Have you ever thought for a moment what it takes to do a U-turn in your car, from an engineering point of view? After all, if you find that you are headed in the wrong direction down a particular road, you simply turn around in one seamless motion and head the other way, without thinking twice. Yet from an engineering perspective, this is a marvellous achievement and when you understand this, you will pay more attention to servicing your car on a regular basis. How does it all work?
Translating Energy into Action
As you know, the engine provides the energy required to move your vehicle, but this has to be harnessed by the gearbox so that it can be used at different speeds. Assuming that this energy can be applied at slow speeds, however, you still have to turn the vehicle against the forces of gravity and the resistance posed by the road surface.
This is where the differential comes in, as it uses a series of complex gears to transmit this energy through right angles to the driven wheels. These parts have to deal with tremendous lateral forces and as such are engineered from tough metal compounds, but they also require intricate bearings and specially designed lubricant in order to function.
How It Works
When you are about to perform your U-turn, the system is at its most vulnerable. The road wheels will be moving slowly and resistance from the road surface will be at its highest, but there are other factors to take into consideration as well. The inner wheel will be moving through a tighter radius to the outer and without a very clever component known as a limited slip differential, this would result in a very rough and uneven ride. The engine may well be able to force the transmission to perform the task, but you would know all about it in the passenger cabin.
Giving Your Support
As you can see, the mechanical components of your differential are working overtime to perform what appears to be a simple manoeuvre. The least you can do is ensure that you perform regular auto servicing, especially when it comes to changing or upgrading the differential oil. If you don't, minute flecks of metal will build up within the oil due to ongoing wear and tear, and this will eventually degrade its capacity to protect.
The next time that you pass the service garage when you're driving down the road, do a U-turn so that you can visit your mechanic instead.