How Does the Differential Work?

That thing on the rear axle — the ball of gears allowing you to take a corner? Have you ever wondered about how it works? The "Chevrolet Motor Division" is here to explain.

A very good friend of mine with excellent mechanical aptitude and a history of custom car projects once wrote that the differential gear is obviously a piece of alien technology. We may be using it on cars but it cannot have sprung forth from the minds of men. In light of blue LED’s and probes sent to Saturn, he may be exaggarating—but, aroused from sleep, would you be able to explain the differential’s workings?

A wonderful visual explanation, no doubt produced and filmed by extraterrestrials, is offered by an unlikely source: the Chevrolet Motor Division of the General Motors Sales Corporation, as put by this 1930s tutorial video.


Filmed in an age when the average motorist was required to understand in much greater details the intricacies of the automobile, it’s ten minutes of excellent popular engineering. Do watch.

And as for explaining the limited slip differential?

We should leave at least something for the aliens.

Photo Credit: Audin/Flickr, Renaultsport

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