What’s one of the most overlooked maintenance tasks on SUVs, passenger vehicles and light trucks without 4-wheel drive? Caring for the car’s differential. The differential is located at the rear and underneath the vehicle, so many people forget it’s even there. Unfortunately, a lack of attention to the differential and differential fluid can prevent your car from functioning properly.
What Is the Differential?
The differential helps to make up the difference in distance that the inner and outer wheels travel when your car rounds a corner. If your car has rear-wheel-drive, the differential is housed and lubricated by a thick and dark oil. Front-wheel-drive cars often have the differential inside of the transmission housing and use the same fluid.
Your car’s differential fluid helps to lubricate the ring and pinion gears that move power from the driveshaft out to the wheel axles. Changing the differential fluid on a regular basis is just as important as swapping out your engine oil or transmission fluid. Over time, metal-to-metal contact will wear down surfaces in the car and create heat. Without the right fluid lubricating the process, your car will wear down more quickly than it should.
How Often Should Differential Fluid Be Changed?
In general, you should swap out the differential fluid every 30,000 to 50,000 miles in your vehicle. Bringing your car or truck in for service is necessary to have a fluid change completed. Every differential is different, and some have a drain plug while others require the housing cover to be removed entirely. It can be a very messy job that you shouldn’t try to tackle on your own.
When changing out the fluid, we suggest using the best quality gear oil you can afford. Most manufacturer’s manuals contain requirements for the weight and capacity of the tank. If you have a higher-performance vehicle, you should expect to need to swap out your oil more often. Changes can also be required more frequently depending on what type of driving you do (off-road, city, highway, etc.).
When Can Your Differential Fluid Be Changed?
In general, every time you bring your car in for general maintenance, we will check to see how many miles have been put on your vehicle and the condition of all of your fluids. We will drain out your old fluid entirely and check for any metal shavings in the old fluid. If no shavings are present, we can immediately fill the differential with new fluid. If any shavings are present, the gears will have problems again even if new fluid is put in. We will clean out the entire differential to get rid of any damage before replacing the differential fluid.
When you are having your differential fluid checked, it’s also a great time to take care of other aspects of vehicle maintenance. Have your brake fluid and engine oil checked and changed. Your tires can be rotated and aligned, and any other basic tasks can be tackled at that time. It’s always better to invest in regular maintenance to catch problems early than to be on the hook for steep repairs if issues arise with your differential. It’s always better to invest small amounts in your car on a regular basis instead of allowing damage to occur.
Keep Your Automobile and Differential in Great Shape with Thunderbird Automotive
Thunderbird Automotive is a leader in auto repair and maintenance in Phoenix, AZ thanks to our awesome customer service, broad range of repair services and expertise. To learn more about our services and get your vehicle checked out, please contact us at (602) 938-3631.