Before we begin do discuss if a front diff leak is serious, we will provide some information about a differential, a differential leak and differential fluid/oil.
The differential is a component found in all vehicles that is designed to compensate for the difference in distance that the outer and the inner wheels travel- as a vehicle turns a corner. The differential provides your car to turn corners without huge issues. If both drive wheels were to rotate together as they traveled around corners, you would feel a jerk movement. This would happen because outside tire would travel farther than the inside tire.
What is Differential Oil or Fluid?
Differential oil- also referred to as gear oil- can be found in a vehicle’s axle housing. Differential oil is thicker than engine oil, while it’s designed to perform under circumstances such as gears smashing together, and other high pressure driving situations. Differential fluid/oil generally looks quite similar to motor oil. So, when you have a leak, then you will have to find out the origin of that leak. Is the leak at the rear of your car and you have a rear-wheel or all-wheel-drive vehicle? Then your differential is leaking. Differential oil typically has a distinctive smell. So, if you see oil leaking and you notice that it has a distinctive odor, that leak could be a differential fluid leak.
What Are The Signs I Have A Front Diff Leak/ A Differential Issue?
The differential is a vital component to your vehicle. It sends power from the transmission and engine to the individual vehicle’s wheels. Rather than both wheels turning at precisely the same rate, a differential provides for more precise control of the vehicle. While a vehicle with rear-wheel-drive will have a rear differential, a vehicle with front-wheel-drive vehicle will have a transaxle or a front differential or that basically performs a similar function. A vehicle with all-wheel or four-wheel-drive vehicle will have both rear and front differentials providing power to the vehicle’s four wheels. Whatever kind of differential set-up your vehicle has, you want it to work at optimum performance all of the time. Below are some of the most common symptoms that there is a problem with your differential or that you may have a diff leak:
You Smell Unusual Smells
When the differential oil gets bad, it will begin to burn as well as thicken. The differential oil can also begin to cause the internal gears- as well as other components- to break or to seize up. Have you ever noticed a strong burning smell of oil? Then you need a mechanic to look at your car ASAP. That could mean a front diff leak or some other sort of issue associated with your differential oil. Although the smell may mean that you’re due for an oil change, it may also indicate that your differential oil is deteriorating.
You Feel Vehicle Vibrations
Are you feeling some unusual vibrations while you drive? Feeling vibrations while operating a vehicle is yet another indicator that there is a front diff leak, or you have a problem with your differential. While the vibrations could indicate such, you want to take your car into a professional’s garage for a proper diagnosis of the issue.
A failing and faulty differential will often create loud whirring and whining noises. You may also hear some rattling. Once you hear weird noises coming from your vehicle, it’s time for an auto repair professional to take a look at it.
Vehicle Handling Difficulties
If you are dealing with a damaged differential, then you as the driver will have a difficult time turning your car around corners. Your vehicle won’t be able to adjust to its speed. Should you have an extremely damaged differential, then you may have an accident.
A Leak That Is Coming From Your Axle
If you notice a leak that is directly under one of your axles, then you have a diff leak. Should you ignore the leak, then you risk further damage to your drivetrain, transmission axles and wheels.
You Have Damaged Tires
Should both the tires and wheels travel at the same speed as you turn your vehicle, the inner tires will become worn fast, due to faster rotation taking place. There will also be damage to the tire treads- which can worsen your driving performance.
What Does Differential Replacement Consist Of And What Is Repair Cost?
The exact price of replacement and repair of differentials does differ from vehicle to vehicle. Typically, the diff leak repair or differential repair can be categorized into:
- Individual parts and replacement of components
- complete rear differential replacement
- complete front differential replacement
- differential oil replacement
The differential oil replacement process is not an expensive replacement. You may be looking at a cost that ranges from about $80 to $150. But depending on the labor cost, lubricant used and taxes, you may be paying more. The entire process takes about 30 to 45 minutes and can be performed at a home or at an auto garage.
When gauging the cost of a differential component or a part replacement, then you’re talking about replacement of the differential output seal or the gasket the gasket replacement cost can range anywhere between $130 to $200. To replace the differential output seal, you’re looking at costs that can range anywhere between $70 to $340.
What is the Cost of Replacing My Entire Differential?
The complete replacement of a differential can be expensive- especially if there is severe internal damage to the vehicle’s gears. For an entire replacement of the differential system, you could spend as little as $800, and as much as $6000 depending on your vehicle.
Is A Front Diff Leak Serious?
In a word: yes. The differential gasket is the component that seals the differential housing. It is generally a gasket that is oil resistant and preformed. But some gaskets are crafted of silicone. Nevertheless, the gasket has the task of sealing the differential housing, while keeping the gear oil in the housing so that it is able to properly lubricate the differential pinion gears and ring. Once the gasket fails, you have a leak. That leak- whether it’s a front diff leak or a rear differential leak- can put you at risk of running low on fluid and suffering some serious damage. Generally, a failing gasket will produce some symptoms that shouldn’t be ignored.
What Are The Symptoms of a Front Diff Leak or a Differential Leak?
The following are symptoms that you have a front diff leak or a differential leak:
You See Traces of Oil On The Underside of Your Car
One of the first symptoms that you have a front diff leak, or a problem with your differential gasket, are visible traces that are located on the underside of your car. As the gasket becomes old or simply ages, it may begin seeping oil. This can result in noticeable traces of oil that is visible on the undersides of the differential housing. Once your differential seeping oil, you may be able to drive your car for a while. But you certainly don’t want to ignore getting this repaired.
Puddles On The Ground
Another symptom of a diff leak or issues with your differential gaskets, are puddles of fluid that make their way to the ground. Should your differential gasket fail, the fluid that’s inside of the differential housing, could leak out and leave huge puddles -no traces- on the ground, underneath your vehicle.
How Do You Put A Seal In Front Differential?
To remedy a front diff leak, you will have to remove the brake assembly, axel and the wheel- from the side that is leaking. You may also need to use a seal puller to take off the old one. Then you want to carefully drive your new seal in- following a reinstalment of all of the other components you removed.
How Much Does It Cost To Fix A Front Differential Leak?
To repair your vehicle’s front differential will depend on what the job entails. Your mechanic way decide that your backlash needs an adjustment. You may also need a replacement of the differential as well as the oil seal. Depending on what is needed, you can count on your front diff leak repair costing around $200. For other jobs, the cost may be around $400. The entire job depends on the year, make and model of your car. If your front diff has far more extensive damage then you may have to pay as much as $800. Your mechanic may have to overhaul and dismantle the differential system. This spells time and lots of labor to fix that front diff. If your vehicle has a front engine alongside FF or front wheel drive, then the repair of the front diff will be a bit more expensive. In this instance, the mechanic has to pull the transaxle down and then dismantle it. Your vehicle’s differential seals are simple in shape and design, but they play a vital role in keeping the differential as well as your vehicle operating correctly. Once they fail, they can cause issues. If the issues are ignored, this could lead to serious damage to other components, resulting in hefty car repair bills for you. Get that front diff leak and other differential issues handled ASAP so that you don’t encounter huge car issues down the road… literally.
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