Do you hear strange noises coming from the front of your vehicle? You may suspect that the issue may be linked to your differential, but may know that there are many different components involved. The good news is that you can begin to narrow down the choices according to the type of noise involved. What could be going wrong?
Could It Be the Joints?
If you can hear a grinding, clicking or popping noise whenever the vehicle is turning in one direction or the other, then this is likely due to a constant velocity joint that is on its way out. These components are connected to the axles and help to transfer power provided by the engine to the actual wheels themselves. These "CV" joints are complicated because they have to put up with friction, gravity and movement all at the same time.
What May Be Failing?
There are essentially two joints, an outer and an inner on each side and they have to allow smooth transfer of the engine's power in all driving conditions. Each joint is filled with lubrication to make its operation easier and they are protected from the outside by a pair of rubber boots.
While the inner components of the axle are strong and durable, the CV joints are most vulnerable to failure and usually this is caused by external damage. In other words, the rubber boot can be penetrated and allow debris from outside to get in. It's also possible that they can deteriorate from normal wear and tear, however.
What Noises Should You Hear?
One of the first noises that you may hear is a rhythmic knocking when going around a corner at very low speed. This is when the joints come under most pressure and will begin to fail. Then, you may start to notice a vibration when you're holding the steering wheel, as the joints become less able to do their job and continue to deteriorate.
Having a Quick Look
You could have a quick look right now to see if you can see any damage. Park the vehicle on level ground and have a look at the inside of each front wheel. You will be able to see the rubber boots and there are two on each side. Inspect them carefully to see if there are any tears or cracks, or the presence of any grease. This indicates that the lubricant is escaping from the interior and that the CV joint has been compromised.
Take your vehicle into a transmission specialist as soon as possible, before the condition gets any worse and you become stranded at the side of the road.