Your Ultimate Guide to Understanding Limited Slip Differentials

21 November 2016
 Categories: , Blog

Without a functional differential, you would experience many problems when navigating corners and bends while driving. You barely notice its importance because it is neatly tucked under the car and does its work quietly unless there is a mechanical glitch. When you are navigating a corner or bend, your car's wheels travel varying distances, which calls for a compensating mechanism that deals with the tension forces caused by the angular navigation. Limited slip differentials are a reliable alternative that will help you maintain your car's balance on corners and bends. They come as clutch type, gear type, or cone type configuration. Here is a look at each of them to help you make the right choice when replacing your car's diff:

Clutch-type Limited Slip Differential

The clutch-type limited slip differential borrows most of its configuration and functionality from an open differential. At a glance, the open differential comes with a pinion gear on one end of the driveshaft, which links up with a ring gear. The ring gear transmits mechanical force to the axles and facilitates the balanced movement of the car. However, the clutch-type varies slightly from the open differential. It has a spring back that pushes against side gears, generating pressure on a clutch to hold the wheels in sync as they move over an arc. A notable benefit of this configuration is that you can change the springs to vary the pressure applied on the clutch, helping you to match the differential with your driving habits.

Gear-type Limited Slip Differential

Gear-type limited slip differentials are gear-driven differentials that do not employ clutch or friction-dependent cones in their mechanism. They have three helical gear systems with interlocking cogs to transmit mechanical energy and distribute tension forces generated when the wheels move over an arc. The swerving motion that occurs when you are navigating a bend forces a lot of torque bias into the side gears. The higher the level of torque bias, the higher the wedging action of the differential, improving the car's overall traction on the road.

Cone-type Limited Slip Differential

Cone-type differential relies on friction generated by the two cone-shaped gears on the axle. The gears have a friction surface that engages both wheel sets of the car to maximise traction. In this configuration, the friction surface is directly in contact with the axle's carrier case. Through friction, the cone-type absorbs the tension force generated by the wheels as they arc around a bend or corner. Notably, the friction wears out the metallurgical construction of the cone-type and forces you into regular replacements.

The gear-type is the preferable configuration. With no clutching or friction generated, there is no wear and the unit is nearly indestructible. For more information, contact a diff repair professional.