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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
So my differential died the other day and I wanted to share my experience. I'll be the first to admit I am by no means a car expert, but I do know you need to learn about the cars you mod and pay to play. I've learned more about cars in the last year than any year prior and I continue to research and learn. While this failure could be considered my fault, I look at it as a learning opportunity and now I know what the signs are of a failing differential.

So first off, I had my clutch replaced and a Quaife LSD installed around June/July of this year. After the break in, I had the oil changed and have been driving it with no issues since. However, a couple weeks ago I started experiencing a few issues and had I taken it to a mechanic immediately, I may have saved it. So what were these issues?

  • Intermittent burning smell. I'm not experienced in the art of diagnosing car issues by smell and it was very intermittent. It often seemed to occur after not feathering the clutch properly, so I though maybe I burnt the clutch a little. I checked for an oil leak and saw nothing obvious in my driveway, garage, or in my favorite spots at work. Here I was thinking an oil spill would be fairly evident, when it was hiding all along. In fact, oil puddles weren't found until the day of the issue so. The other thing I missed was why my trunk was dirty. It seems the vapors from the burning oil made their way to my trunk and helped it collect dirt. Once this was pointed out by one mechanic, I realized yeah you can smell it without the car even running/being warm.
  • My shifter started to feel off for lack of better words. I'm used to the side-by-side vibrations it normally has, but then it started to have a more "vertical" bounce to it every so often while moving.
  • Next up was an odd "whining" noise when accelerating in 1st gear. Normally 1st gear on our cars is pretty short and I don't spend too much time in it, but when I heard a strange sound I purposely drove around my neighborhood in 1st to hear it more clearly. I didn't hear this whine in other gears, but that may have just been other noises drowning it out.
  • While driving into work one morning I was cruising at 70mph on the highway. Everything was normal, with the exception of the aforementioned "shifter bump". Suddenly, I lost power to the wheels. I could rev and change gears, but I would no longer maintain speed or accelerate. So I quickly shifted to neutral, turned on the hazard lights and started to pull over. Around 20mph or so I lightly applied the brakes to stop a little sooner (it was a good spot on the highway should to stop. It was then that I heard a loud whining sound and my rear wheels locked. After that I had a very strong burning smell and could no longer move the car. I still felt the clutch engage and could change gears, but clearly it was not transferring the power to the wheels.

So what was the final analysis? The differential was leaking oil and the lack of oil caused the differential to heat up to the point of failure.

So I'm sure some of you are wondering what exactly broke and how much is this costing. Well the cost is still up in the air as it is the holiday season (part of the issue with getting the car to a shop sooner). However, I should have an update later today.

Thankfully the differential gears are still in one piece and there is no need to buy a new slip diff (I based minimal repairs off of this needing replacement). The issue is that the front pinion bearing, pinion rod, and carrier are now fused together. The shop tried to separate them, but a 20 ton hydraulic press couldn't make it budge.


So I had to shop around for a new carrier and some pinions. Thankfully I found a good deal on a used diff carrier assembly on ebay and it should be delivered today. With shipping, the used parts cost $300 bucks and should have all the spare parts we'll need. That leaves oil and of course labor as the currently unknown factors.

Well I hope this helps someone else if they see similiar symptoms and remember your mileage may vary. I'll share the final cost later, but big take away is listen when your car is telling you something.
 
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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
So final outcome was between the labor and the used part final cost was just shy of $1,000. About $300 for the user differential carrier and about $650 in labor.

The car is running smoothly and I'm keeping an eye on the diff, along with a nose. Leftover parts are sitting in my garage. May prove useful at some point.

I'm looking to bring my car for a followup/checkup make sure the diff is still sealed and no leaks.

I also plan to bring up the first gear noise which which seems to have changed slightly. Between 3K and 3.5K RPM there is a noise I can't quite describe while in first gear. Kind of sounds like something is vibrating and maybe loose. The sound does not happen in any other gear and it isn't 100% of the time. I usually need to hold the RPM in that range in first gear to really notice it. If I accelerating quickly through that range I don't hear it. No noticeable loss of power or anything like that, so not sure.

Anyway, for anyone who bothered to read this I hope you enjoyed the story. For others, perhaps this story gave you a reason to get your car checked out sooner than later or helped you identify a possible issue.
 
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