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Do Car Wheels Rotate at Different Speeds?


Wheels are a very important part of a car. However, they can also be confusing. How do they work? Do car wheels rotate at different speeds?

The answer is yes, car wheels can rotate at different speeds. The movement of car wheels is controlled by the differential which allows the inside part to travel at a shorter distance than the wheels on the outside.

In this article, we examine the types of differentials, their functions, and how to maintain them.

The Purpose Of Differential

The speed at which car wheels rotate depends on the circumference of the wheel. Essentially, a large wheel will turn slowly, while a smaller wheel will turn faster.


The size of the tires is very important because an even tire can lead to uneven wear and tear amongst the tires. Additionally, excessive pressure in one area in comparison to others can lead to uneven wearing, thereby forcing you to prematurely change the tires.

The fact that outside and inside wheels cover different distances means they travel at different speeds. However, because both wheels can’t travel independently, they slide.

When taking a turn, the sliding will put lots of pressure on the car. To solve this problem, the differential enables the wheels to rotate without sliding.

Types Of Differentials

Advancement in technology has led to an evolution in differentials and engineers have come up with different types of differentials to maximize performance. The types of differentials include:

Open Differential

The open differential is the industry-standard differential commonly found on the car wheel’s rear axle. Open differential transmits power through the spider gears located on a shaft inside a case.

Furthermore, an open differential enables the car wheels to adjust to different conditions and rotate at different speeds thereby, making it efficient for highways and paved roads.

An open differential is, however, not well suited for slippery surfaces, snowy roads, and unpaved roads. The slow transfer of power to the wheel can cause the wheels to slip.

Locking Differential

A locking differential is the opposite of an open differential. It enables the wheels to rotate differently by locking the axle and sending the power to the wheels with traction. This makes it better suited for going off-road and unpaved roads.

In addition, locking differential comes in both automatic and driver-selectable locking differentials. An automatic locking differential requires no driver input, while driver-selectable locking differentials have a switch that allows the driver to activate the locking mechanism.

Limited Slip Differential

Sending all the power to one wheel will cause the other wheel to lose traction and stop moving. To solve this, a limited-slip differential sends a limited amount of power to the wheel losing traction.

Limited-slip differential powers the wheels with sufficient power, so they can maintain the necessary traction. Thereby, making it suitable for slippery roads, off-road, and uneven surfaces.

Furthermore, by using a clutch to provide friction on each side, a limited-slip differential balances out the loss from spinning wheels. Thereby, allowing the car to redistribute torque to each wheel.

Torque Vectoring

The torque vectoring is a computer-based system that determines the amount of power the engine sends to each wheel.

Torque vectoring is made up of small clutches that control the torque connected to all the wheels. By determining the traction available to the wheels, it determines the pace each wheel can spin.

In addition, unlike other types of differentials that are mechanical, torque venturing is programmed to distribute the right amount of power to all the wheels to enable the car to turn effectively.

Most importantly, Torque vectoring technology eliminates the need for a differential in smaller cars by using the brake system to stop the car wheels from spinning. This way, it helps manufacturers save cost and also ensure grip and acceleration on slippery roads.

The Job Of The Axles

The axle is a steel bar that connects both wheels and enables the wheels to spin. To function properly, the axle needs to be strong enough to support the weight of the car and its content.


The three main axles are:

Front axle

This runs from the middle of the front wheel and connects to the center of the car frame. The front axle makes it easy for you to steer the car left or right to negotiate corners.

Most importantly, you need to maintain the front axle because its damage can extend to other components of the steering engine.

Rear Axle

The rear axle runs from one end of the rear wheel to the other and it carries a significant part of the car’s weight.

Likewise, It’s important that you have to ensure the rear axle is in fine shape because damage to the rear axle can affect the driveshaft and suspension.

The Stub Axle

The stub axle is in the middle of the car and it runs from the chassis to both sides of the wheel’s hub. Stub axle is very important and damage to it can affect the engine, frame, chassis, and other parts of the car.

Changing the Differential Oil

You need to ensure that your car differential is in a good state, the same way you maintain other parts of your car.

Changing Rear Differential Fluid

Differentials need lubrication to properly function and a low differential oil can make the car gears susceptible to wear and tear. Therefore, you need to check the differential oil from time to time to ensure it’s at the right level.

Just like other oil in your car, heavy mileage will reduce differential oil, so you need to replace the oil occasionally.

When driving, look out for strange, unusual, and loud noises. It might be a sign that your differential oil is low and requires replacement.


Car wheels are very important because damage to the wheels can grind your car to a halt. By keeping the wheels well lubricated, you will be able to maintain their integrity and stop the tires from wearing unevenly.

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