Differential Fluid Change Cost [ 2023 Brands and Models Price Comparison]
Differential fluid, which is also called gear oil, helps the steering and suspension work smoothly. It keeps the ride smooth by lubricating gears, rings, pinion gears, clutch packs, and other parts of the gear system. Like engine oil, it has to be replaced at regular intervals. Let’s discuss how much it would set you back and how important it is to change the differential oil.
What is the Cost of Differential Fluid Change?
Changing differential fluid oil is relatively inexpensive and costs between $70 and $160. The fluid is not expensive, as the price usually falls between $25 and $80. Conversely, labor can cost between $35 and $75, depending on your location and type of car.
You will need between one and four quarts of oil to fill up each differential. The price mentioned accounts for only one differential of the vehicle. Essentially, driving an all-wheel-drive vehicle would cost twice as much.
The table below mentions the price of differential fluid from different brands:
|Brands||Prices Per Quart|
|Valvoline High Performance||$12|
How Often Should You Change Differential Fluids?
Based on the brand and type of vehicle, the differential fluid should be changed after anywhere between 30,000 to 60,000 miles. You can find out the exact mileage for your care from the owner’s manual or by contacting the manufacturer’s customer support. That said, this mileage is for average drivers who do not subject the car to severe driving conditions.
Most manuals have a separate section called “severe driving conditions,” which tells about the mileage a car can get if driven in those conditions. The harder you drive a vehicle, the shorter that duration will get.
Vehicles that have a manual transaxle with the housing of a front differential have to be lubricated with differential oil after 25,000 to 30,000 miles. The exact mileage for the front differential is also available in the owner’s manual. Furthermore, the front differential and manual transaxle use the same oil; you must change both simultaneously.
Factors That Determine The Exact Price of Differential Fluid Change
While the average price has been discussed earlier, the exact price will depend on several factors. These include;
1. Number of Differentials
Most vehicles only have rear differentials, so it is often referred to as “filling up the rear end.” In contrast, some vehicles have just front differentials, and those that are left have both front and rear differentials. Hence, the cost can change significantly depending on the number of differentials in your vehicle. If your vehicle has two differentials, it will cost twice as much as a single-differential vehicle.
Furthermore, the type of differential itself is also a cost determinant. The front differential is harder to access, which drives up the labor cost and, thus, increases the overall cost of an oil change. To access the front differential, mechanics must work around the steering rack which is slightly more challenging than changing the rear differential.
Essentially, the make, model, and brand affect the number of differentials, which is why the prices of oil change between different vehicles. Let’s take a look at the average cost of differential oil replacement on popular models.
|Dodge Ram 1500||$127-$177|
|Ford F Series||$162-$300|
2. Cost of Differential Oil
The cost of differential oil is not expensive. Still, the market offers a lot of variety. While most cars do not have a preference for oil, some do. Furthermore, the quality of differential oil also varies in different price ranges. Opting for an inexpensive will last significantly shorter than its higher-end counterparts. The major difference between the quality of oil in different price brackets is consistency, which essentially determines the longevity of the oil.
Furthermore, the quantity of differential oil also varies between different makes and models. For example, Ford F Series cars have two differentials. The rear takes about one gallon, and the front requires about half a gallon. So, you will have to get about a gallon and a half for these vehicles. Conversely, some vehicles may have just one differential and require less quantity than the Ford F Series. Hence, the price of overall change can change significantly based on the amount and type of differential oil a particular vehicle requires.
3. Cost of Labor
Regardless of the type of car you drive, mechanics will take less than an hour to change the differential oil. It means instead of getting charged in hours, you will most likely be charged the minimum charge, which is around $30 in the United States. Some outlets have a fixed rate that includes both labor and oil charges, regardless of the type of vehicle.
For example, YourMechanics offers this deal every once in a while to change the differential oil at a touch short than $100. It is an excellent deal for people who drive cars that otherwise require more money for a differential replacement.
It is important to mention that dealerships are always more expensive than local mechanics. So, unless you have doubts about the skills of the local mechanics, it is always a good idea to get the oil changed by them.
