Can You Drive With A Bad Differential?

The differential is a gearbox that enables various steering wheels (the wheels to which the engine sends power) within the same axle to spin at varying speeds when the automobile is moving. A differential is also the element that enables a rotating driveshaft to change position. For instance, in a rear-wheel-drive car, the driveshaft connects and transmits power to an axle that passes perpendicular to the vehicle. This powers the left and right wheels. These components are low-maintenance and should last the car’s life.

However, there may be a suggested repair interval for checking or replacing the oil. It’s worth noting that a four-wheel-drive vehicle can have two or even more differentials. Binding and vibration during turns or sounds spanning from clunking to howling can signify a malfunctioning differential.

So, what transpires if you have a faulty differential. Also, what should you anticipate, and how can you fix it? Let’s have a look at these.

Can I drive without differential?

Although driving with a faulty differential is theoretically doable, it has long-term consequences. The purpose of a differential in a car, truck, or other vehicle is to distribute engine power to the wheels to achieve a specific speed or torque. Also, it can assist in performing tricky turns.Can I drive without differential

As a result, it’s reasonable to state that a differential in a car or truck plays a vital role.

Therefore, if your differential breaks or fails when driving and you have to get to a repair facility to have it repaired, you may try your luck and call for assistance.

Driving a car or vehicle with a faulty differential to the repair facility may be risky. However, disregarding or postponing the repair and driving to home, work, or school with a broken differential puts your life in jeopardy.

Let’s say you stumble into an accident, and the inquiry reveals that you were aware of your car’s fault but chose to disregard it. Understandably, you’ll end up in a lot of trouble. Therefore, you better call a tow truck to take your vehicle to a repair facility for towing.

What Are the Signs of a Differential Going Bad?

Recognizing the signs of a faulty rear differential will keep you from having to deal with all kinds of drivability problems. Irrespective of the nature of differential you have, make sure it’s in good operating order. Like any other machine part, a malfunctioning or damaged rear differential will show indications to alert the driver. Here are some of the signs that your differential is failing.What Are the Signs of a Differential Going Bad

Extreme Noise:

A malfunctioning differential [both front and rear] produces whirring, screeching, whining, and humming noises. These noises will progressively shift during deceleration, acceleration, or turning around a corner.

An old and worn bearing in the axle or carrier is frequently the source of a screeching or whining noise in a vehicle. When it creates a screeching or whining noise, it’s usually because the ring and pinion gears are broken or worn out.

Difficulty Controlling the Wheels:

Let’s say you’re having trouble controlling your wheels, specifically in a corner. You may need to stop over and examine your differential and any other parts connected to it in this situation. Check the universal bearing and propeller, for example. Driving your car can become problematic if you have a damaged differential, potentially leading to an accident.


You should take vibrations from your car seriously. These could indicate a rear-end differential problem or another problem with the rear wheels. If you notice a vibration coming from your back wheels, examine your differential instantly. Also, consult your technician for a comprehensive examination.

Read Also: Can I Drive 200 Miles On A Donut? 

What is the Reason for Damaged Differential?

Because the differential is a simple mechanical system, it might break down for various reasons. Let’s have a look at these factors.

Lack of Oil:

The most prominent reason for a faulty differential is a lack of oil, leading to high grinding, carrier breakage, or rear-wheel blockage. Various factors can cause a lack of oil or low differential fluid. Oil leaks are common when you have a damaged differential seal or fractured housing.Lack of Oil in car

In addition, differentials might fail if you push too hard. This means they have been through multiple drag races, burnouts, and other activities. Additionally, differentials built of light steel that cannot sustain engine power and torque for an extended time can fail to function.

Normal Wear:

The differential can malfunction due to normal wear. A normal wear is the inevitable deterioration of structural devices over time due to continuous or regular use.

Normal wear should not be confused with a lack of lubrication, inadequate servicing, and maintenance, or the use of the incorrect oil type. It occurs as a result of your vehicle’s use.

Read Also: How to Tell if Engine Is Damaged From No Oil?

How Much Does It Cost to Fix a Rear Differential?

The estimated price of a complete rear differential repair is between $1000 and $4000. Fortunately, you may simply fix it or change it with a secondhand differential, which will drastically reduce your costs.How much does it cost to fix a rear differential

The majority of differential fixes will cost between $200 and $400. Of course, the extent of the issue and the components that need to be changed will determine this.

You may have to invest between $400 and $1,000 on a new differential. The cost of repairing a differential, on the other hand, is from $1,000 to $2,000 on average. Most people will not be able to complete this task without the assistance of a qualified mechanic.

What Is the Best Way to Service My Car’s Differential?

In addition to replacing your engine oil and topping up supplies, you must remember to service your vehicle’s rear differential. Understanding how to service your car’s rear axle and when to do so is an essential servicing habit to develop.What Is the Best Way to Service My Car's Differential

The rear axle housing supports the axles and differential carrier, which transmit power from the vehicle engine to the rear wheels.

To service your car’s differential, follow the steps below.

1. Jack up the car:

Utilizing a floor jack to lift the automobile and put it on jack stands is among the most important steps in maintaining your vehicle, except for trucks. It allows you to clear adequate room to perform the maintenance.

2. Drain the fluid:

After jacking up the automobile, find the differential cover or drain port. It may include a drain plug at the housing bottom. This is something you would perhaps remove to drain out the gear oil. It may also include a rear cover that you need to remove before maintenance.

Remove the cover bolts and set an oil catch pan beneath the differential housing. To hold the lid, make sure there are at least three bolts at the bottom. Then, using a screwdriver, detach the top from the differential as the gear oil drips. Loosen the three bolts at the bottom of the housing to let the cover slide off, revealing the differential’s inner workings.

3. Wipe the lid and remove the gasket:

Clean the cover well with carburetor cleaner and a cotton cloth. Then remove and wipe the old gasket material off the differential housing gasket correctly. When you reinstall the cover, it will cover the housing adequately.

4. Attach the cover gasket:

Remove the cover gasket from the package and examine it thoroughly. Next, align it with the top or backing plate. Use a gasket sealant to keep the gasket in place as you reattach the cover. Put the sealant inside the bolt holes to avoid leaks.

5. Replace the cover:

Put the rear cover in place and use your hand to screw the bolts in a cross pattern. To avoid the deformation lid and the gasket splitting and leaking, do not overtighten the bolts exceeding 5-foot pounds of torque.

Replenish the gear oil by locating the differential fill port near the pinion snout or in the rear cover. Remove the plug once you restore the cover. Then, according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, fill the differential with the prescribed fluid.

After that, double-check the lid for leaks and adjust the bolts as necessary.

Also Know: What Happens When You Put The Wrong Engine Oil in Your Car


In light of the preceding explanation, it is worth emphasizing that the differential is an integral part of a vehicle. This is because it ensures that the vehicle can turn around corners instead of traveling in a straight path.

A poor differential may cause damage to other car parts. More importantly, driving with a faulty differential is very risky. This includes tire damage, whining noise, steering harshness, vibrations, and other symptoms that may provoke an accident.

If you don’t drive a three-wheeler, your car certainly has a differential. Ensure that you service the car’s differential regularly and use the materials indicated by the producer. Also, if you are not a DIY person, take your automobile to a competent auto technician. The technician or mechanic will help with any essential servicing or maintenance. This guarantees the longevity of your car and protects yourself from damage.