We know that axle seals are hardy portions in our vehicles connecting the axle shaft and transmission, ensuring that the differential fluid which helps car gear transition is intact.
Today’s axle seals, of course, are more complicated than its predecessors. They are meant not just to protect rotating parts – in this case, an automobile’s Constant-Velocity (CV) joint parts.
If you have been having “one of those weeks” when everything on your car seems to be failing at once, take a close list at the bill, when your technician is finished to see if you notice anything about the axle seals there. The chances are that you won’t see anything because they are almost indestructible.
Axle seals are not just made only of highly-insulating rubber; they also have a strong metal part. This means that if axle seals get damaged, the first to get torn would be the elastomer.
If your car’s axle seal gets damaged, how much, then, does transmission axle seal replacement cost?
Basic Axle Seal Replacement Costs
The cost has an “it depends” tacked onto it, as well. It depends on the axle seal’s location. Generally, you will find that the axle seal at or near the transmission will be more expensive than the seals at or near the differential.
According to some recent information from Ford, the low average cost of an axle seal replacement is $150. If, on the other hand, you must replace the seal and some parts, you could spend upwards of $650 — the price for the kit itself. And if the cost had to include a new transmission, it could rise to nearly $5,000.
The replacement cost on the seal or seals protecting the transmission is higher than the seals protecting the differential because the device that they are shielding is more expensive. It costs more to replace the transmission than it does to replace the differential and its gearing. For example, if the seal to replace the differential axle seal were $200 to $400 (which it is), and if the cost could rise to $1,500 (it can), then it is still less expensive than the cost to replace the transmission and associated parts.
It is not merely the axle seal alone that needs to be replaced when we talk about axle seal replacement. What then constitutes the process?
Here are also other questions you might be wondering:
- Why bother changing the axle seal? How do you know it was the axle seal that was the problem?
- Is it possible to delay the replacement?
- How does one change the axle seal?
- How long does an axle seal replacement take when done in a car repair shop?
- Can I replace the axle seal on my own?
- How long does an axle seal last?
Axle Seal Basics
The axle shaft seal – also known as axle seal – is that ring-shaped part that fastens shut the connection between the axle or driveshaft and the rear differential or transmission. It keeps the dirt, grime, and gravel from entering and contaminating the oil and all things within the transmission while keeping the differential oil or transmission fluid from leaking.
The axle seal is generally comprised of 2 parts. One part is made of metal which acts as a case that will enable the axle seal to be pushed into the differential, thus, strengthening the connection between the axle and the transmission.
The other part of the axle seal, on the other hand, is made of a flexible material like rubber – not the ordinary kind, but a thermoplastic that is strong and does not wear right away.
This rubber-like material provides static sealing and at the same time, dissipates the heat caused by all the grinding of gears and parts that it seals inside. It is usually this part that gets torn; causing leaks of transmission fluid and thus, requiring axle seal replacement.
Why Replace an Axle Seal?
Axle shaft seals rarely get replaced because they rarely leak. Many vehicles do not experience such a leak unless they are worn out, old or well-used. Additionally, axle seals tend to wear out due to improper axle installation.
Because axle shaft seal damage is typically rare, regular maintenance usually does not include axle seal removal and replacements. However, this does not mean that it is not inspected. Removal and replacement often come hand in hand with axle inspection.
The best time to replace an axle seal is when a Constant Velocity joint (CV) axle is replaced. By doing so, mechanics would ensure that before the replacement procedures are made the new CV axle and axle seal are compatible and will fit really well to avoid any leaks. This also avoids any back jobs and additional repairs on your part.
Axle shaft seals need not be replaced right away if the leak is minor and changing the axle seal is impossible at the moment (i.e. you are significantly far from any mechanic or auto repair shop). Just have your car’s axle seal changed as soon as when you are able to take your car in for repairs.
There may be safety considerations when driving with such a leaking axle seal, but its degree depends on the remaining transmission oil and the severity of the leak. You must keep in mind, however, the amount of lubricant left in the CV joint housing.
The amount of transmission oil has to be checked at least every 2 weeks, as frequent as every day after a 5-mile run if you are having leak problems. This is because little oil and signs of grave wear and tear like having plenty of dust and grime in the differential fluid will damage the transmission.
An affected transmission means difficulties in gear shift and at the worst conditions, it will become entirely impossible for you to drive at all.
If you drive your car under the limit and make many local trips, it is likely that you have several days before it starts to affect your vehicle’s transmission. Ultimately, if you allow all of the fluid to leak out, then you could ruin the transmission so that it needs replacement.
