What’s the Difference Between the Driveshaft and Differential?

If you are an average car owner and driver, there are some components of your vehicle that you probably don’t even know exist. The truth is, just because you don’t know or think about them, doesn’t mean that they don’t play a major role in your car, truck, or SUV working as it should. Two vehicle components that many people are not familiar with, are the driveshaft and differential. So what are they? What’s the difference between the driveshaft and differential? Why do they matter to your vehicle and should they matter to you?

What’s the Difference Between the Driveshaft and Differential?

If you are just a daily driver and don’t really get into vehicles and their inner workings, the driveshaft or drive shaft, and differential may both sound like a foreign language to you. Every part of your vehicle serves a purpose and these two components are no exception. They are both key players in ensuring you and your vehicle make it down the road and they are both part of the drivetrain in a vehicle. A drivetrain (also frequently spelled as drive train or sometimes drive-train) is the group of components that deliver mechanical power from the prime mover to the driven components. The function of the drivetrain is to couple the engine that produces the power to the driving wheels that use this mechanical power to rotate the axle (Wikipedia).

These two vehicle components both work to transfer power from the engine and transmission to the wheels, but serve different purposes. We further breakdown the difference between the driveshaft and differential below.

Driveshaft: This is the first component in the driveline. It is connected to the transmission and begins the power transfer process that goes into the differential(s), axle shafts, and wheels. The drive shaft is a cylinder, usually made of steel or sometimes aluminum. Most automobiles use driveshafts to deliver power from the engine to the wheels.

The driveshaft is a component of the drivetrain in a vehicle, with the purpose of delivering torque from the transmission to the differential, which then transmits this torque to the wheels in order to move the vehicle. The driveshaft is primarily used to transfer torque between components that are separated by a distance, since different components must be in different locations in the vehicle (Energy Education). In simple words, the main function of the driveshaft is to deliver the engine torque from the differential to the vehicle wheel.

Differential: A differential controls power to the individual drive wheels on either side of the vehicle. It is crucial for stability and energy efficiency. A front-wheel drive car will have a front differential. A rear-wheel drive vehicle will have a rear differential. An all-wheel drive will have both front and rear differentials to control all four wheels individually.

The root word of differential is different. The differential is a system that allows the drive wheels to turn at different speeds, which is required when the car is negotiating a turn. In a turn, the outside wheel must travel farther, which means it must travel faster than the inside wheels. The differential is made up of many parts. The main components are the ring and pinion gears. The ring gear is attached to the carrier assembly, and inside the carrier is a set of smaller gears. There are a few different kinds of differential systems that are used in vehicles today (Universal Technical Institute).

To Sum it Up

We get it, your head is probably spinning if you are not a car enthusiast, and you likely still don’t really understand the difference between the driveshaft and differential, the good news is, you don’t have to. At Advanced Transmissions & Emissions, we are your Phoenix automotive experts and can help you with all things when it comes to your vehicle, even if you don’t really know what the specific components or their purposes are.

When your car, truck, or SUV has a problem, contact us to help. Our technicians understand cars, trucks, and SUVs inside and out, enabling them to address all makes and models’ problems. Most importantly, our team works quickly when we bring a car into our shop.

We understand your time is valuable, and we want to get you back on the road quickly.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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