Differential Service & Repair

Thompson Automotive provides top-tier differential service and repair for customers in Littleton and throughout the Denver Metro area. If you’re hearing a grinding, slipping, or knocking noise coming from the undercarriage of your vehicle, it might be time to have the differential(s) inspected for faults, failure, or inadequate fluid.

What Does a Differential Do?

Every vehicle has a differential located on either the rear axle for rear-wheel drive vehicles or the front axle (also called the transaxle) for front-wheel drive vehicles. All-wheel drive vehicles have three differentials, one on each axle, and a center differential (also known as a transfer case) that accounts for speed variations between the front and rear axles.

Because there are precision parts that are always moving together with other parts within a differential, it’s necessary to have a way to keep these parts cool and lubricated. This is why differential fluid is so important; without it, differentials would eventually lock up and cease operation altogether. The result could be loss of control of your vehicle, not to mention costly damage to expensive components.

Most automobile manufacturers recommend differential service at predetermined mileage intervals, depending on the make and model of the vehicle. Some vehicles have shorter differential service mileage intervals due to high levels of torque and/or more sophisticated differential systems.

Your Differential Is in Good Hands With Thompson Automotive

Our ASE-certified mechanics have access to manufacturer data for virtually every vehicle on the road today, including domestic and import models. If there’s a question about the recommended maintenance interval for your differential, we have the answer. What’s more, we can provide a thorough evaluation of your differential system to get ahead of potential issues before they become costly problems down the line.

At Thompson Automotive, your vehicle is cared for with attention to detail throughout the entire energy transfer chain, from the transmission all the way through to the axles. Our team knows exactly what to look for when a customer comes in with a problematic differential and most repairs can be completed shortly after the problem is identified.

Common Differential Problems


Differential leaks are fairly common in older and higher mileage vehicles. A leaking differential may not present any functional problems today, but given enough time, it can cause your vehicle to stop transferring energy from the engine to the wheels as efficiently as possible. This can result in lower gas mileage, higher differential running temperatures, and eventual system failure.

Bad Bearings

Your differential relies on carrier bearings to run smoothly. With bad bearings, your vehicle may begin to rumble or it may create a whirring noise, especially at faster speeds. The carrier bearings of your differential may need to be replaced to ensure that it operates without a hiccup.

Strange Noises

Your differential may whine if you have bad or low oil. Whining may be more noisy while you’re turning, due to the added friction caused by the dry differential gears. You may have a leaky differential, or you may simply need to replace the oil.

Howling noises are an indication that the pinion-bearing preload is loose in your differential assembly. The howl will likely occur as you shift gears, since pressure travels through the pinion-bearing. Howling will occur as you are decelerating, and may often be confused with a tire howl.

Worn Out U-Joints

Differentials featuring U-joints may end up shaking or vibrating if the U-joints wear out. When U-Joints no longer fit together tightly, the drive shaft and axle may shutter as the joints spin. Vibrations and shuttering will be more violent at higher speeds. Be sure to have your U-joints replaced before they fail entirely, since shuttering can quickly wear out the joints.

Broken Gear Teeth

Your differential houses gears that transfer power to the axles of your vehicle. These gears are liable to have worn teeth, or to have a tooth that breaks altogether. It’s most likely that you’ll have a tooth break on the pinion gear, which is the smaller gear of the differential, due to its size. When a break happens, you’ll hear clunking or clicking noises and experience poorer vehicle performance out on the road.

Bad Transfer Case

If you have a vehicle with multiple powered axles, then you’ll have a transfer case that transfers power to those axles from the transmission. This component is liable to leak or have a bad output shaft seal, which can create a clunking noise as you drive. A bad transfer case will most likely make noise as you accelerate or decelerate.

Driveshaft Failure

Your driveshaft and U-joints can break, bend, or become unbalanced, which will make your vehicle run very roughly. You’ll notice that your vehicle shakes quite a bit as it accelerates. You may have to replace your driveshaft if it is damaged.

Recommended Service Interval

Your differential should be serviced every 20,000 to 60,000 miles, depending on the use of your vehicle as well as the manufacturer’s recommendation. During a differential service, the housing will be disassembled and cleaned, and the oil will be replaced. If necessary, the gasket will be replaced to ensure that the differential won’t leak.

Early Detection Means Lower Costs


  • Award Winning Auto Repair Shop
  • Committed to Delivering Excellence
  • ASE-Certified Technicians
  • 7-Time Spectrum Award Winners

Set an Appointment for Differential Repair & Service Today

Don’t run the risk of causing undue damage to your differential. Let the professionals at Thompson Automotive put our training and expertise to work for you — contact us today to schedule your differential system diagnostic evaluation, or differential service and repair. Our team will provide you with a thorough report stating all of the identified issues, as well as recommendations only for the repairs necessary to get you back to driving safely. Our auto shop is conveniently located in Littleton, and we proudly serve the entire Littleton, Littleton, and Denver area.

Accessibility Toolbar