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This info has been around for quite a while, but I figured it was time to put it together w/ some pictures.

If your car makes funny rumbling vibration type noises in tight turns....you prolly need the diff fluid changed. It may feel like the vibration or noise is coming from the front or steering, but listen closely and see what you can feel in the steering wheel and/or seat. It is common in parking garages, parking lots, and very tight turns in and out of driveways. If you feel or hear this vibration grumbling moaning binding noise you should change the rear differential fluid. Honda keeps changing the maitenance interval, but many owners report trouble in 30k miles or so.

key words for search: rumble vibration diff diferential differential rear dual pump II fluid front rear vibe

Following are some instructions and pic for anyone interested in what is involved in changing the rear "differential pump fluid” of an Element (or CR-V)

First things first…I’m not a mechanic…nor do I play one on TV. Be safe...wear safey googles, set the parking brake and use a wheel chock and sunblock and a condom. This info is free…and you get what you pay for so here we go…


You’ll only need a few basic tools:
1. A 3/8” drive ratchet handle for loosening and tightening the plugs.
2. Drain pan…. nothing fancy, just has to hold 1.1 quarts.
3. Pump or Funnel…you’ll need to get the new fluid into the diff.
4. You might want to put the vehicle up on ramps to make access easier and/or use some sort of pad to make sliding under the car easier.



You’ll need 1.1 quarts of Honda “Dual Pump Fluid…figure on about $7/quart. *Note-this has been replaced by "Dual Pump II," you shouldn't mix the two fluids, but version II can be used in older Es as version I is discontinued* Seem a lot like ATF to me…but diffs are expensive and I don’t wanna take any chances. You can look for an alternative product if you want, but it ain’t out there so just suck it up and give the $15 to yer local Honda stealership. You might wanna get replacement sealing washers while your there. I skipped ‘em ‘cause I’m such a rebel.

Lets get started….

This is what it looks like under yer E....looking forward:



This is the rear differential as viewed from just inside the left rear wheel:

Note the two plugs, upper and lower.




To loosen the plugs you’ll need a 3/8” drive ratchet handle or similar. The square hole in the plug is the same as the rachet handle so you won't even need a socket. If yer vehicle is older you might wanna hit the plugs w/ a bit of “penetrating lubricant” (I like CRC 3-36 or KROIL) a while before attempting to loosen them.

Loosen the fill plug first…the upper one. It does you no god to drain the fluid if you can’t refill it afterwards. Mine is only 3 years old but they "cracked" loose. Take yer time and be prepared to use some creative language if yer rachet handle is short.

Loosen and remove the lower (drain) plug. What happens next is no big surprise…red fluid drips out into a pan. If you’re using ramps you might wanna drive off the ramps so the vehicle is level for best drainage.


This is what the plugs look like once removed.....note the 3/8" square drive and (aluminum?)sealing washer:
(FWIW....I've heard these were 20mm....but I measured 'em at 19mm w/ a 1.25 pitch...very odd size)


Now that all the fluid is out you gotta put some back in…

Replace the lower plug. Clean it off and snug it down nice and tight. See yer service manual for proper torque specs. I used a “Farmer’s Torqure Wrench” set to “two grunts.” Remember what my Mom used to say…"tight is tight, too tight is broke."

Edit-The official torque specifications:
Service manual says: 47 N.m (4.8 kgf.m, 35 lbf.ft) for both
page 15-14

You can use some sorta pump (like the one I left at work) or a funnel and some hose to replace the fluid. I used a hose clamp to affix a piece of vinyl tube ( ½” ID x 5/8” OD) to a funnel and routed the hose around the rear wheel and across the axle to the diff.



In my case, the hose fit nicely in the diff, and I zip tied the funnel to the fuel filler door so I wouldn’t spill too much.


After pouring 1.1 quarts of fluid into the funnel (or pump), replace the fill plug and be certain it is tight. You can leave it loose (or not reinstall it at all ) like the typical Quickie-Lube place, but you’ll wanna make it snug if you care about yer Element at all. (35ft/lbs like the drain plug)

Wipe off, clean up….and go have fun.

for less than $20 (including funnel and hose) you just saved yerself a whole bunch ‘o trouble. This is easier than an oil change and only needs to be done every 30,000 miles or so. Yes, yer manual says different... but diffs are expensive and a little preventive maintenance goes a long way.

Good luck, have fun....try not to poke yer eye out.

