When Should I Have a Front Differential Fluid Change? | AG Auto

Our expert mechanics at AG Automotive offer a full-service front and rear differential service which includes replacing the fluids within the differential or replacement of the differential itself. This article intends to inform the reader about what a differential is, explain its function, and help you identify the warning signs of a failing differential that needs to be serviced by an expert automotive technician.


If you have any questions or concerns regarding your front or rear differential, call AG Automotive and schedule an appointment today!


What is a front differential?


A differential essentially keeps your front and rear tires on the same page to increase traction, stability and distribute tire wear evenly. A differential consists of a set of gears that transmits the power created by the engine to the wheels. It also allows them to rotate at different speeds while turning. 


The location(s) of the differential on your vehicle depends on its drivetrain setup- AWD, 4WD: 


  • In rear-wheel-drive vehicles, the differential is connected to the transmission by a driveshaft located between the rear wheels.
  • All-wheel-drive and 4-wheel-drive vehicles have a front, rear and center differential or transfer case to evenly distribute the engine’s power to the front and rear wheels. 


Along with the different locations of a differential, there are different types of differentials that are better for the vehicle to use depending on the type of work the vehicle sees on a daily basis:


  • An open-end differential is the most common among newer vehicles. Its simple functionality allows the wheels to turn independently of one another. The main drawback of this differential occurs when a wheel doesn’t have traction, causing it to spin normally. Newer vehicles also come standard with electronic stability control to help with this loss of traction while driving. 
  • Primarily used by high-performance vehicles, a limited-slip differential is preferred over an open-slip differential. When a tire loses traction, instead of the engine transferring power to that tractionless wheel, the limited-slip differential sends the power to the other wheel. In front-wheel-drive vehicles, a limited-slip differential prevents torque-steer. 
  • A locking differential is commonly seen in off-road vehicles because it helps them crawl over rocks and tough terrain. It locks the wheels to turn at the same speed. Great for tackling obstacles in a straight line, but a drawback with a locking differential is turning becomes much harder. 


What is a front differential fluid service?


A differential fluid service should be on  your scheduled regular vehicle maintenance list- along with regular oil changes, brake flushes and tire rotations. Having fresh & clean lubricating fluid within the differential ensures an efficient transfer of heat away from its moving components, increasing the lifespan of your differential’s hard working gears and bearings. A differential fluid service also helps your vehicle function at peak performance! 


Here is how our expert mechanics at AG Automotive perform a typical differential fluid service for any vehicle that needs one:


  1. Drain all fluid including remove front axle cover if no drain plug (If applicable)
  2. Clean and inspect gears and housing (If front cover was removed) (If applicable)
  3. Inspect and clean axle breather tube & make sure it is routed properly
  4. Add new front axle fluid
  5. Add front axle fluid treatment (If applicable)
  6. Clean and test drive
  7. Recheck fluid levels and for leaks
  8. Quality Check 

When should I get a front differential fluid service?


As always, you should refer to your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation to see when it’s time to schedule a differential fluid service. But on average, your differential fluid should be changed every 30,000-50,000 miles.  Knowing the warning signs of a differential that needs service can potentially save you a good chunk of time and money down the road. Being able to identify the warning signs of a failing differential is important because of its huge function in determining how the vehicle handles and steers. Putting too much stress on a new car by driving too fast for too long or towing another object like a boat or RV, can cause the differential to overheat, causing irreversible damage. 


Warning signs of a failing differential:


  1. Increased oil consumption
  2. Difficulty making corners and steering in general 
  3. Loud noises while shifting through gears; grinding, clunking, or a whining sound.
  4. Abnormal and extensive tire wear
  5. Constant vibrations or vibrations that become more prominent while accelerating


It is important to identify that your differential is having problems, but it is even more important to schedule an inspection with an expert automotive mechanic and follow through with their recommended services as soon as possible. Ignoring the warning signs and neglecting the proper service can cause irreversible damage to the differential and potentially cause the vehicle owner to have to replace the worn differential entirely with a new one. 


Have your front differential serviced by our expert mechanics at AG Automotive today!


If you have noticed that your vehicle is harder to steer, making grinding or clunking sounds, or notice abnormal or extensive tire wear, Ag Automotive will have you back on the road in no time after we identify that your vehicle needs a front differential service. Our expert technicians have the tools and knowledge to replace the fluid in front differentials or replace the entire front differential quickly and efficiently.


We want the job to be done right the first time, so we ensure your front differential is working properly and exceeds the manufacturer’s specifications after our service is complete. We offer our customers a full service inspection and service of their front differential so they can get back out on the road in no time and drive with confidence knowing their vehicle was serviced by the best. 

Don’t Second-Guess the Condition of Your Vehicle

Many auto owners struggle to know if the right work was done the right way on their car. As a courtesy, we provide digital vehicle inspections and photos so you can quickly and easily see what our experienced, professional technicians are seeing. Overall, we go the extra mile to help you make informed decisions on the repair and maintenance plan of your vehicle, so you can drive with confidence every time you get behind the wheel.