Average Front and Rear Differential Repair Cost

Updated

A vehicle’s differential (or diff), whether front (FWD), rear (RWD), or both (AWD), helps deliver power to the axle(s) and regulates how fast each wheel rotates. Like any other component of a drivetrain, differential problems may arise over time.

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Because the issues can be anything from replacing a seal to a complete rebuild or replacement, differential repair costs can vary greatly. Read on to find some average prices for front and rear differential repair, rebuild, and replacement costs.

What is a Differential?

types of vehicle differentials

A differential is a mechanical device that allows a variance in wheel speed between wheels on a single axle. When you go around a turn, one wheel travels a shorter path than the other. If it weren’t for the differential, the tires on the driven wheels would want to scrub or skip as each tire tries to “meet in the middle” to match the rotation speed of the other.

Differentials are found in all cars. Depending on engine placement and how many wheels are driven, the differential can be found on the front axle, the rear axle, or both. Sometimes all wheel drive (AWD) vehicles have a center differential which allows the tires on the front and rear axles to spin independently of each other.

On a transverse mounted engine, front differentials are typically integrated into the transaxle. A transaxle is a compact unit consisting of the transmission, differential, and axles. If you have a transaxle and a rear differential, the rear differential likely uses a different type of gear oil.

Some vehicles (notably Subarus) will integrate the transmission, front, and center differentials all into a single unit.

Usually, when a vehicle has a front differential with a built-in transaxle, it will require a fully synthetic oil (SAE 75 to 85, for instance). Transmissions typically require a slightly thinner oil than rear differentials, which need a thicker oil that’s around SAE 90. This will of course will vary depending on each vehicle manufacturer’s specific implementation.

Average Differential Repair Cost

The repair costs of the front and rear differentials will fluctuate based upon the repairs that are needed. Sometimes you may only have to adjust the backlash or replace the oil seal of the differential. These are light repair jobs that will cost between $200 to $400, depending on the make and model of your vehicle.

But if you have more extensive damage to your differential that requires it to be dismantled or overhauled, then you are looking at about $400 to $800 in repair costs. However, these costs are only associated with vehicles that are front engine with rear wheel drive (FR) type.

If you drive a vehicle that is front engine with front wheel drive (FF) type, then the repair costs of the diff will likely be more expensive because the transaxle has to be pulled down and dismantled first.

This takes more time for the mechanics to do which means the hourly labor costs (typically around $85/hour) are going to add up fast. On average, replacing a front differential is about a 3 hour job plus the cost of parts of course. More advanced types of differentials will also affect price.

Differential Maintenance Tips

check rear differential fluid

The trick to keeping your differential working smoothly is lubrication. You need to change differential fluid regularly so check your car manual to see what the recommended differential fluid change interval is.

The differential gear needs to be lubricated consistently or else the car will not drive or turn properly. Two of the most common causes of differential damage is due to lack of fluid or fluid that hasn’t been changed in a long time and is past its lifespan.

Therefore, you need to ensure that your differential fluid/oil is in good condition and is filled to capacity according to what the manufacturer recommends to keep the differential in good working order.

With all the friction that occurs in the differential gears, it is very easy for the gears to overheat. Good quality differential fluid will prevent the gears from burning and getting worn out.

You’ll know when you need to replace the differential fluid because you will start to hear a humming noise coming from the differential side. You may even experience vibrations, fluid leaks, and even some strange noises as the symptoms get worse.

How to Check Differential Fluid Condition

It’s simple and should only take about 10 minutes. Just open the filler plug, then put your finger on the hole filler and then you can see the fluid level and its condition.

And to make it even clearer, briefly open the drain plug so a bit of fluid comes out into a small tray. If fluid doesn’t come out, the level is too low and more fluid should be added.

 

Comments

  1. So i went to a shop to change breake pads and rotors but it was still squeaking. So the mechanic checked my rear drum brakes and said both sides where leaking and was called the differencial seal? Should i replace the entire axel or just repair the seal?

    Reply
  2. Hello I have a 2005 Chevy Tahoe that’s humming real loud and scrubbing they saying my rear end is gone I put lubricant in it its still doing the same thing and its loud what do I do

    Reply
  3. I have a whistling sound coming from the front when I drive between 20-25 mph. could that be coming from the front differential?

    Reply
    • Whistling sounds from the engine area are usually from a vacuum leak due to a worn or cracked hose. A pulley or belt could also be the cause.

