Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Differential Output Seal

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The differential output seals are the seals located at the output shafts of a vehicle’s differential. They usually seal the axle shafts against the differential and prevent fluid from leaking out of the differential as it operates. Some differential output seals also help to keep the axle shafts aligned properly with the differential. They are usually made of rubber and metal, and just the same as with any other seal or gasket on a vehicle, they can wear out over time and fail. Usually a bad or failing differential output seal will produce a few symptoms that can alert the driver of an issue that should be serviced.

Differential oil leaks

The most common symptom for a problem with the differential output seal is an oil leak. If the seals dry or wear out, they will leak fluid from the axle shafts. Smaller leaks may produce faint traces of gear oil coming from the differential housing while larger leaks will produce drips and puddles underneath the vehicle.

Whining or grinding coming from differential

Another symptom of a potential issue with the differential output seal is a whining or grinding noise coming from the rear end of the vehicle. If the output seals leak to the point of running the differential low on fluid it may cause the differential to produce a howling, grinding or whining sound from the rear end of the vehicle. The sound is caused by lack of lubrication to the gears and may increase in volume or change in tone according to the speed of the vehicle. Any noises from the rear end should be attended to as soon as possible to reduce the possibility of possible damage to any of the vehicle’s components.

The differential seals are simple in design and purpose but do play an important role in keeping the differential, and vehicle operating properly. When they do fail, they can cause problems, and even serious damage to the components due to lack of lubrication. If you suspect that your differential output seals may be leaking or having an issue, have the vehicle inspected by a professional technician, such as one from YourMechanic. They will be able to determine if your car needs a differential output seal replacement.


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Michael

15 years of experience
518 reviews
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.
Volvo S80 - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Roswell, Georgia
Michael was SUPER QUICK with doing my brake and rotors. Great communication throughout the whole process. Will always recommend

Kenneth

19 years of experience
509 reviews
Kenneth
19 years of experience
Toyota Sequoia - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Newport Beach, California
Kenneth did a great job and very knowledgeable. He has a great attitude and I will for sure be using him again.

Chuy

13 years of experience
129 reviews
Chuy
13 years of experience
Honda Civic - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Cicero, Illinois
Excellent work on doing the breaks for my car and the break and steering system flush I’ll definitely recommend and take into consideration for chuy’s work whenever I need a fix on my car

Richard

16 years of experience
72 reviews
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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