5 Symptoms of a Bad Front or Rear Differential and Repair Cost

When you approach a corner with your vehicle and go to make a turn, the wheels may start revolving at different speeds. This is only able to happen because of the front and rear differentials of the vehicle.

They allow you to make smooth turns around corners, since inner wheels will rotate faster than outer wheels while turning. If you did not have any differentials in your vehicle, then all the wheels will revolve at similar speeds.

The same outcome would apply if your differentials were to malfunction. Then, as you try to turn a corner with wheels spinning at the same speed, it will create all kinds of stress on various parts and components.

5 Bad Front & Rear Differential Symptoms

There are a few noticeable signs that will present themselves if your front and/or rear differentials start to wear out or get damaged. Here are five of the most common symptoms that you can expect to happen if your differential goes bad.

1) Whining Noises

Whining noises are actually the most common and noticeable symptom of a bad differential. This could be due to the components of the differentials not being lubricated properly.

Perhaps the differentials are leaking fluid and that is causing them to malfunction and go bad. Whenever their components are not being lubricated properly, the whining noises will be there.

2) Tire Damage

If you have wheels and tires traveling at the same speed as you turn a corner, the inner tires are going to have more wear put on them because they’re rotating faster. This means the treads of your tires are going to get worn at a very high rate.

Since new tires cost around $100 each these days, you don’t want to chance needing brand new tires if a differential is not functioning correctly.

3) Difficult Handling

Differentials are what allow your vehicle to corner comfortably when you make a turn. Since the wheels are not able to readjust their speeds if you have a faulty differential, this means you will have a much harder time driving your car when turning.

In fact, the handling will be quite unpredictable, and this could easily lead to an accident. Anytime you notice handling difficulties when turning or going around a corner, get your vehicle to a mechanic right away to have it checked out.

4) Vibrations

If the universal joints of your differentials get too worn out, the drive shaft will start to vibrate. You will feel the vibrations even more as you step on the gas pedal to accelerate your vehicle. The vibrations will get even worse if there is a differential fluid leak.

Although this might not seem serious, you should let this be an early warning sign that you need to have your differentials checked out.

5) Gear Grinding

If you have a worn differential, its gears will start to grind a lot more. This may even cause humming noises to emerge from the grinding of the gears. You will hear the humming sound get louder as you accelerate the vehicle.

If you hear this, get your differential gears checked to see what their condition is like. You’ll likely find that they’re in rough shape and need to be replaced.

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Front and Rear Differential Repair Cost

The average cost of repairing bad front differentials and rear differentials will depend on the severity of their condition. Generally speaking, it should not cost more than $400 to repair most rear or front differentials. Most people pay around $200 to $300 though.

This would involve repair work related to adjusting the backlash and replacing the oil seal of a differential. But if you need to completely rebuild a differential, then your repair costs will be between $400 and $800.

This is still cheaper than having to replace an entire differential, which would be between $1,000 and $2,000.

9 thoughts on “5 Symptoms of a Bad Front or Rear Differential and Repair Cost”

      • I have a ford ranger and when it backs up in reverse it makes a loud thumping noise from the back. Any suggestions on what might be wrong?

      • I’m not sure Jacob, as it could be a number of things. Try to determine if it’s coming from the differential or the suspension.

        One time I had an issue where my sway bar was binding on the bushings and would clunk when backing out of my driveway on a hill. A little silicone spray on the bushings fixed the issue.

  1. A friend of mine told me it cost him 8k to repair rear differential on a BMW. Is this common? I have an srt8 and worried as I have turning noise and he believes it is the diff….ugh! Advice?

    • That’s very expensive, but know that differential replacements costs will differ depending on the vehicle. Know what the problem is for sure before you replace the diff.

      Is it a clunk or a whine? If it’s a clunk, see if it could merely be a suspension component that needs replacing, as this will probably be far cheaper.

  2. Hi, I have a 2002 Mitsubishi Shogun. I’ve got a flashing light on the dash next to the C/D LOCK. When I try to turn in a tight spot it feels like the brakes are being applied. Can you advise? Thanks.

  3. I have a 1997 blazer the front passenger side is making a clicking humming noise when I’m in 2wd but it goes away in 4wd any help would be greatly appreciated


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