Certainly, towing can damage the rear differential as long as you fail to disconnect the drive shaft of the vehicle. Interestingly, all-wheel drive (AWD) transfer cases mostly have a differential between the front and rear outputs, which is commonly a viscous coupling or any other type of limited slip.
Most importantly, however, towing with only two wheels on the ground is capable of destroying the differential.
The major cause for differential damage is the use of a wrong or specialty lubricant. Additionally, water may also be complicit in a differential failing to work properly too, since it can squeeze in through vents or even seals, but that usually happens if you are driving in waterlogged areas or terrains.
The differential is located commonly between the rear wheels, and the rear differential takes any rotational energy that is created by the driveshaft and splits it uniformly to the wheels.
All in all, the differentials can go bad over time, due to ordinary wear and tear or even if you take the vehicle for off-roading. Turning or spinning unintentionally, every so often, does not cause any significant harm.
However, in certain instances, particularly when the front wheels remain on the road while the rear wheels slide out, it can cause serious harm. These kinds of driving maneuvers can either crack or even damage some parts of the differential.
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How do you know if the rear differential is bad?
There are common symptoms that are diagnostic of differential problems, such as vibrations. This is basically because a bad differential leads to vibrations, which can increase in regularity and intensity as you increase speed or as you slow down the vehicle.
Secondly, a bad differential produces grinding gears, which is another important sign indicative of a failing differential and the gears are themselves wearing out as well.
Finally, a bad differential can also manifest as whining noises. The instant you observe or notice any of these signs, it is almost certain that you are dealing with a bad differential.
How does towing damage the rear differential?
For one thing, as you tow a vehicle with the wrong lubricants, there is the possibility that metal components in the differential may rub on other metal parts in the process.
As this rubbing continues progressively, it may create vents or even tear up seals, thereby allowing water into the differential over time, which will certainly damage it and lead to its failure altogether.
In addition to this, as you continue to tow the vehicle, you cannot eliminate the chances of normal wear and tear of the moving parts of the differential, and eventually, this constant wear may lead to the differential failing as well.
Similarly, in some instances, you may have to take the vehicle off-road often while towing, and when this happens, it may cause severe damage to the rear differential too.
Also, sometimes, while towing, the front wheels of the vehicle may remain in contact with the road, while the rear wheels may slide out. This can also affect the differential adversely too. Specifically, this manner of towing can lead to the damage or cracking of the parts of the differential as well.
How can I prevent towing from damaging the rear differential?
Preventing damage to your differential during towing is easy, if you know-how, and with the aid of very simple counter-measures. For instance, you should always apply the best lubricants available to your differential, such as a good synthetic lubricant.
Secondly, if you wish to prevent damage to your differential, make sure that you observe the break-in period very carefully too. Specifically, you should not speed at more than 50 mph, do not tow for long distances, and make sure to also keep the pedal at less than half throttle too.
Furthermore, you must not tow or haul for more than the first 3,000 miles, for instance, since doing this will guard against the differential reaching higher temperatures, which may cause the rapid breakdown of the lubricants.
Also, you should make sure to perform your first gear line change at least once every 3, 000 to 5, 000 miles too, with the aid of high-performance synthetic gear oil.
Again, the wheels should also not be allowed to spin freely, especially with intermittent good-to-poor traction, as may prevail in ice, snow, and sand patches on dry soil. This will likely produce excessive wheel speed, which may damage the internal components of a differential or drive train, such as the universal joints.
In addition, if you want to prevent damage to your differential, you should regularly inspect both the breather fitting and tube. There is also the need to upgrade the cover of your differential too, to prevent its damage.
Finally, the moment your differential begins to produce curious noises, your lubricant may be low, against which you should take urgent measures without any delay. Consequently, stop the vehicle immediately and fill up the lubricant.
For temporary uses, you may add fully synthetic gear oil to the full point of the lubricant. Also, make sure to clean and refill with AMSOIL, which could save your differential as well.
Can rear differential cause transmission problems?
Yes, rear differential can lead to transmission complaints, but under certain conditions. For example, if your differential does not operate as it ought to, it can cause metal-on-metal friction, which can, in turn, lead to the wearing of these rubbing metal surfaces.
Also, any heat generated may weaken the gears which can equally cause the components to fail, thereby compounding any transmission problems as well. Generally, a bad differential can make the car to be difficult to control, especially when turning corners which is very dangerous.
Although, there are experts who still posit that a bad rear differential hardly hurt an automatic transmission system, particularly since the only part attaching them is the driveshaft.
This implies that they are independent assemblies. Furthermore, it is common knowledge that transmission damage from a rear collision hardly occurs. All the same, some vehicles are more prone to rear-end transmission damage than others too.
(1). What causes a differential to lock up?
A few causes are indicated on why a differential may lock up. However, some major causes are low fluid in the differential, problems with the differential side gears, a ring, and pinion failure, or even a failing limited-slip unit. In any case, the first thing to check when this happens is the level of and condition of your differential fluid.
Whenever the wheel is locked, the air in it hardly receives any torque since there will be no traction and again, the wheel on the ground may receive all the torque, thus, allowing the vehicle to move. A locked rear differential once engaged, does not permit the wheels to spin freely.
However, by ensuring that both wheels spin at the same rate, and also by applying unequal torque to each of the tires on the axle, you are likely going to lose traction as well, or even decrease spinning out of the wheels dramatically.
To turn off a locked differential, you should first, flip its control lever to the ‘Unlock’ position. Then, you should let up on the accelerator pedal momentarily to relieve torque and allow the sliding clutch to disengage as well. Before you can ascertain whether a differential is locked, you should jack up the rear tires of the vehicle.
Next, using both hands in the air, turn the tires one after the other. One side should turn in the opposite direction if it is locked. You should then engage the locker before spinning the tire again.
After turning a few degrees, it should also lock up and stop turning altogether, which proves that your differential is indeed locked.
(2). Should rear tires to spin freely?
Of course, your rear tires should spin freely when they are both lifted off the ground. Therefore, when you spin only one tire, and the other spins in an opposite direction or does not spin at all, it is likely that you have an open carrier too.
All in all, both the front and rear axles can turn independently of each other. This arrangement is used in mostly dry weather conditions since rounding corners in fully locked 4 WD may cause excessive wear on the drive train.
(3). Does the driveshaft spin in the park?
No, the driveshaft does not spin in the park. As a result, whenever the vehicle is in the park and also lifted with its rear wheels totally off the ground, the driveshaft should equally be locked up by the parking pin, but should not spin.
In this case, the wheels may spin, but the actual driveline is supposed to be stationary if the tyranny is in the park. Otherwise, the vehicle may roll off when in the park as well.
Conclusion – Can Towing Damage Rear Differential
Unless you disengage the driveshaft, towing a vehicle can damage your rear differential. Particularly, when you tow with two wheels on the ground, you are more likely to damage the differential.
Consequently, ensure that you use the most recommended and appropriate lubricant on the differential and also make sure that water does not get into it as well. This will protect your rear differential from any likely damage.