How to Diagnose Some Common Problems With a Car's Differential and Steering

Your car's differential system is a set of gears attached to each wheel; these gears allow two wheels to rotate at different speeds even though they're attached to each other. When your car turns a corner, the wheels on the inside of that turn will travel less distance so they actually need to move slower than the wheels on the outside of the turn. The differential gears are what allow them to do this, and when the differential system needs repairs, you may note problems turning your car or steering it. However, not all steering or turning problems are the differentials, so note a few tips for diagnosing problems you might be having. This will help you to know the repair bill you might be facing.


If you hear what sounds like howling from the tires of your car, this is often a problem with the differentials. When the gears are worn or have slipped out of place, this allows for air to circulate and for the gears to grind. The sound may resemble howling or a loud rustling sound. This is often more common when you accelerate or turn a corner, as this is when the gears are working to ensure that the tires are spinning at the right speed.

A howling sound may also mean that there is not proper lubrication in the gears of the differential. As they rub together without being properly lubricated, you may hear a howl from the two pieces of metal scraping against each other. Overlooking this can mean allowing the gears to wear down.

Banging and clunking

If you hear what resembles banging and clunking, especially when you turn a corner, this often means that the bearings in the gears are worn. The bearings keep the gears rotating, and when they wear down, the gears will clunk or bang together. This can also mean that the gears are so worn that they've slipped out of place and your car simply clunks when you turn a corner.

On the other hand, a clunking or banging from a tire can also mean that your car has a broken shock, and the car simply bangs every time you hit a dip in the road. The tie rods, which keep the tires connected to the steering column, can also be broken or bent so that the tires clunk or bang. When the tie rods are broken, you may feel resistance or drag on one tire, as it's not being controlled by the steering column.