Spring is in the air which means we are starting to take our cars back out on the roads. We check the tires, the motor oil, the washer fluid… but how about your differential fluid? Yup! You need to check that too.
What Is The Differential Fluid & How Does It Help?
The differential fluid is something most people forget about or don’t even know about! However, without it, you wouldn’t be able to move your car. So, just like motor oil or transmission fluid, you need to check & change your differential fluid; and understand what it does.
Let’s start with what the differential does.
Your differential is simply a gearbox between your wheels. Most cars (four-wheel drive vehicles) have a front & a rear differential that work with the transmission to turn your wheels; aka keep you driving on the road without having to just go straight. Which is why, without the differential, you wouldn’t be able to drive. Your differential fluid, like most fluids, lubricate all the bearing and gears that turn that gearbox and keep your vehicle running smooth & cold. The reason I say cold is that, like other fluids in your car, once the differential fluid starts to deteriorate, your differential will start to heat up and grind down the gears & bearings. This is when you start to have problems. Like Popular Mechanics explains, “metal-to-metal contact wears down surfaces and creates heat from friction, which inevitably weakens the gears and leads to failure.”
What kind of failure? Well, think about it. If your differential helps your car move side to side and take on those 90-degree turns, without it, you’d be looking at the 90-degree turn but ain’t gonna make it. Of course, before that would happen your car would start to show signs of damage.
When Is It Time To Change The Differential Fluid & What Are Some Warning Signs?
Every car is different which is why you should read your owners manual for specifics. However, most people will tell you your differential fluid should be changed every 30,000-50,000 miles. That is a big gap which is why a lot of people forget about it and start having problems down the road.
Warning signs? Of course. The biggest warning sign is if your car is having a hard time turning left and right. Before your steering is affected, you’ll hear a rumbling sound driving over 15mph or a clunking sound when you break. Take it in before the steering gets bad if you want to save your wallet from a big bill!
Get that car ready for Spring and have your mechanic check your differential fluid during your next oil change. Your car will thank you!