How to Narrow Down the Options When Trying to Diagnose a Differential Issue

Posted on: 19 July 2017


No matter what make or model of car that you own, a certain amount of redundancy is built into the mechanical parts by the manufacturer. Certain components also come under tremendous pressure due to the job that they have to perform and will require additional care and attention if they're going to last as long as possible. Given all that, it shouldn't come as a great surprise if you are encountering some issues with your transmission. It can be challenging to figure out what is going wrong, so where should you start?

Start at the Beginning

Any mechanic will begin the diagnosis by focusing on a sound, a sight or a feeling. This is where you should start, as well, as these sensations will help you to narrow down the options.

Clunking Sound

Are your hearing a strange noise when you're trying to shift gears? Sometimes "a "clunking" sound can indicate that the vehicle's constant velocity joints are wearing down. If the sound seems to be emanating from beneath the car, though, it could be an internal differential fault.

An Extra Pause

If you have an automatic transmission, does there appear to be a slight pause when you move from the park position into drive? If so, see if the clutch needs to be adjusted.

Visible Evidence

Keep your eyes open, as well. If you notice a bright red spot on the tarmac underneath the car in the morning, have a closer look. You will need to determine where this leak is coming from, but you also need to look closely at the consistency of the fluid. If it is a clear red colour and has a really sweet smell, then the fluid is doing its job properly. If it's a darker red and has a burnt aroma, then you need to book the vehicle in for a service. Transmission fluid is not supposed to burn and further inspection is warranted. By the way, you will also need to pinpoint the location of the link and get the appropriate bolts tightened.

Noisy When Still

Sometimes, a transmission system will be noisy when the car is sitting still. Two problems could be evident here. Firstly, the reverse outlet gear could be in need of maintenance, or internal bearing carriers could be worn.

Moving into Gear

Finally, if the car will not move into gear at all, then it's possible that the linkage between the clutch and gear shift needs to be adjusted. Secondly, have a look to see if the fluid is at the correct level. You could also try to reboot the system by disconnecting the battery for a while, before reconnecting.

Looking Further

If you still feel that you haven't narrowed down the problem, take the vehicle into your certified mechanic for further advice.