By Mike Garrison
It has been years since the first ball differential was released. Ever since that time it has been the choice of most racers for both on and offroad 1/10 scale racing. They provide consistent handling and performance, light weight, and easy adjustability. They also provide constant maintenance and constant expense for the average racer.
More and more drivers have been seen testing and/or racing with gear differentials in their vehicles (including myself) to help lower the cost of maintaining a “smooth feeling diff”. Many will argue that a gear differential offers far less performance than a ball differential, therefore which is why most of the top pro drivers avoid them. I agree, and yet also disagree.
I disagree with the fact that gear differentials are far less in performance compared to a ball differential by personally comparing my own lap times and race results using each. The lack of maintenance and expense to rebuild a ball diff is worth the extra weight and slight setup tweak, in my opinion, to run a gear differential. Not to mention the seemingly everlasting “smooth” feel that goes away quickly in a ball diff.
On the flip side of the argument, I agree that at a top pro world championship level the gear diff may lose tenths of a second in certain scenarios for those drivers. Do I think if Jared Tebo ran a gear diff and I ran a ball diff that I could beat him? Possibly if he left the gears out of his gear diff, but otherwise no. However, at that level I will agree that the consistency and tunability of a ball diff is significantly more important and can provide tenths of seconds faster times on certain track surfaces.
My thoughts on the topic is until the point that I am consistently losing races by tenths or hundreds of a second to top pro drivers, the initial cost of $28 plus oil with a “freshening up” of simply adding fresh oil once a month or less as opposed to a $35 ball diff plus $22 rebuilds (including all diff balls) once or twice a month, is well worth the money, time, and frustration saved by running a gear diff.