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The pattern refers to how the ring gear and pinion gears mesh. There is a process used when reassembling a differential that optimizes ring gear and pinion tooth contact. The procedure involves changing the pinion position via shims in the carrier and repositioning the carrier. Dialing in the tolerance between the gears will ensure a smooth-running, long-lasting differential.
For more info on reading gear tooth patterns, check out this video from our Resource Center.