What is the difference between used, rebuilt and remanufactured differentials?
The difference between used, rebuilt and remanufactured differentials is related to whether the differential is rebuilt, and if so, what quality of components were used in the rebuild.
Although many people use these terms interchangeably, they are, in fact, very different products:
What is a used differential?
Used differentials: This refers to a differential that was previously in use and will have wear and tear associated with it. How much wear and tear on the used rear differential will depend on how much mileage it covered in the vehicle it was previously installed in. In addition to mileage, loading is also a consideration. Loading of a differential can be considered in multiple ways. Firstly, as actual weight in the vehicle such as a heavily loaded truck bed. Secondly, differential loading occurs during hard acceleration or towing of heavy objects such as RV trailers. Used rear differentials may be tempting as a rear differential replacement but they also come with other caveats.
Characteristics of a used differential
A used differential often has an unknown history and thus could be a bargain low mileage stock replacement. However, a used rear differential is also very often a differential that is taken off high mileage or highly loaded vehicles and has significant wear and tear. They may also have been sitting in a junkyard for quite a while before being purchased.
Where do used differentials come from?
As used differentials have been removed from a vehicle, it’s more than likely that the vehicle was involved in a collision or has a fault not worth repairing. This could be a rear differential or rear axle. A fault not worth repairing is usually a higher mileage vehicle. A used differential from a vehicle that was in a collision may have lower mileage, but, during the collision, may have transmitted damage to the differential.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of a used differential?
The benefit of a used differential is that it is significantly cheaper than purchasing a new differential replacement.
The drawback of a used differential is that it is a gamble as to whether it works correctly and if so, for how long.
What are rebuilt differentials?
A rebuilt differential is a differential that was used in a vehicle but has since been rebuilt with new components replacing any that were worn or damaged.
How is a differential rebuilt?
During a rebuild, a technician will disassemble the differential and inspect the components to find any signs of wear and tear. This involves measuring tolerances and components to ensure they are within specification. If not in specification, they are machined or replaced to bring components back into their factory tolerance. Using their expertise and knowledge in differentials, they can determine which components need replaced. Replacing worn components means the differential will have an expected lifetime similar to a new replacement.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of a rebuilt differential?
The benefits of a rebuilt differential include a significantly lower cost than that of a new replacement mainly due to only replacing components that need to be replaced. In addition, they may come with a warranty and thus will provide a long life of trouble free operation.
The only drawback of a rebuilt differential is based on how well it was rebuilt. This includes the skill of the technician performing the rebuild and the quality of the components used in the rebuild. An inexperienced technician may not rebuild a differential with the same care and precision as an experienced rebuilder. In addition, unfortunately, many differential rebuilders used low quality aftermarket components which are not of the same quality as the original manufacturer’s components.
How do you ensure you get a quality rebuilt differential?
A quality rebuilt differential will be built by an experienced rebuilder using at least OEM quality or
higher quality replacement components. An axle that doesn’t come with a warranty like the warranty from Houston Rebuilt Axles, is likely not a high quality rebuild and should be avoided as it will cause you problems down the road. A warranty is a sign of faith in workmanship and components and should be sought for rebuilt components of any type.
Rebuilt Truck Differentials
Rebuilt truck differentials are not that different from rebuilt differentials in other vehicles. In fact, historically, many differentials were used on both light-duty trucks and passenger cars. The differences that existed (if any) were usually related to the gear ratio in that passenger vehicles typically ran the engine at lower rpm at highway speeds whereas truck differentials would provide more low-end torque but with lower top speeds.
Heavy-duty trucks used more heavy-duty differentials for use as work vehicles to develop high towing capacity and load bearing than small passenger vehicles.
Truck differentials also came in a large variety and in many cases were options on new vehicles. These included clutch-type locking differentials, hydraulic locking differentials, in addition to standard/single-pull differentials.
Rebuilding truck differentials is a specialty of Houston Rebuilt Axles. In fact, it’s our most common service. As specialists, we are fully equipped to rebuild truck differentials, whether light-duty, heavy-duty or dually-equipped vehicles. We also work on all the major American brands including GM/Chevrolet Truck Differentials, Dodge/Chrysler Truck Differentials and Ford Truck Differentials.
Why Rebuild Truck Differentials?
Much like any differential, eventually, the truck differential components will wear out. In fact, trucks that see heavy loads will require a differential rebuild sooner than those not under heavy use. A rebuilt truck differential is more cost-effective than a replacement. At Houston Rebuilt Axles, our OEM or better replacement components in addition to our warranty give you peace of mind that your rebuilt truck differential was built with confidence and by specialists in the field.