Will

Keywords: grinding vibration binding turns tight turn parking rubbing noise
 

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Awesome DIY. Thank you for taking the time to snap pictures and post them here with a writeup.

I did mine in the same way with the funnel and tubing.
 

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Many thanks for the DIY info. I just had mine changed at the dealer--it was already in for some other work--but next time I'll DIY. I'm not sure I would have ever thought of securing the funnel to the fuel filler door, that is genius (well, I might have thought of it after doing this 5 times and I was about to sell my E anyway).

My dad was a jet engine mechanic and he always worked on all our cars himself if possible, and until I moved 700 miles away he worked on mine too. He used the same "Farmer Torque Wench" settings that you did, even on the jets. I've had wheel covers, wheel nuts, rocker cover bolts, screws and all kinds of other things fly off my vehicles that I didn't tighten up myself by mechanics using the "specified torque settings".

Happy trails.
 

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Great write up and pics!!!! This is the kinda thing that makes this such a great web site.. One again thanks ApriliaGuy. Drew:)
 

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Fantastic...thank you

Just picture perfect! I really like the funnel arrangement and how you routed it to sit in the fuel fill cap holder too...CREATIVE!

Thanks again
jeff
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
gizzer777 said:
I really like the funnel arrangement and how you routed it to sit in the fuel fill cap holder too...CREATIVE!
and others....


you're welcome...no problem at all...I've taken in plenty of great info from this site, figured it was about time to pay some back!


I had a long lenth of tube around ('cause I'm "that kinda guy"), but was gonna cut it. I figured I would reach in by the rear tire, but when I stood up I realized it ended up by the fuel door. It wouldn't stay put for me so I grabbed a plastic zip (wire) tie to secure it.

Forgot to mention.....checking the level:

Fluid should be level w/ the bottom of the top plug. If you start to overfill, the excess will just dribble out.

Also, the diff housing is aluminum, which is easy to strip w/ a "farmers torque wrench." Lucky for me you can't get lotsa leverage w/ a short 3/8" drive rachet handle. The plug is really tight and cracks loose when removing it, but that is probably because of the two dissimilar metals, not the torque that was applied when installing. Just 'cause it is tight coming out dosen't mean it has to be as tight going in! Use caution and/or the proper tool. The correct torque is 35ft/lbs.
Edit:

Helpfull Pic thanks to Beer, the EOC member not the beverage. :wink:


Will
 

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Excellent DIY. Makes me want to go change mine (even though it doesn't need it again yet.) The pictures are awesome.

One question - how can we legally/ethically get rid of the old fluid? Is it pretty much the same thing as oil? (As in, could I dump it in my oil change pan and just give it to Autozone when I drop-off my used oil?)
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
dfreeze said:
- how can we legally/ethically get rid of the old fluid? Is it pretty much the same thing as oil? (As in, could I dump it in my oil change pan and just give it to Autozone when I drop-off my used oil?)
That is a most excelent question, and excellent timing too! :)

My understanding of this is technically, fluids of various types should not be mixed for recycling. Check w/ the place you take yer fluid to and see what they say. My place has 3 seperate containers...OIL, ATF, (Automatic Transmission Fluid), and GLYCOL (anti-freeze). I take brake fluid, carb cleaner, etc. into work for disposal there. A place I've used in the past had only 2 barrels, OIL and GLYCOL....so your results may vary.

In my case....I saved it seperate and asked when I dropped it off. My place said because it seemed very much like ATF, it would go in that barrel. FWIW, the Dual Pump fluid looked, smelled and otherwise seemed just like good 'ole ATF to me.

If you happened to be changing your trans fluid at the same time I'd say mix away, but check before mixing w/ waste engine oil to be on the safe side.

In either case, it is easy to do 'cause we're only talking about a quart or so.

This is a very imp[ortant compont of the DIY I left out. I'm glad you remined me....your timing is perfect 'cause I didn't get the stuff dropped off 'till today.

Thanks,

Will
 

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ATF in the differential?

I don't own an Element yet so obviously, I don't have the owner's manual. I'm interested in the vehicle and forums like this are a good place to learn about the "nitty-gritty" issues that one won't see in road tests or brochures.

I hope that someone can shed some light on why Honda uses ATF in the differential rather than gear oil as most OEMs do because ATF is not a particularly good lubricant for a differential. Is it just to simplify maintenance?

My inclination would be to drain the ATF out and use a proper gear oil if there's no specific reason not to.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
Houckster said:
I hope that someone can shed some light on why Honda uses ATF in the differential rather than gear oil as most OEMs do because ATF is not a particularly good lubricant for a differential. Is it just to simplify maintenance?