Signs That Your Car Needs Differential Fluid Change
The cost of differential fluid change is not expensive, but if ignored, the car can run into major problems, which will cost much more. While most owners know the exact mileage after which a car has to be lubricated again, there are times when the change is needed before the vehicle approaches that figure. You need to watch out for the following signs for that.
1. Burning Smell
The car will start producing a burning smell if it runs out of differential oil, which can be experienced inside the cabin. You can go near the gearbox to ensure the smell comes from there. Sometimes substandard quality rather than low quantity of the differential oil is also responsible for the smell. You will see smoke coming out of the gearbox in these cases.
If you let the problem go unchecked, it will expose the gearbox to higher temperatures which can result in serious malfunctions. Hence, as soon as you notice a bad smell from the gearbox, get the oil replaced immediately.
The function of the differential oil is to reduce friction between different components of the gearbox. Thus, when the car runs out of it, the metallic components slide against each other with higher friction, which produces annoying noise. You will hear the noise while shifting gears because of improper lubrication. It is a sign that the differential has run out of oil, which must be replaced as soon as possible.
As discussed earlier, the low quantity of differential oil increases the friction between metallic components. In addition to making noise, it also generates vibrations which can be experienced while accelerating or taking a turn. That said, the problem with the steering wheels and suspensions can also produce vibration. So, it is important to check the differential; if the oil is low, it should be changed to resolve the problem.
How To Change Differential Oil On Your Own
It is not recommended to change the differential oil on your own, mainly because it is very messy. You would not want yourself to be covered in oil just to save a few bucks. However, if you want to do things on your own anyway, these are the steps that must be followed;
You will need these tools;
- Ratchet Set,
- Plastic drain pan,
- Jack and jack stand,
- Hand pump.
- The initial cost of these supplies might set you back more than the change of differential oil, but from there onwards, you will save a decent amount on labor. Before proceeding to the actual steps, check if the manufacturer has any preference for the differential oil from the owner’s manual.
- Once you have figured out the type of differential oil, park the car on a flat surface. Ensure that both sets of wheels are forward and straight.
- Jack up the car to make things even easier. You can work without it if the car has higher ground clearance.
- Find the drain bolt at the bottom of the car and put the plastic drain underneath it before you open it.
- Unbolt it and let the fluid drain. You should collect about 10 to 12mm in the drain. Do not haste and let every last drop come down from the drain. Once all the fluid is collected, screw the bolt back.
- Remove the fill plug using a ratchet. You may need a hex bolt to remove it in some cases. In most cars, the plug is located on the passenger side. If you do not see it, chances are it is under the housing, so you must remove it first. The Ratchet will come in handy for that as well.
- Fill the differential with oil and put everything back in its place.
- Your car is ready with a new differential oil.
FAQs On Differential Fluid Change Cost
How Much does Differential Fluid Change Cost?
Based on the type of vehicle and the amount of oil required, the differential fluid change cost can range between $70 to $160.
Is it Worth Changing Differential Fluid?
Letting the differential fluid unchanged in the car can lead to problems in the gearbox that will cost much higher than differential fluid replacement. Hence, changing it after the mileage specified by the manufacturer is important.
What Happens I I don’t change my Differential Fluid?
Not changing differential fluid will produce bad car smells, vibrations, and noise. It will also expose the gearbox to higher temperatures which can lead to major problems with a vehicle.
How Often does the Differential Fluid need to be Changed?
Differential oil should be changed after 30,000 to 60,000 miles based on the type of vehicle.
What are the Symptoms of Low Differential Fluid?
When the car runs low on differential fluid, it starts producing a bad smell, vibrations, and noise when you shift the gears. These signs can also arise from other problems in the engine, which makes it important to get the vehicle checked as soon as you encounter them.
Differential Fluid Change Cost: Conclusion
Changing differential oil is one of vehicle maintenance’s easiest and most inexpensive parts. The cost of the fluid itself is affordable, and it does not require much labor, which lowers the overall cost. While it is a simple task, ignoring it can lead to serious problems in the gearbox, which can cost much higher. Hence, as soon as you notice the sign of fluid running out, get it changed immediately to maintain the health of the car and save money that would otherwise go into the repair of the gearbox.
That is all for this topic. We hope it has helped.