What is a Remanufactured Differential?
A remanufactured differential is a used differential that has been rebuilt to factory specifications and tolerances using OEM components. As factory components are what was used in the original build of the differential, the specifications remain the same and thus the lifespan of the differential should be the same as it was from new.
How does a remanufactured differential differ from a rebuilt differential?
Although these are very similar, a remanufactured differential simply uses OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) components which ensures the quality of the differential will be the same as it was from new. Tolerances and specifications will still be inspected to ensure they are within factory specifications.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of a remanufactured differential?
The benefits and drawbacks of a remanufactured differential are tied together in that remanufactured differentials use OEM components which tend to be a little more expensive than cheap aftermarket replacements. However, this is also a benefit because the differential rebuilt with OEM quality components will last longer than a differential rebuilt with cheap aftermarket replacement components resulting in a superior product overall.
Guide to choosing between a used, rebuilt or remanufactured differential?
In addition to the benefits and drawbacks listed above for each type of differential, you may also consider the purpose of the differential and where you will source it.
- A remanufactured differential would be the best choice for a factory replacement such as a daily driver as it retains the factory quality and lifespan of an original replacement without added cost.
- A rebuilt differential from a reputable differential rebuilder is also a great choice as long as they use at least OEM quality replacement components. For applications beyond factory use such as off-road, race or custom applications, a rebuilt differential may be a better choice as it can be rebuilt with very high quality components to withstand additional wear and tear.
- A used differential can be a good choice for low budget replacements but just be aware that it may need a rebuild right away or in the near future. This adds to the cost and inconvenience of removing the differential and replacing it again following the rebuild.
What type of differential rebuilds do Houston Rebuilt Axles do?
Houston Rebuilt Axles remanufacture differentials with a combination of OEM spec components in addition to higher than OEM quality components. Our differentials are remanufactured with some components upgraded beyond factory using brand name (Timken) bearings and seals that exceed the factory lifespan.
All the components are removed from the housing and both the housing and components are inspected to ensure factory tolerances. Anything out of specification will be machined or replaced.
What is the cheapest way to rebuild a differential?
So far, we have only talked about replacing differentials with used, rebuilt or remanufactured units. Something we have not yet talked about is rebuilding or remanufacturing your existing differential. This may be the most cost effective method of a differential repair because we are reusing existing components and not sourcing them from a junkyard. That way, you know the history of the differential and you are not taking a chance on a junkyard replacement.
What components are rebuilt or remanufactured in a differential?
To understand the various components that can be replaced in a differential, you first need to understand how differentials vary significantly in type and how they operate. A great place to start is our articles on how differentials work. From here you can explore the various types:
- Hydraulic Locking Differentials
- Cone Ratchet and Torsen
- Locking Differentials Clutch-Type
- Standard or Single Pull Differentials
From these descriptions and illustrations of the various differentials, it is clear that the components vary greatly in each type of differential. That means the cost of rebuilding or remanufacturing a differential will depend on the type of differential as this will dictate what components are present. Worn out clutch plates, spider gears, wheel bearings, ring & pinion sets etc.
However, it is common to see the same parts replaced during standard rebuilds. In many cases, replacing consumable components is worth doing simply to give them a new lifespan and ensure they don’t cause a problem. As a result, it is possible to closely approximate the cost of remanufacturing a differential.
Other useful resources we provide include troubleshooting rear axle problems and our differential gear ratio calculator. We also have a collection of articles that go over how differentials work, diagnosing differential problems, common axle problems, why repair a differential and more.
Find out how much you can rebuild your differential for by contacting Houston Rebuilt Axles. With nationwide shipping and door to door service, we can rebuild your differential and have it back to you with our superior warranty.
Why use Houston Rebuilt Axles to remanufacture your differential?
Remanufacturing a differential is more than replacing components. It’s about making it right. Many axle repair shops will rebuild your differential, however, if there is anything wrong with the differential housing, rebuilding the differential is a waste of time. Once installed in the vehicle, a remanufactured differential in a bent axle housing will not last long and will require replacement.
As specialist in the field, we have the equipment and skills to straighten spindle ends. A majority of the axle repair shops in the country are not equipped to do this and will either ask you for another axle to rebuild or will rebuild the differential into the bent axle housing. Either way, you are paying for two replacement axles.
At Houston Rebuilt Axles, our remanufactured axles are not only remanufactured but carefully inspected, cleaned, painted and even filled with fluid so it is ready to install into the vehicle right away. Our remanufactured differentials and rear ends are of the highest quality and are ready to go and like new. We believe that’s how a remanufactured product should be. We are confident in our products and that’s why our warranty is the best in the business.