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What is a Differential?

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What is a Differential?

When it comes to some of the more technical aspects of a vehicle’s engineering, many shoppers might not understand or realize what a feature is for. For this week’s How’s This Work, we’re going to look at one of those features today as we look at a mechanical device you might’ve heard of when shopping for a new car: a differential.

[ LAST WEEK: What is Honda HomeLink? ]

How does a differential work?

In a literal sense, a differential is a gear train that is comprised of three shafts: one that has an angular velocity that is the average of the other two’s. We realize that this dictionary definition doesn’t exactly give you the best idea of what it is or what it does let alone how it works, so we’ll try to explain it a little better.

When a vehicle that has two drive wheels – for instance, a rear wheel drive is driven by both of its back wheels – tries to make a turn, its wheels need to travel at different speeds. As you make a right turn, you right wheel doesn’t need to travel as far as your left wheel. Because of this, your inside wheel rotates much faster than the outside wheel, which can cause your tires to wear down much faster while also leaving you with unpredictable handling. You don’t want either of these things to happen, so you want a car with a differential.

The differential permits your two drive wheels to travel at different speeds, thus solving all of the issues for you. Feel free to give us a call to make sure that the vehicle you want has a differential installed!

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