The differential gasket is the gasket that seals the differential housing. It is usually an oil resistant preformed gasket, though some differentials use silicone as their gasket. It seals the differential housing, keeping the gear oil inside of the housing so that it can properly lubricate the differential ring and pinion gears. When the gasket fails, it can cause the differential to leak, which may put it at risk of running low on fluid and suffering serious damage. Usually a bad or failing differential gasket will produce a few symptoms that can alert the driver of a potential problem that should be serviced.
1. Traces of oil on the underside of the differential
One of the first symptoms of a problem with the differential gasket are traces of oil on the underside of the vehicle. As the differential gasket ages, it may begin to seep oil. Depending on the amount of oil seeping through the gasket, this may leave noticeable traces of oil on the undersides of the differential housing. A seeping differential will usually be okay to drive for a while, however, it will eventually progress into a full on leak as time goes on.
2. Puddles or drips of fluid
Another symptom of bad or failing differential gaskets are puddles or drips of fluid on the ground. If the differential gasket fails, the fluid inside of the differential housing may leak out and leave puddles or drips of gear oil on the floor, underneath the vehicle. Usually leaks large enough to leave traces on the ground will also have noticeable accumulation of oil on the underside of the differential that should be clearly visible as well.
3. Whining or howling sounds
Whining or howling sounds are another, more serious symptom of a potential problem with the differential gasket. If the differential gasket fails, and the fluid inside of the differential housing runs low, this may cause the gears to whine or howl as they mesh. The howling is caused by lack of lubrication, and will lead to accelerated wear and even damages if continued to run with low oil.
The differential gasket is a simple, but important gasket as it keeps the differential sealed and lubricated. When it fails, it can not only leave a mess, but also cause put the component it is meant to protect at risk of accelerated wear and even serious damage. If you suspect that your differential gasket may be leaking, have the vehicle inspected by a professional technician, such as one from YourMechanic, to determine if the vehicle needs a differential gasket replacement.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Differential Gasket and was authored by Ed Ruelas.