther distance in less time than the inside wheel, meaning it must travel faster than the inside wheel, to keep the wheel from sliding and ruining the tire and putting stress on the driven axle (Halderman). There are four different types of differentials that deal with this issue very differently:...

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