Changing the Rear Differential Oil (2001) - Toyota Nation Forum : Toyota Car and Truck Forums
1st Generation (2001-2007) Forum dedicated to the discussion of 1st generation Toyota Highlanders.

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post #1 of 13 Old 03-17-2011, 05:04 PM Thread Starter
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Changing the Rear Differential Oil (2001)

Here is a write up on changing your own Rear Differential oil, with a few pictures. It is aimed at someone with very basic wrenching skills (but perhaps not a complete novice), so you veterans, please proof read for accuracy.

As always... some safety points first when working under a vehicle:
  • ALWAYS make sure vehicle is either level, or if on ramps, will not roll towards you if something fails with brakes or wheel chocks
  • engage E-brake
  • chock at least 2 wheels to prevent rolling
  • rubber gloves are nice
Regarding the question: "Do you need to do this on a lift?" - no, just like last weeks oil change, I did this in the garage (in Winter). No blocks this time.

here is the supply list:

Tools
- 10mm Hex-bit socket to remove Drain & Fill plugs
- Ratchet
- Extensions (I needed 2)
- Torque wrench
- Steel pick or wire brush to clean the mud out of the plugs prior to loosening
- May need a snipe or breaker bar to get the plugs loose (depending on how long since this was last done)

Misc
- Ramps (optional)
- Oil Pan
- Hand oil pump
- small plastic container to catch drips when filling
- Paper towels or rags
- Rubber gloves
- Wheel chocks

Consumables:
You will need about 0.9 litres of 75W90 Gear oil (brand of your choice - I used Amsoil Severe Gear full synthetic). I got 2 jugs.. just in case.
- and 2 plug washers - Toyota part # 12157-10010

Here we go (you can see my oil pump in the plastic bag):


First things first: Here is the Drain plug (do not loosen yet):



And here is the fill plug circled in purple (always loosen the fill plug first! - If you can't get it loose, but just drained out all the oil.. you're screwed)
Note this is on the passenger side of the differential, kind of tucked up back of the passenger axle side of the diff.



Did I mention it was still winter here? Here is my other 'Yota:



Here's another view from a bit farther back, and with flash turned on. As you can see, the axle has 4 wide points on the mounting flange. These can get in the way, making it impossible to get your socket + extension in place. If you find the geometry of the axle wrong, try backing up your Highlander ever so slightly, to hopefully get more clearance:



So, using our ratchet, extension (to clear the axle flange) & 10 mm hex head, we can break the fill plug loose. Just loosen it for now, no need to take it out just yet. You NEED to be sure you can get the fill plug loose BEFORE you drain the differential.



Now we can remove the fill plug. In both cases, they will probably be pretty tight, and need some 'juice' to break 'em loose:


Making sure you have your bucket in place, remove plug completely, and also remove fill plug to let air into diff & speed up the draining.



The drain plug has a big black magnet on it, which is designed to trap ferrous metallic fragments suspended in the oil. It is worth examining your plug to see how much of this material is on it. i.e. this is a reflection on what is going on in your gear-box. mine was pretty good - only a few iron filings on it:



After thoroughly cleaning up the drain plug, replace the crush washer. Be sure you accounted for the old one (it's not stuck to the drain hole or the plug, right?...). Hand tighten in place. It should *easily* turn in. If not, back up & try again to avoid cross-threading.



This is where we use a torque wrench to tighten to 36 ft-lb specification:



This is what it looks like once fully tightened. Crush washer is now flattened:



Now this part pretty much sucks - no way around it. Assemble your hand oil pump & place in 1 litre oil bottle:



Place other end of hose into fill hole:



..and then pump until oil begins to flow out of the fill hole like this (takes about 900 ml or 1 quart or 2 pints, whatever the hell those are):



Then torque down your fill plug & wipe up the mess. I needed to try various extensions to be able to reach a big torque wrench under the car & actually be able to ratchet it:



Clean up all plugs, account for all tools, wipe up oil pump & stow back in plastic bag. Remove wheel chocks. Take car out for a spin, do a few figure eights to ensure oil gets fully into differential. Some people will at this point remove fill plug & check level - I don't personally, as long as I know 900 ml went in. That's an advantage of buying an oil that has a graduated container.

Once again, enjoy bevvie of choice, knowing you saved *significant* $$.
My cost was under $20.00 for premium synthetic gear oil + OEM washers. The Dealership charges $89.00. You do the maths.

06 DC LB S45 4X4: Roll 'N Lock / Philips Xtremes / Cobra CB / AllPro IFS, tranny & T-Case skids,1.25 spacers, 10 pack leafs/ R. diff breather mod / fogs-on mod /Nitto Terra G*******s 265/75/16 / Hakkapeliitta LT studded/ Timbrens / Fox CO + 2.0 resi x4 / YotaFab sliders / Yaesu FT2600
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post #2 of 13 Old 03-17-2011, 05:51 PM
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Excellent and very informative post - thanks for taking the time to do the great pics and text. Much appreciated.
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post #3 of 13 Old 03-17-2011, 06:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jabberwock View Post
Excellent and very informative post - thanks for taking the time to do the great pics and text. Much appreciated.
+1, I haven't seen one that nice in a while!

