You probably heard people recommending you to “service the differential” once you change the vehicle’s oil. After hearing about this, you might have always wondered do I really need to change differential fluid or not. Or, you might have wondered about it without any context at all.
Well, if you did not get the answer yet, allow us to take care of that. We have a good amount of knowledge regarding the topic, and we are here to spill everything that we know about it. So, sit tight, grab a hot cup of beverage and continue reading!
What Exactly Is a Differential?
Before we get to the matter we have in our hands, we would like to ensure that you do know what differential is. So, the basic idea is pretty simple. When driving through a corner or a turn, you will notice that the inside of the drive wheel is closest to the inside of the corner. It travels less than the outside wheel.
Ever wondered why that happens? Well, if both of them spins at the same speed, the vehicle would start fishtailing around the corner. That is where the differential comes in handy. It prevents the car from doing a fishtail by allowing both of the wheels to move around independently.
But what is inside the differential? There is a cluster of gears. Those make the wheels spin independently. And like any other moving parts, debris and small things will build up inside the grooves. Those are going to increase the friction, which will eventually increase the heat. A differential fluid lowers that friction. Internal components are protected with the differential cover.
Does Differential Fluid Actually Need Changing?
For each fluid, the manufacturer is going to state a time period in which the fluid will change its nature. It can get sticky and less effective at lowering the friction. Even though the fluid does not change its characteristics, it will get thick because of all the dirt it will collect.
When the fluid does become gunky and inefficient, there will be a higher risk of damaging the differential. And changing the oil is far cheaper than changing the whole differential. That is why you need to change the fluid from time to time.
How Often Should I Replace the Differential Fluid?
It depends. There are plenty of different factors. If all the other things are not considered, the fluids should last for about 30 and 60 thousand miles. Well, that is what most of the manufacturers suggest. And that range is something that will vary from one fluid to another.
For example, some of the fluids can last for 27 thousand miles, while some can stay in optimal condition for 62 thousand miles. So, before settling down for a number, we would recommend reading the bottle’s back and checking the time period that the manufacturer stated there.
How to Change the Differential Fluid of the Vehicle?
After knowing about the placement of the differential, you might be wondering that changing the fuel will be a painstaking task. It might sound pretty hard, but it is not that hard as most people think it is. In fact, it is as easy as changing the oil of the engine.
But the process will be a little different from one vehicle to another. Do you know why? Because some of the vehicles might utilize only two plugs to hold the differential, while some might be using one only. In the case of the ones with two plugs, one will be for the fluid, and the other will be for draining purposes.
Nonetheless, here is a guide that will is simple and should work for the process no matter which layout your vehicle you are driving:
- First, lift the vehicle up using a jack and place it on flat ground
- You need to locate the rear or the front differential
- Find the corresponding drain and fill plugs. For some cases, there might be only one plug
- To lower the chances of the other plug getting seized, you need to remove the fill plug first
- Remove the drain plug once the fill plug is removed. However, if there is only one plug, you can take it off without worrying about anything
- Discard the old plug or plugs and find replacements
- Using a pump or a hose, fill the housing with the fluid to that point the fluid starts to pour from the other one
- Put the replacement plug or plugs in the original position
Do note that some of the trucks or cars might require you to remove the differential housing entirely. Once you do remove the housing, the process is going to be the same. Also, do not use any other fluid than the one that the manufacturer suggests. This will ensure optimal overall performance.
To reiterate, the answer to the question do I really need to change differential fluid is yes. And the process of changing the fluid is pretty easy. So, there is nothing you should worry about.