Differential is a system that transmits an engine’s torque to the wheels
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Differential

Differential Introduction

Differential is a system that transmits an engine’s torque to the wheels. The differential takes the power from the engine and splits it, allowing the wheels to spin at different speeds.

In automobiles and other wheeled vehicles, the differential allows the outer drive wheel to rotate faster than the inner drive wheel during a turn. This is necessary when the vehicle turns, making the wheel that is traveling around the outside of the turning curve roll farther and faster than the other. The average of the rotational speed of the two driving wheels equals the input rotational speed of the drive shaft. An increase in the speed of one wheel is balanced by a decrease in the speed of the other.

Differential description

  • Differential (mechanical device), as part of a powertrain and car, the device that allows each of the driving wheels to rotate at different speeds Limited-slip differential
  • Differential steering, the steering method used by tanks and similar tracked vehicles
  • Electronic differential, an electric motor controller which substitutes its mechanical counterpart with significant advantages in electric vehicle application
  • Differential signaling, in electronics, applies to a method of transmitting electronic signals over a pair of wires to reduce interference
  • Differential amplifier an Electronic amplifier that amplifies signals.

Differential Picture

Why You Need a Differential

Car wheels spin at different speeds, especially when turning. You can see from the animation that each wheel travels a different distance through the turn, and that the inside wheels travel a shorter distance than the outside wheels. Since speed is equal to the distance traveled divided by the time it takes to go that distance, the wheels that travel a shorter distance travel at a lower speed. Also note that the front wheels travel a different distance than the rear wheels.

For the non-driven wheels on your car -- the front wheels on a rear-wheel drive car, the back wheels on a front-wheel drive car -- this is not an issue. There is no connection between them, so they spin independently. But the driven wheels are linked together so that a single engine and transmission can turn both wheels. If your car did not have a differential, the wheels would have to be locked together, forced to spin at the same speed.

This would make turning difficult and hard on your car: For the car to be able to turn, one tire would have to slip. With modern tires and concrete roads, a great deal of force is required to make a tire slip. That force would have to be transmitted through the axle from one wheel to another, putting a heavy strain on the axle components.

How it works

Assuming the wheels do no slip and spin out of control, the following two examples of car motion describe how the differential works when the car is going forward and when it is turning. (see Limited Slip Differential section for wheel slipping).

When the car is traveling straight, both wheels travel at the same speed. Thus, the free-wheeling planet pinions do not spin at all. Instead, as the transmission shaft turns the crown wheel, the rotary motion is translated directly to the half-shafts, and both wheels spin with the angular velocity of the crown wheel (they have the same speed).
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