      Reply
  4. I have a 2000 ford explorer eddie bauer. front and rear differantial very loud.200,225 thousand miles. was told beerings would be 1500-2000. do i put more money in.can i buy a reasonalablre car for 2000 ?

    Reply
    • That’s a tough one. I’d have a really hard time sinking that much into a vehicle with that many miles (unless it’s already had major parts replaced). I’d recommend getting a couple different estimates before deciding as the price seems a bit high.

      Reply
  5. I have a 1964 gto that has a grinding sound coming from the rear differential. When I test drove it, I didn’t hear that sound. Now that it’s been delivered to my location from a different state I can hear this sound. I’m going to check the fluid level today and see it it’s just low in fluid. What do you think?

    Reply
  6. I’m leasing a 2018 Honda CR-V and recently reached 19,500 miles and was told I had to pay for rear 4w differential service when I brought it to dealership for oil change. Shouldn’t this happen when it has more milage? Feel I’m getting ripped off!

    Reply
    • Your CR-V actually has a 15k-18k mile rear diff fluid change recommended service. It’s a quick job so it shouldn’t cost too much. After this one, the next change interval is much farther out.

      Reply
  7. I have a ’99 Ford Explorer. All of a sudden a few weeks ago it started this horrible clunking/grinding when I turn left or right tight like into a parking spot. A mechanic test drove it and said my front differential is shot, $5,000 to fix!! Of course, my suv isn’t worth that much. I’m on social security, can’t really afford to fix that or buy another. What do you think, does this sound right? What would you do?

    Reply
    • I’d recommend getting another quote from an independent shop, not dealership. Rebuilding or replacing with a used differential should be much cheaper, possibly under $1k.

      Reply
  8. I have a 2007 Infiniti M35. I hear a grinding sound that’s coming from the driver side. I hear this noise when I’m making a right turn or when I punch the gas to accelerate fast I hear the same grinding sound. I changed the driver side wheel bearings. The noise is still there

    Reply
    • I have a 2009 rav 4 all wheel drive. It is making a high pitch metal on metal sound. I have been told I need to replace? No one mention checking the fluid. Cost can be up to or over 900. But currently part is on back order. Can the fluid be checked.

      Reply
  9. I have a 2014 Nissan Pathfinder. The dealership is quoting me $5516 for the parts and labor for repairs. Does this sound reasonable for the make, model, and year of the vehicle?

    Reply
  10. I took my Isuzu 4X4 DTEQ for a service. Right after the service an oil leak developed on the front left side differential seal. The mechanic said that he had topped it up & was because it was low the oil seal was already damaged. But there was never any sign of an oil leak before. Can a seal get damaged because of too much oil put in which could put to much pressure in the differential.

    Reply
  11. I drive a 2014 Ford Mustang and recently noticed some play in one of my rear wheels when I pull on it and then push it back in. Even with the nuts tightened, and the car on the ground. It also is making a metal to metal noise as i go over speed bumps. Do you have any advice on which part could be out?

    Reply
  12. I have a 2012 Buick LaCrosse 3.6L VVT Vin. 3 FWD Engine, and when I drive at cruising speeds of 35-45mph and/or 1500rpms, I feel a vibration in my gas pedal. But when I drive on the highway at speeds of 55-65mph, I don’t feel it at all [I am slightly above 1500rpms].
    In order to stop the vibration[s] at cruising speeds, I depress the gas pedal, then repress down harder to get the car above 1500rpms. On local roads, I have to do this constantly, but on highways, not at all.
    Any ideas where to start looking? Differential? Tranny? Gas Pedal Sensor?
    Any and all help/ideas would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Since your vehicle is FWD, the transmission and differential are part of a single unit called the transaxle. It’s hard to tell from the description where the vibration is coming from, so I recommend having a mechanic inspect your vehicle in person for an accurate diagnosis.

      Reply
  13. Good morning my Dodge Chevy Grand Caravan 2008 3.3 with 104000 MI recently got a oil change and it was discovered that the front differenitial, transfer case , U-joints, Rear Differential and Axle boot on the passenger side torn & it’s saying not applicable. What does that actually mean do I have to repair ,replace? How much I’m looking at?

    Reply
  14. my partner has a jeep grand cherkoke 2003 model, have done the swing arms but centre differenital is gone, how much to fix

    Reply

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