What Is A Rear Differential And How Much Does It Cost To Replace It?

People buy trucks because they want a vehicle that’s tough and reliable. That makes it all the more frustrating when they suffer from mechanical problems. Although you might do your best to keep the engine and transmission running smoothly with regular check ups and oil changes, it might not be enough if you have a problem with the truck’s rear differential.

If you’re hearing a buzzing noise from the back end of your car or a clicking noise when you turn it may mean your truck needs a rear differential repair soon. We’ll walk you through some of the basics about what could be wrong with the truck’s rear differential and some estimated repair costs so you can have an informed idea of what to expect if you have to take the truck in.

What Is A Rear Differential

The rear differential does a simple but important job. It acts between the transmission and the rear wheels to transfer the power that the engine puts out. Basically the power of an engine causes the driveshaft (that bar that runs along the center of the car) to rotate side to side, the rear differential takes this rotation and cause the wheels to rotate and move the car forward. So it must change the axis of rotation and allow the wheels to spin at different speeds in order to allow the truck to turn smoothly.

The rear differential has a system of gears inside it that allow it to perform its important functions. As you can imagine, changing transmitting the power of the engine puts a lot of stress on the component so the gears and bearings inside are heavily oiled to keep them lubricated and cool.

Why Rear Differentials Break

The oil inside the component helps prevent the gears inside from wearing to fast, but over time the oil itself will degrade. When it does, metal rubbings from the gears rubs off from the friction and collects in the oil, preventing the part from working properly. There are two signs of a differential problem. If you notice the component leaking that means you’re losing the lubricating fluid causing the gears to wear. If you notice a buzzing or whirring noise that means the fluid is degraded. This is troublesome because it can often be confused for tire noises, allowing the problem to persist and the wear to the gears themselves to grow, making repairs more expensive.

What Goes Into A Rear Differential Repair

There are a number of potential fixes for the rear differential depending on the severity of the problem. The best case scenario is that it’s just a matter of having degraded oil. If that’s the case a simple fluid replacement can be performed. All that this entails is for the rear differential cover to be removed, the old oil cleaned out, new oil put in, and the cover being resealed. Once the clean oil is put in the gears within should run fine. However, if the grinding of the gears was allowed to go on unnoticed for too long, the gears themselves may have been worn out and will need to be replaced.

Cost of Rear Differential Repairs

As with most repairs, the cost of getting a rear differential fixed depends on how extensive the damage is. If the only thing wrong is degraded oil, then you’re in luck. Seal and bearings generally don’t cost too much, so when you factor in labor costs the price for an oil replacement is usually in the range of $300.

If the damage is more extensive, the price is going to increase considerably. If new gears are needed the price can be at least $1,500. Going to the worst-case scenario, if the differential is beyond repair, you’ll need the component to be replaced altogether. You can expect a rear differential replacement to cost up to $4,000.

Now that you know what to expect for a rear differential repair you have the information to decide whether or not a replacement is worth the cost and if a new car might make the most sense for you.

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