How to Buy Good Quality Differential/Gear Oil

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Gear, or differential, oil is used to lubricate the gears in a car’s transmission so that it can shift smoothly and easily. This type of fluid is generally used on standard transmissions, whereas transmission fluid is used in automatic cars.

Differential oil is extremely high viscosity and can withstand the hot temperatures reached in the gearbox. Over time the level will drop to some extent, however, and you may need to top it off. If you notice grinding or difficulty when shifting gears, check the gear fluid. The gearbox is often located behind – and lower than – the engine, but check your owner’s manual to be sure. It may have just a plug, or there may be a dipstick as well. The oil should come up to the plug hole, allowing you to touch it. If it doesn’t, top it off until the fluid just starts to spill out of the hole.

When shopping for gear oil it’s important to understand both the API (American Petroleum Industry) and SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) ratings. The API is expressed as GL-1, GL-2, etc. (GL stands for gear lube). This rating relates to the additives in the gear fluid designed to stop metal-on-metal contact between the gears.

SAE ratings are expressed in the same way as with engine oil, for example 75W-90, indicating the viscosity of the fluid. The higher the rating, the thicker it is.

Passenger vehicles typically take GL-4 gear fluid, but check your manufacturer’s recommendations before putting anything into your gear box.

How to make sure you’re getting good quality differential/gear oil

  • Consider a more expensive brand. Differential fluids like Amsoil and Red Line are a bit more expensive than those you’ll find in a big box store but they’ll need changing less frequently.

  • Don’t mix ratings of gear oil. Because of the different additives in the various types, they may not play nice together. Always drain the system first if you’re going to change types.

  • Be aware that differential fluid labeled as GL-4/GL-5 is really GL-5. If your car calls only for GL-4, do not use these “multipurpose” oils.

YourMechanic supplies top-quality gear oil to our certified mobile technicians. We can also service your car with gear oil that you've purchased. Click here to get a quote for a Gear Oil Replacement.


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Michael

15 years of experience
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Michael
15 years of experience
Mercedes-Benz GL450 - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Atlanta, Georgia
Micheal was punctual and friendly. Work was completed within promised time. Will definitely use again.
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19 years of experience
Toyota Sequoia - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Newport Beach, California
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Chuy

13 years of experience
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Chuy
13 years of experience
Honda Civic - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Cicero, Illinois
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Richard
16 years of experience
BMW 328i - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Dublin, California
Richard was an outstanding mechanic. After he arrived, the first thing he did after taking the initial pictures of the car is an assessment into what work was asked. He quickly verified that I did not need brake fluid and my front brakes even-though it affects his personal commitments and time, which I think is highly appreciate and thorough professional. He was detailed oriented - took time to make sure that all the issue are fixed. He paid attention to detail in overall car assessment- he goes above and beyond. He was also teaching me through the process which I found highly educational and appreciate him providing the information ensuring and making me comfortable what he was doing and explaining patiently all the questions that was thrown at him. When he works - you know he's highly skilled and experienced and knows his stuff. He is highly experienced. He is a "Master" mechanic in true sense :)

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