on video Differential | How does it work?


Simply put, a 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.

At the point you might be asking, why would I want the wheels to spin at different speeds from each other?

If you're a petrolhead, it's probably painfully obvious. Then again, if you're a petrolhead then you wouldn't be reading an article explaining how a differential works.

It all comes down to basic physics.

Imagine a cardboard box car with milk bottle cap wheels threaded on to straw axels. You can roll it back and forth as much as you like. It will roll freely and smoothly.

Turn it around a corner and you'll have no issues, as each wheel is able to turn independently from the other.

Now try gluing the wheels to the straw axle. You'll notice that the wheels are now slipping and sliding across the floor as you try and turn. This is because each of the wheels has to travel a different distance but are locked together on one single axle.

Let's ramp it up a notch. Imagine you're trying to turn a 2 tonne vehicle at 60mph with these locked wheels. The wheels aren't just going to skip across the road. They're being pushed hard into the tarmac. These huge forces put an enormous strain on the entire structure of the vehicle.

You'll struggle to turn at all, never mind smoothly and safely at high speeds.

Engineers had to think of a clever way of connecting the wheels to the power output of the engine, but allow each wheel to move at a different speed from the other.

When you look at a complete modern differential – it looks incredibly complicated.

However, when you break it down and systematically understand thes of what it's trying to achieve and how it's fundamental trying to achieve it, you'll notice that it really is quite a beautiful thing.

For a retro look at the differential, check out this video from Chevrolet motors.

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