Differential (Rear) change

2014 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD. 53,000 miles. Had it for almost 9 years. Oil change shop tried to get me change rear differential oil. I checked RAV4 owner’s manual, and Toyota doesn’t list recommended interval for change rear differential oil in the manual. Manhual says to Inspect the following at 108 months (9 years) → Front Differential Oil, Rear Differential Oil, and a list of items.

Manual says “Additional Maintenance Items for Special Operating Conditions” → Replace Rear Differential Oil (4WD). This applies while towing, using a car-top carrier, or heavy vehicle loading conditions.

My RAV4 doesn’t apply for special operating conditions. It wouldn’t hurt to change Rear Differential Oil, but is it safe for me to take some time to shop around, or is it important I get it changed as soon as possible? On my 2005 Toyota Camry, I never changed Differential Oil, and it’s still going today.

Would it hurt? No
Having knuckle dragging monkeys do it? Maybe

All fluids need to be changed in a vehicle.

Just like engine oil, they all break down from heat.

You do change your engine oil?



+1 to Tester’s comment.

And, regarding those oil changes, I really hope that the OP has been doing them on the basis of elapsed time, rather than on the basis of odometer mileage. Because his/her Rav is driven less than 6k miles per year, the oil should be changed twice a year, instead of waiting for the 5k mile interval.

I’d have it changed at a good independent shop, I’d also check the manual to find out the correct grade of oil and make sure the shop used that grade. By this time you should have had all fluids changed, if not this is a good time to do it.


At our new owners meeting at the Acura dealer, the service folks emphasized to change the rear differential fluid and transfer case for awd at the first 10,000 miles, then regular intervals after that to also include the transmission. Gets any debris out from the break in. It’s very cheap. That’s what I did and every 30,000 I have it all changed at the dealer for about $150. Nothing like paying $50;000 for a car, then not spending a couple hundred for maintenance, and trying to go 10,000 miles on an oil change.


The money is probably better spent on a transmission fluid change and cleaning of the pan.

Most people go a lot longer than that with a differential and don’t have an issue. Maybe the factory fill is a sythetic oil, and the replacement is not, which would actually make the situation worse.

This is an awd not the old rwd where differential fluid was hardly ever changed.

I kind a doubt your 2005 Camry has a “differential,” so no need to worry about the fluid in a nonexistent piece. It does, however, have a transmission and that fluid should have been changed multiple times by now.

1 Like

It technically is called a transaxle as it does have a differential with in the case, on the older Toyota transaxles some if not all had them had seperate fluid sides that could be independently changed… Trust me I built a A130L transaxle and forgot to fill the diff side and seized the pinion bearing in it… oops… Locked both front wheels right up…

If you put an axle in the transmission that axle is going into the diff part of the transmission…

His is called a U250E



Yup but still a rear differential on awd to drive the rear wheels.


True… And a 3rd in between them if it’s an AWD…

No, it has a Center Viscous Coupler

Rear differential gear oil change is a common up-sell, most owners don’t have the service performed. The rear differential on a front wheel drive vehicle does not get hot, the oil does not break down.



I wonder why Subaru would put vent on their rear differential if it doesn’t get hot?


Central differential distributes power to all wheels and lets them turn at different speeds while cornering. When excessive wheelspin occurs on one of the axles, viscous coupling locks the differential and equalizes the speeds of both axles .

That is basically what makes it an AWD unit and not a full time 4WD unit…

If it is an up sell, they sure don’t make much money on it. But we have snow here.

No, it does not have a center differential. It uses a electronic coupling located just ahead of the rear diff.

The RAV4’s AWD system is not built for off-road use, but works well for most driving situations. It will help aid in handling in wet or dry conditions. It features a Dynamic Torque Control AWD system that effectively manages torque transfer between the front and rear wheels via an electromagnetically controlled coupling. When the front wheels begin to slip, the system automatically increases torque transfer to the rear wheels by up to 50 percent.

There is an electro-magnetic solenoid in the control coupling located just ahead of the rear differential. Depending on driving conditions, the amount of torque being directed into the rear differential can vary by as much as 50%, from the car being entirely front-wheel drive for optimum fuel efficiency to an equal sharing of torque between the two axles.



Seems like that solenoid is attached to the rear differential. It’s a $50 service. My money.