The differential is normally located at the rear of your vehicle and underneath the car. It is essential that it stays lubricated with differential or gear oil for it to work properly and your vehicle to go smoothly down the road. The oil needs to be changed every 30,000 to 50,000 miles, unless your owner’s manual states otherwise.

The differential is a part in your vehicle that compensates for the difference the inner wheel and the outer wheels travel when you turn a corner. If you have a rear-wheel drive vehicle, your differential will be in the back with its own lubrication and housing. It uses a dark, thick oil that is heavier than 80 weight. Front-wheel drive vehicles have the differential integrated into the transmission housing and share fluid. Check your owner’s manual to ensure you have the correct type of fluid/oil for your vehicle.

The differential/gear oil lubricates the ring and pinion gears that provide power from the driveshaft to the wheel axles. Keeping the oil in your differential clean and changing it on a regular basis is just as important as your engine’s oil, yet it is often overlooked or forgotten about.

Over time, if the oil goes bad or you have a leak in your differential, metal will grind on metal and will wear down the surfaces. This creates high amounts of heat from friction, which will weaken the gears and lead to failure, overheating, or burning. A professional mechanic will replace and/or change your differential/gear oil to ensure your vehicle keeps operating like it is supposed to.

Since your differential/gear oil can go bad over time and needs to be replaced, you should be aware of the symptoms that indicate the oil needs to be changed.

Signs your differential/gear oil needs to be changed and/or replaced include:

  • The oil is contaminated with substances or metal particles
  • Grinding noise as you turn corners
  • Humming noises because the gears are grinding against each other due to low lubricant
  • Vibrations while you are driving down the road

The differential/gear oil is extremely important to keeping your vehicle run smoothly so this part should be maintained.

This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How Long Does a Differential / Gear Oil Last? and was authored by Valerie Johnston.


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