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Differential Rebuild

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New User

Aug 21, 2019, 5:10 PM

Post #1 of 7 (570 views)
Differential Rebuild Sign In

Hi there,
I'm looking for some advice about a possible rear differential rebuild on an 04 highlander v6 with 118k miles

I just bought this car for just under 5k. Looked to be in great shape. Drove it for a few days, no problem, then started getting some howling and rattling between 25-55 mph.

Took it to a Toyota Dealership to get the worst case, which oh boy they gave me: they said the rear differential was shot, transfer case had internal damage, along with a smattering of other things like rusted rear brake rotors. They quoted me TEN THOUSAND dollars.

So I brought the car to a transmission shop, and the guy said the thinks the transfer case is fine, but the rear diff is definitely shot. Said they could do a rebuild of the rear diff for 1100-1400, and if the transfer case does need replacing (they will check to be sure) that with labor it should only be 600 or so.

I have a couple questions: first, does that estimate seem reasonable? Or too optimistic? I know dealership markups are insane, but that 10k quote scared the crap out of me. Other than some rattling and the whine, the car drives alright and no engine issues, wheels are fine, etc.

Second: does a well rebuilt differential last? Or am I setting myself up for future worries.

I guess my big concern is that from almost 10k to what looks more like 3k seems a HUGE jump. Given the original price of the car, I would happily pay 3k to get the vehicle in good working shape and possibly drive it another 75-100k miles. I'm just worried I bought a lemon and am too willing to believe an optimistic assessment.

FYI, the transmission mechanic didn't put the car up on the lift yet, but drove it with me for awhile and seemed very convinced of his assessment.

Any and all help/advice is welcomed and appreciated. Thanks so much for your time.


Aug 21, 2019, 6:01 PM

Post #2 of 7 (550 views)
Re: Differential Rebuild Sign In

I rebuild diff's in my shop and that's average price depending on what it needs, if he were to do just a bearing and seal kit should be around 1100, if he is doing the ring and pinion may be around 1400. If done and set up correctly and using quality parts, it will last. This is an AWD? the rear diff is shot? I would also look at your tires, make sure they are all the same model and size, very important on AWD vehicles. I recently did a rear diff on a Nissan, went bad due to different tire sizes on the car. Gary

New User

Aug 21, 2019, 6:09 PM

Post #3 of 7 (542 views)
Re: Differential Rebuild Sign In

Hi Gary,
Thanks so much for your response. It is AWD indeed. I think he has to do ring and pinion, but we won't be sure until he looks at it.

Tires are all same size. Mechanic said failures like this in highlanders are very rare (since they're dependable) but there are lots of fluid stains in the area, and I think it's likely the previous owner just didn't really take care of the issue and let the fluid get low over years and years.

I was mostly freaked out because the people at the dealer made it seem like the car was scrap, and that seemed excessive. If I spend like 2.5 k on the rear diff, transfer case, and rear brake rotors, the car ends up around blue book value which I'd be perfectly fine with. Everything else seems to be in good shape.

Do rebuilt diffs last if done correctly?

Thanks again for taking the time to reply.


Aug 22, 2019, 5:43 PM

Post #4 of 7 (501 views)
Re: Differential Rebuild Sign In

If done correctly, they will last, I set up the ring and pinion and use marking compound to see how the gears mesh, I look at the pattern to see if any more(or less) shims are needed. Tires are all the same size but are they all the same brand?

New User

Aug 23, 2019, 12:12 PM

Post #5 of 7 (471 views)
Re: Differential Rebuild Sign In

Yeah, same brand. Although the tires look pretty new, so maybe they weren't before I bought the vehicle.

One more question, if you've got time: Toyota dealership also said that the car needs a left toe adjustment and quoted me $850. That seems really excessive, but they claimed that there's a great deal of rust that would make labor more intensive. But all my research says that even fairly extensive alignment work is a few hundred bucks at most. I'm obviously not going with the dealership, but am I missing something? Or are they just quoting me an insane price?

Hammer Time
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Hammer Time profile image

Aug 23, 2019, 1:07 PM

Post #6 of 7 (460 views)
Re: Differential Rebuild Sign In

Toyota dealership also said that the car needs a left toe adjustment and quoted me $850.

If you are talking about the rear then that will end up being far more than just an adjustment. If the adjusters are rusted up, then they are planning on replacing suspension parts to free up the adjustments.


We offer help in answering questions, clarifying things or giving advice but we are not a substitute for an on-site inspection by a professional.

(This post was edited by Hammer Time on Aug 23, 2019, 1:08 PM)

New User

Aug 23, 2019, 1:10 PM

Post #7 of 7 (453 views)
Re: Differential Rebuild Sign In

Understood. Thanks.

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