'03 Highlander V6 Limited 4WD, (0 to 175,548 Miles) SOLD (So sad to see it go! )

'02 Dodge Durango SLT (140,XXX Miles) Third Row Seating, Leather Interior
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post #4 of 13 Old 03-17-2011, 08:00 PM Thread Starter
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You are welcome! I love to work on vehicles, and figure what the heck, bought a good 35 mm SLR, might as well incorporate the two hobbies

D

06 DC LB S45 4X4: Roll 'N Lock / Philips Xtremes / Cobra CB / AllPro IFS, tranny & T-Case skids,1.25 spacers, 10 pack leafs/ R. diff breather mod / fogs-on mod /Nitto Terra G*******s 265/75/16 / Hakkapeliitta LT studded/ Timbrens / Fox CO + 2.0 resi x4 / YotaFab sliders / Yaesu FT2600
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post #5 of 13 Old 03-17-2011, 08:19 PM
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Amazing write-up. Well done!
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post #6 of 13 Old 03-17-2011, 10:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dante's Taco View Post
Here is a write up on changing your own Rear Differential oil, with a few pictures. It is aimed at someone with very basic wrenching skills (but perhaps not a complete novice), so you veterans, please proof read for accuracy.
Thank you yet again for another excellent write-up, which has already been added to the DIY sticky. The 1st Gen forum is benefiting very well from your effort, so much appreciation to you!



-------------------------


2008 Highlander Base 4WD
2002 Avalon XL
1987 Suzuki Samurai 4X4 - Treading where no Jeep can follow....
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post #7 of 13 Old 03-19-2011, 02:06 PM
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Very nice write-up. You could use an IV bag from the drug store in place of the pump to put the oil in.
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post #8 of 13 Old 03-19-2011, 04:17 PM Thread Starter
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^
Hi. Yes, I've also heard of using tubing from hardware stores + a funnel as well. (which might be cheaper & more readily available than.. IV bags)? I don't know about where you live, but (I'm a pharmacist actually) I'd be pretty surprised if they just sell those without a pretty good idea of who you are / or a proper script. In fact, on many medical devices, such as IV bags, it used to state under U.S. law, not to be sold without a physician's prescription.

My other concern with that, is the IV tubing is of such small bore, and diff oil of such high viscosity, that it might take a looong time to fill. At -1 degree C, I found it was quite thick, even with that large bore tubing I used on the hand pump. Also, you may need a second person to hold the bag, unless you are thinking of IV poles too. Sounds like you're building a Toyota hospital! That'd be cool to see!

My hand pump was $2.50 from my amsoil dealer, so pretty darn cheap...

cheers

D

06 DC LB S45 4X4: Roll 'N Lock / Philips Xtremes / Cobra CB / AllPro IFS, tranny & T-Case skids,1.25 spacers, 10 pack leafs/ R. diff breather mod / fogs-on mod /Nitto Terra G*******s 265/75/16 / Hakkapeliitta LT studded/ Timbrens / Fox CO + 2.0 resi x4 / YotaFab sliders / Yaesu FT2600
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post #9 of 13 Old 12-07-2014, 09:39 PM
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I was just about to post a question regarding this and luckily found this post. Thanks for this. One question though. When should this be done and is it absolutely necessary or just "a good thing to do"? I have a '04 with 180,000 kms (112,000 miles). I've check the maintenance schedule and there is nothing on the schedule that mentions changing this oil. Thus the question.
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post #10 of 13 Old 07-05-2015, 05:54 PM
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Great guide. Here is what I had to do to get my fill plug off:

I stripped the plug so I had to use my dremel and cut a groove in the plug. Then I used a flat screwdriver and a hammer to whack it loose. It took me a while but I managed.

Last change was done around 75k


Here is that filler plug again:


Will stop by the dealership tomorrow and get a new plug.
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post #11 of 13 Old 08-29-2015, 11:03 PM
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Thanks for the great write up! I am going to attempt this tomorrow along with transfer case oil change. I do have one question though. I have 2004 V6 AWD Highlander with 120k miles on it. Maintenance guide calls for various oil changes. They're limited slip differential oil, front and rear differential oil, automatic transmission oil and engine oil change. So far, I changed engine oil and automatic transmission oil change. Tomorrow I'll try the transfer case oil and rear differential oil. However, I'm not sure about front differential oil and limited slip differential oil. Do they exist? I ask because I don't see them listed in owner's manual. BTW, I don't tow anything so I have no special operating circumstance. So maybe they're not needed to be done? Just being hopeful? Thanks for your insights!
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post #12 of 13 Old 08-30-2015, 12:21 AM
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Front differential is built into the transaxle (transmission) and when you changed the ATF, you got it. So nothing to worry about there.

And I'm 90% positive, the first gen has no option for a LSD (limited slip diff) in the car. So you don't need any LSD additives for any gear oil.

Click Here for the Full List of Mods Done to My Highlander ---->>> 2008 FWD Highlander Limited
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post #13 of 13 Old 11-15-2015, 03:16 PM
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My thanks to 9009RPM. The same thing happened to my rear diff fill plug. With 9009's photos and description of how the stuck plug can be successfully removed I forged onward. Got my dremel out, cut and ramped a grove and banged on the thing with a long screwdriver and hammer for a few whacks 'til it spun loose. The plug on mine has a wide seal-flange so it went probably a little easier than 9009's did. I had just changed the front transfer case lube. That went really well....nothing rusted stuck. Then was stopped dead by the rusted rear diff fill plug. A quick look at the site here and I was back in business. I'm using the old plug 'til I can find a replacement. Gonna get one with a hex head on it rather than that awful allen-socket head. Those things always rust and strip out. Does anyone know the size/pitch of that port so I can order a plug on the Amazon?
Many Thanks.......Haya.

aka Slick from Ada
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