Symptoms of a Worn Axle Seal
The easiest way to check for any worn axle seal is to spot the oil drops and leaks. There are, however, 2 types of oil your car utilizes – gear oil and engine oil. It is easy to identify whether the drip is gear or engine oil. Engine oil has this distinctive sulfur-content, rotten egg smell and its drops look reddish-brown.
As more oil gets leaked and as more damage is sustained by your car, there will appear an increased frequency of oil leaks on the garage floor. Once the transmission fluid drops lower than the safety level, the differential will start slipping and shifting of gears gets more and more difficult.
There are cases when the leaking oil is at the rear. This could be an indicator of rear axle bearings and seals problem which also has a symptom in the form of a roaring sound that follows the vehicle speed from its rear.
For an axle seal on the differential, you have to look closely at the left or right front wheel to see if there is any trace of leaking transmission fluid. If you see drops of reddish-brown liquid, you know that there is an issue with the seal as it typically leaks in the vicinity of the wheel on a front-drive or all-wheel-drive vehicle.
Similarly, if you see any black drops of oil underneath your vehicle, it could indicate there is a leak from a differential. This is the case if your car has all-wheel-drive. The front differential’s location is behind the front driving wheels toward the center of your vehicle. If you see any black drops of oil in this approximate area, then it is possible that the axle seal is leaking near the front differential.
On the other hand, if you see any black drops of oil toward the center of your vehicle, then it is likely that the differential is leaking. You will have to move your car to see them. If you see any drops of oil that look as if they fell when you were driving, then, you can be sure that the differential seal has gone. Please note that if oil drops have an oval shape in the direction of travel, it is an indication the seal near the differential is toast.
The best way to find out which fluid might be leaking is to take a large piece of clean white paper and slide it underneath your vehicle after you have parked for the night. During the night, the liquid should leak out and fall on the paper which makes it much easier to diagnose. If the leak is:
- Reddish-brown, it is transmission fluid.
- Gray or grayish-white, it is brake fluid.
- Black and oily-looking, it is oil.
- Green or yellow-green, it is anti-freeze/coolant.
You are probably wondering whether to repair the axle seal on your own or to leave it to professionals.
- Going D-I-Y
Repairing your car may save you a lot of money since you will be able to check out local and online stores such as Autozone, Walmart, and even Amazon. You can also compare prices for all the necessary parts as well as delivery services to come up with the lowest possible price to get all the necessary replacement materials.
You also get skip the high labor costs – so long as your car is properly diagnosed first.
Getting your vehicle properly checked is important because a mere axle seal replacement from personal diagnosis may just be the surface of a network of car issues. Neglecting professional advice – even a professional friend’s diagnosis – will cost more dollars than your initial budget for every complication and condition unspotted on your vehicle.
Car repair also seems easy to accomplish as seen on videos, but unless you have a considerable amount of experience as an auto mechanic, it is not 100% guaranteed that you will be able to fix the axle seal problem in one go.
The right tools are also needed for axle seal replacement since it is a delicate process. Any improper tool or careless installation of a new axle or bearing can result to scratches and repeat repair.
- Leaving it to the Veterans and Pros
Some mechanics or auto repair shops provide axle seal replacement repairs using kits that include an axle bushing and a CV joint, which may cost up to $588 to $1,443. This happens if your car either needs 1) other replacements aside from the axle seal, like the housing or the CV joint, or 2) the replacement part available for your vehicle only comes in kits and sets.
Having the axle shaft seal of your car replaced by a mechanic will allow you to have your car inspected for other future problems at a short span of time. Car inspection and possible repairs are easier since a shop has its own lift and a complete set of tools, and the spare or replacement parts may be easier for shop to obtain rather than you buying the pieces yourself.
This does not mean, however, that the car inspection and diagnosis auto shops do is absolute, nor are the spare parts also 100% obtainable through them. Shop repairs also cost more since you have to pay for services aside from the materials used.
This is why you need to consult this with a trusted shop or mechanic. Major shops like YourMechanic, Midas, and Mr.Tire have various branches throughout the country, which makes it easier for them to get replacement parts as well.
On the other hand, there are individual mechanics and auto repair shops that are certified or affiliated with Auto Repair Sites, like RepairPal and Autozone. RepairPal, for example, provides mechanics “on call”, while Autozone has plenty of affiliated shops throughout the country that are providing mechanics as well as spare parts that can be scheduled ahead.