The national cost for rear differential service is between $50 and $130 with an average of $90

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National average cost of a Rear Differential Service
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What is a rear differential and how does it work?

A rear differential is a component of the drivetrain in a rear-wheel, four-wheel, or all-wheel-drive vehicle. The differential is a gearbox located at or near the center of the rear axle where it is attached to the driveshaft. There, a series of gears takes the rotational movement of the driveshaft and turns it ninety degrees and out toward the wheels. A differential is so named because it also allows each of the attached axles (and wheels) to turn at different speeds to accommodate your vehicle when it turns around corners. Without this feature, your tires would skid rather than roll along the ground. Rear differential service is a routine maintenance procedure that aims to replace the gear oil that lubricates and cools the moving parts inside the differential.

How do I know if my vehicle needs a rear differential service?

Problems with a rear differential are often caused by excessive wear. If your differential is wearing out or fails, you might notice one or more of the following signs

The differential case is getting excessively hot

You feel vibrations coming from the rear of your vehicle

You hear growling or grinding noises coming from the differential while driving

You see gear oil leaking from the differential


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How is this service performed

How is a Rear Differential Service done?

Rear differential service procedures vary by vehicle make and model. The procedure, however, is not altogether different from an oil change. A drain plug is removed to allow the gear oil to escape. A technician collects the old oil for disposal or recycling. Once the old lubricant is fully drained, the drain plug is reinserted, and fresh gear oil is pumped into a different inspection/fill hole in the differential to the proper level. Some differentials do not feature a drain plug. Instead, these models require that the rear differential cover plate be removed in order to drain the old fluid. When this is the case, the service is more complex and often requires other parts to be purchased, such as a new gasket for the cover. On the other hand, this procedure also allows the technician to inspect the inside of the differential.


Is rear differential service necessary?
Yes. Just like the moving parts in your engine need oil, the gears in the differential would make metal-to-metal contact without sufficient lubrication. While some amount of wear is inevitable, gear oil in the differential ensures that excessive wear does not occur. Over time, the gear oil breaks down and no longer lubricates as it should. It also picks up tiny fragments of metal and other debris that can cause premature wear. Therefore, it is necessary to change the gear oil regularly.
What happens if you don't change rear differential fluid?
If you don't change your differential fluid, it eventually degrades and breaks down. It no longer protects the moving parts and seals the way fresh fluid does. This results in premature wear of the bearings and gears, which ultimately leads to axle failure.
Can the rear differential cause transmission problems?
The rear differential does not share the same fluid, gears, or bearings with the transmission. If the rear differential gets damaged, it is highly unlikely that it would also hurt the transmission in any way. The rear differential may however, mimic the symptoms of a transmission going bad which can falsely lead the vehicle owner to believe that his or her transmission is damaged.

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