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Change differental oil?

I purchased a new Honda CRV about eighteen months ago and had decided to let the dealer take care of maintenance. My confidence in the dealer was severally shaken when I was told the rear differential oil should be changed at 15,000 miles. During my 55 years of driving nearly one million miles on 20 cars, I don?t think I have ever changed differential oil! I don?t think I have ever heard of anyone having a problem with a differential and would guess it is one of the most reliable of car parts, with or without oil changes. The Honda Owner?s Manual doesn?t provide any guidance. The CRV comes with a computerized ?Maintenance Minder? system but it hasn?t indicated anything is needed. Am I missing something or is this just another example of corporate greed?

"I don?t think I have ever heard of anyone having a problem with a differential and would guess it is one of the most reliable of car parts, with or without oil changes.

In most cases, this is true. However, the CR-V differential (and probably the Element differential) is a special case, and problems with the rear and center differentials are a known issue with this vehicle. If you do a search on this site, you will come across several owners who reported binding of the rear differential on tight turns, with an odometer reading anywhere from 20k to 50k. A competent Honda service department should be aware of this issue, and this is apparently what is the source of their recommendation.

Just as this is a known problem on that vehicle, the known cure is to change the differential oil (actually, a special Honda spec oil known as “Dual Pump Fluid”) on a regular basis. The Honda design apparently allows draining and changing the rear differential and the center diff oil simultaneously, in one procedure.

Since prevention is invariably better, cheaper, and more convenient than repairs, I would suggest that you go along with the dealer’s recommendation regarding this maintenance procedure.

I agree with VDCdriver. In this case an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. You don’t want to be one of the unhappy CRV owners who needs a new differential. I would let them change the fluid.

15k miles is pretty early for this type of maintence. On the cars that I’ve owned (all RWD or 4WD) the rear diff oil isn’t supposed to be done until around 90k or so. The CRV is basically a glorified Civic with some flimsy AWD system. Which means it’s primarily a FWD vehicle with the rear axle only providing power when dictated by the car’s computer. The Highlander has a similar setup, and I’ve heard of the rear diff lube being changed every 30k in it. Check your owners manual to be certain.

Does the owner’s manual say anything?

I guess I’d be inclined to go with the dealer. I did have to change the differential fluid in my Olds with posi-traction at about 20K and add a special additive.

I change the differential oil on my Honda motorcycle, and I think you should do the same on your CRV. I just checked and your differential fluid is due to be changed at 90,000 miles.* Your dealer wants you to change yours six times as often as necessary because he has boat payments to make.

*using the maintenance guide at

While the Honda maintenance schedule may well call for differential fluid to be changed only every 90k, the people who have reported problems with their CR-V’s rear differential had far fewer miles on their odometer–usually less than 50k.

In this case, I believe that the dealership is trying to do the owner a favor (as well as themselves) with some timely preventive maintenance, but if the OP is willing to trust that changing the fluid at 90k will be sufficient to prevent damage, then so be it.

That sounds reasonable to me. Perhaps every 30,000 miles would be reasonable for the CR-V.

You make a very good point and I think that’s one thing that I see discounted on this site: it IS possible -and maybe common- for the manufacturer to revise the maintenance schedule to help counter problems that show up “in the field”. If Honda was getting a lot of premature diff failures with the printed maintenance schedule, it’s possible that they revised it to try to curb those failures.