Rear differential


Asked by Sep 15, 2016 at 04:39 AM about the 1996 Subaru Legacy 4 Dr L AWD Sedan

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

What happens when the rear differential starts
going out? What does the car do? I have a 1996
Subaru legacy L AWD system.

7 Answers


mmm.. likely nothing noticeable until it doesn't get you out of snow and starts acting like a FWD. My 03 forester has an issue with the rear diff. I've read that locking up the back end with the e-brake is one quick way to ruin something. with all time awd (I'm assuming your 96 is that way?) it is always 50/50 or 40/60 and always spinning and locking up the back causes a huge strain because the front is still trying to turn. This is just one scenario of several, maybe? Are you experiencing anything that you're trying to sort out?


Well, another thought is that the AWD and ABS won't correct a slide/spin because the rear diff won't actuate one/both rear wheels. Make sense?


Actually, most common symptom is clunking upon throttle or decel...different from rear wheel bearing droning, btw. Used "pumpkins" are cheap, but I wouldn't necessarily bother on a 20 yr old.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

So the diff would be loose enough to clunk back and forth with accel and decel? Makes sense.. and eventually make the gap bigger and bigger and eventually chip teeth and then ruin it.


Sometimes it can be the universal joint, but more likely the diff craps out. They're generally quite robust unless user abuses via varying diameter tires or a rear flat tire or mini-spare too long. I've only bought a handful in 30 years.


And if they take out the diff there's a good chance the transfer case or entire autobox gets trashed. There are a couple of different diff ratios used, too. The Subie WILL run with the wrong ratio...but not for long!


wow.. lack of diff and result -- is that because there's no load? It kind of seems backward.. you'd think it'd be fine. Interesting stuff

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