What is a Differential in a Car?

  • Author :
  • TATA AIG Team
  • Published on :
  • 02/11/2023

Everyone loves driving a car, especially on smooth, zigzag and, of course, “traffic-free” roads. It gives the next level of adrenaline rush to the car lovers.

But what if your car could only run in one direction? It means you can go to your desired destination only if it lies in a straight line to your source. And even if you reach, you cannot return simply because your car is not capable of making turns. Sounds terrible! Right?

Fortunately, this is not the case because your car can turn in any direction you want. All thanks to the unsung hero — Car Differential.

In short, the automotive differential works as a driver to your vehicle. It is one of the most essential parts of the car that allows it to turn in any direction you want.

In this blog, we will discuss what a car differential is, how it works, and how to take good care of it.

Read on!

What is a Differential on a Car?

A differential part is one of the most critical components of the vehicles. It is a set of gears that allow a vehicle to make turns when required. It is basically a part of a vehicle's axle assembly, both front and rear.

Note that every vehicle has a different type of differential based on its wheel drive. For instance, if your car is front-wheel drive, it will have a front differential. On the other hand, automobiles with four-wheel drive can utilise both rear and front differentials.

What is the Function of Differential in Automobiles?

As discussed above, a differential is responsible for making a vehicle turn as and when required. To do this, it uses the power from the engine and distributes it to the wheels in such a way that they can move at different speeds or RPMs (Revolution Per Minute).

Let us try to understand the working of the differential in automobiles with an example.

Suppose you are driving a car and suddenly want to make a U-turn from the left side. Now, you will notice that the inside wheels will need to make shorter spins as compared to the external right wheels.

To help them move at different speeds, a set of differential is used. It allows the inner-left wheels to spin at lower RPMs while enabling the outer right wheels to at higher RPMs.

Different Types of Differential in Automobile

There are mainly four main types of differential in automobiles. These are as follows:

Open Differential

It is the most common type of differential in vehicles. It is very simple and works seamlessly on a smooth road. Further, it allows the tyres to receive different torque when cornering. In this case, if any one wheel slips, the entire power is transferred to the wheel with low traction.

Note that the open differentials work perfectly for automobiles that are not intended for racing or heavy off-roading.

Locking Differential

Locking differentials are another popular type of vehicle differential gear. They are sometimes also known as welded differentials as they connect the wheels so that they spin at a similar RPM.

This mechanism makes turning the vehicle a little difficult as compared to the open differential. Moreover, they are commonly used in heavy vehicles such as Jeep Wranglers and Trucks.

Limited Slip Differential

Limited-slip differentials are mostly used in performance vehicles like racing cars. They offer the benefits of both open differential and locking differential.

Although it shares the torque equally between both wheels, it transfers more torque on the wheel with higher traction in case the overall traction becomes low or nil. As a result, the vehicle keeps moving even on slippery surfaces with zero traction.

Torque Vectoring Differential

Finally, there is the torque vectoring differential, which is the most advanced among all. It is a hi-tech vehicle differential that performs the power distribution by electronic means. It makes use of sensors that detect the road surface, throttle position, as well as the functioning of steering.

After assessing these components, it evenly distributes the torque on the left and right wheels using small clutches and controllers. This type of differential offers a seamless performance even on rough terrain. For these reasons, it is commonly used in heavy-performance automobiles.

Can You Drive a Car with Damaged Differentials?

The answer is yes; your car will still run with a damaged differential. However, it is an extremely risky move. It can worsen the situation to an extent where you will not be able to control your car.

Further, if you continue to ignore the damage, it can spread to other parts and decrease the efficiency of your vehicle.

Therefore, to ensure your vehicle’s efficiency and safety, it is advisable to take good care of the differential gears and perform regular maintenance.


As you can see, a differential plays a pivotal role in the smooth functioning of an automobile. To make sure it runs appropriately, consider performing regular maintenance checks on it. Besides, avoid driving your four-wheeler with a damaged differential as it can be dangerous for your and your vehicle’s life.

Here is another important advice for your and your four-wheeler’s safety: purchase the right four-wheeler insurance.

A suitable car insurance policy from Tata AIG not only offers you financial protection in the face of unfortunate events such as a nasty road accident, but it also keeps you safe from any legal troubles and penalties. With Tata AIG, you can make a car insurance claim without any hassle for all covered incidents. .

So, if you haven’t already purchased car insurance, do it right away!


Do electric cars have differentials?

Some electric cars, especially hybrid ones, have differentials. However, few others do not need them as they have

multiple motors that allow the wheels to rotate in an independent manner.

How much does it cost to replace a differential?

The cost of replacing a differential can vary depending on several factors, such as its type, whether it is front-wheel

drive or four-wheel drive, the service provider cost, and so on. It is advisable to contact a reliable differential

replacement service provider for an accurate estimate.

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