The Average Cost to Change Differential Fluid Is $79-$93.
This price range is based on national averages for all vehicles and does not factor in taxes, fees, or your particular make and model. Related repairs or maintenance may also be needed. For a more accurate estimate based on your make, model, and location, use the RepairPal Fair Price Estimator.
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Cost at the Mechanic: $79 to $93
- Parts: $20 – $24
- Labor: $59 – $69
Regularly changing the differential fluid as part of a preventative maintenance will maximize the lifespan of your gears and limit the chances of an axle fluid leak.
Cost to DIY: $20 to $24
- DIY Difficulty Level: Beginner
- Parts Needed:
You can reduce the cost of changing differential fluid by doing this job yourself. It’s a messy job, but it is usually an easier job than changing the engine oil or coolant.
Keep in mind: There are many different types of differential fluid, so be sure to choose fluid that is designed for your vehicle. When in doubt, always refer to your owner’s manual.
What Is Differential Fluid?
Most modern cars use front-wheel drive, but trucks and large SUVs still use rear- and four-wheel drive. On these vehicles, the transmission is connected to the drive axles with a driveshaft, and the engine’s torque is distributed across the axle (to both wheels) through a set of gears called the differential. The axle differential is filled with a high-viscosity oil to ensure the gears are properly lubricated.
After time, this fluid breaks down and loses its viscosity, which can lead to the axle’s internal gears being damaged. For this reason, the differential fluid must be changed regularly and at specific mileage intervals for proper maintenance.
Changing the differential fluid is an easy job that usually consists of removing the differential cover to drain the fluid, reinstalling the cover, and then refilling the differential. This service can also be referred to as the drive axle assembly drain and refill.
What Is a Differential Fluid Change?
In its simplest breakdown, servicing the differential fluid consists of removing and reinstalling the differential cover (in order to drain the fluid) and then topping off the differential with new fluid. Some vehicles have a drain plug on the axle to drain the differential fluid without removing the cover, but most will require removal of the cover and a new sealant gasket installed.
What Happens If You Don’t Change The Differential Fluid?
Waiting too long to perform a differential fluid change can result in damage to the axle’s gears and/or seals. If excessive metal is found in the fluid, it’s likely that the gears have been damaged and need to be replaced.
How Often Should You Change The Differential Fluid?
Most automakers recommend changing the differential fluid every 30,000 to 60,000 miles, but be sure to check your owner’s manual or use the free FIXD app for accurate maintenance schedules. This is definitely a beginner-level repair, but it didn’t make our list of the 10 easiest DIY auto repair jobs since it might be a trickier job on vehicles that sit lower to the ground or have the differential cover blocked by suspension components. .
Common Symptoms You Need to Change Your Differential Fluid
- Visual inspection shows discolored or contaminated fluid
- Whining noise coming from the differential
- Fluid leaking from the differential
Related Maintenance Services
The following services are commonly performed when you change the differential fluid:
- Inspect gears and axle shafts for damage
- Replace pinion seal
- Replace axle shaft seals
- Transfer case service
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Lifelong automotive enthusiast with a soft spot for offroading. Wrencher turned writer, but I still love to tinker on just about anything with an engine. Dream car: tie between a ‘71 Hemi ‘Cuda and a ’91 GMC Syclone. #GirlDad #SaveTheManuals