My inclination would be to drain the ATF out and use a proper gear oil if there's no specific reason not to.
Honda uses a product that seems similar to ATF. It apparently in not plain old ATF, but is instead a special fluid. It is important to only use this Honda Dual Pump Fluid!

I'm sure that Honda uses that special fluid instead of traditional gear lube (or somesuch) because the RealTime4WD is designed to be operated with this fluid. This fluid also works the 4WD/AWD system, besides lubing the differential gears. :)
There is a thread around here somewhere w/ excelent info on how the RT4WD system works....but I can't find it :-( EDIT Ok...not what I was looking for...but DancetillUDrop posted up some good info here.

(Why you don't put gear oil in an automatic transmission or use WD40 instead of motor oil ? :grin: )


Will
 

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Thanks for this write-up. I just bought a used E (2003) and it needs some maintanence. I've been looking forward to doing something myself on it and this seems to be a good things to start with. You folks rock!
 

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Houckster said:
I hope that someone can shed some light on why Honda uses ATF in the differential rather than gear oil as most OEMs do because ATF is not a particularly good lubricant for a differential. Is it just to simplify maintenance?
Before I bought my E I read through the description from Honda of how "Real Time 4WD" works and I thought it was very ingenious. The system works using some of the same principles of an automatic transmission so it makes sense that they'd use a fluid that is similar. It also keeps costs down but I've used my E off-road and the system works so I have no complaints.
 

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The next question . . .

Having read the information about the AWD and having learned about the hydraulic pump, I can now see why an ATF type fluid is used. Now I'm going to try and find out if there's a difference between the ATF and the Honda lubricant. I wouldn't mind using the Honda stuff except that in very cold conditions, dino fluids don't work very well. I'd want to use a true synthetic ATF if at all possible.:smile:
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Houckster said:
I'd want to use a true synthetic ATF if at all possible.:smile:
I'd like that too. I did a quick search... found squat...and gave up.

The factory Honda stuff was easy to get and about $10 every 30,000 miles was no big deal. But I'd be interested in hearing about any other "alternative" solutions to factory requirements, especially if they are "performance enhancing."

Will
(not holding my breath :wink: )
 

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Should I change the differential fluid?

Wow, EOC is great!

Thanks for the awesome write up, complete with pix! It even looks easy enough for me to try & do myself. Is there a way to tell if you need this done?

The quick history: I bought my E used from Carmax a month ago. They sold it as a 2WD but turns out it is 4WD. So I am wondering if changing the diff. fluid was skipped when they did their complete drain & fill of all fluids? I don't hear any grinding sounds or anything. The E rides smooth...way better than my Astro did :D

I figure it is cheap enough that I could do it regardless but if there is a way to be sure it is okay I will skip it for now. I just spent $30 to change out the cabin filters-OMG- they were BLACK!
 

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$30 for the cabin filters seems a bit high......one way to tell about the diff fluid is to check it....if it's black and gooey it prob. needs changed.....it will also smell like :evil: death warmed over :evil:

I changed mine and never smelled anything as bad as this and I've even been to a slaughter house!! Of course my E was used and had 105k on it....probably never had the fluid changed before this tho :neutral:
 

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Differential oils

:twisted: Diff oils always smell nasty but they don't smell like death warmed over. Anything that smells that bad is definitely bad. That's why I am going to find out, if possible, what this stuff Honda sells really is. It might simply be an ATF to which an LSD friction additive has been added. Since the Element, if I understand correctly, uses clutches to engage the rear wheels, that might be the only real difference.

The synthetic ATFs are much more durable and they maintain their performance at much lower temperatures than dino oils. This is especially important in the conditions where AWD would be employed such as in the snow. I've read one post here that seems to indicate that this can be a problem.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
bestdogever said:
Is there a way to tell if you need this done?
Best if done every 30,000-50,000 (by my research/best guestimate) or if the diff starts making noise.

Next time you're out in the E just do a few tight turns or circles (left and right) in a parking lot....listen for groaning/creaking/funny noises coming from the rear of the car (some people say the noise seems to come fromt the middle/floor/front also).

You could do it anyway (I wouldn't trust the plact that sold you the car to have done it properly if they didn't know it was 4WD)...its not like it is real expensive to do.

Better to spend a small amount of $ and time on your Element investment, rather than pay for some potentially expensive reapirs down the road.

Good luck.

Will
 

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