Front Differential: Repair Costs and Early Warning Signs

Front Differential: Repair Costs and Early Warning Signs

Have you ever noticed how the wheels turn at different rates during a turn? Your front and rear differentials are what enable your car to do this. The fact is, if you didn’t have differentials, all four wheels would rotate at the same speed. This can put undue pressure on other areas of the car, besides the undue excessive wear on your tires.

But differentials can fail just like any other part on your car. In this article, we’re going to deal with the front differential. But the principles apply to both the front and rear differentials, with some variations.  What are the early warning signs that the front differential needs repair, and what are the repairs going to cost?

Early Warning Signs

When you see storm clouds and lightning, those are early warning signs that it’s going to storm. In similar fashion, there are some warning signs to indicate that there is a storm brewing in your differential. So we’re going to take a look at a few of those warning signs that one or both of your differentials are wearing out or is damaged.

Damage to Tires

If you notice that your tires are wearing unusually quicker on one side than the other, this could be the first sign of your differential sustaining damage.

When your wheels are going at identical speed, and you take a corner, the tires on the inside of the turn are going to get more wear on them.

With the price of tires and that it’s usually a practice to replace either two tires or all four, you can imagine how spendy a repair that might be.

Handling Issues

Your differential, believe it or not, is also important to the overall handling of your vehicle. It helps adjust the speed of your wheels, especially during turns. Without that help, your overall handling would be erratic, and could lead to an accident.

If you have any handling problems you should have it checked by a qualified mechanic at your first opportunity.


front differential

If you start to feel vibrations, it’s likely coming from the drive shaft. This is because your universal joints are worn out, or getting there. Another strange symptom related to this is that it gets worse, the more you accelerate. Then, if your differential has a fluid leak, the vibrations escalate in intensity.

It’s hard to imagine that people would blow off these warning signs, but they’re not to be trifled with. Address them as soon as possible. Get your front differential checked out.

Whiny Sounds

A squealy sound is one that should be payed attention to, no matter what problem you may be checking for. When metal squeals, this usually indicates lack of lubrication in your differential. If they’re leaking, they can surely malfunction.

The solution is to check your differential fluid and any lube spots on the differential. If you find deficiencies, correct them. Remember, the squealing means there’s not enough lubrication. Metal is rubbing on metal, so if you let that continue, over time you can cause more damage.

Grinding of Gears

We’re talking about the gears in your differential. If you hear grinding from your front differential, or a deep hum that increases in volume and pitch as you accelerate. This is not likely to go away with a little lubrication. And it may require some assistance from a mechanic. Have it checked, as you could avert a major mechanical disaster.

Average Cost of Repair

Repairing a bad front differential is not as expensive as it appears to be. Still, it all depends on a number of factors, including how severe the damage happens to be.

On a national level, the average cost of repair generally hovers around $400. If it’s less, it’s because the repair consisted of having the backlash adjusted and the oil seal replaced.

A complete rebuild ranges between $400 to $800. That sounds like a lot of money, and it might be, but it’s a lot better than having to replace it.

And if, as a last resort, you need to replace it, expect to pay anywhere between $1,000 and $2,000.


A Word About Ignoring Warning Signs

There are so many accidents that are caused by ignoring the symptoms their cars are showing. Though our research didn’t state it explicitly, this could be viewed as negligence. A person must exercise “reasonable care” to avoid injuring others.

Ask yourself this thought-provoking question: Am I exercising “reasonable care” by ignoring the warning signs of a major automotive problem – after being reminded of those signs – that  could contribute to loss of control of the vehicle, resulting in an accident, injuring or killing others?


A bad differential is not something to ignore. When you hear or see the warning signs brought out here, take action to correct them.


Bryce Newell is an automotive enthusiast who loves to write about the latest news, products, and DIY projects. While Bryce is an amateur in the field, he is passionate about cars and has been since he spent weekends in the garage helping his dad rebuild a 68 Dodge Charger as a kid.

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