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How to Service the Rear End of a Chevy S-10

by Justin Chacos

Servicing the rear end of your 1997 Chevrolet S10 will help maximize the life of your truck's rear axle assembly. Excessive noise, shaking or noticeable vibrations are signs that the rear end is failing. Avoid these symptoms with preventative maintenance. The rear differential houses a complex system of gears and bearings that transfer the rotational energy from your driveshaft to the wheels. They need to be serviced and lubricated periodically to protect against the extreme heat and friction produced during operation.

Park the truck on a level surface and set the parking brake. Allow the differential to cool before servicing the rear end.

Jack the rear end of the S10 and set it on jack stands. Utilize the jack points on the frame inboard of the rear wheel wells. Driving the truck onto a hydraulic lift and raising it overhead is ideal.

Place a drip pan under the rear differential and put on safety glasses. The differential is the assembly in the center of the rear axle.

Drain the oil from the rear differential by slightly loosening the ten bolts around its perimeter. Do not take the differential cover off fully until the fluid slows to a drip.

Remove the ten bolts and take the differential cover off. You will now see the inner gears. Inspect the residual fluid at the bottom of the differential for metal shavings.

Clean any remaining gasket residue from the differential and the differential cover with a razor blade. Any remaining bits of old gasket will hinder the new gasket's ability to form a tight seal.

Clean the inside of the differential with brake cleaner and rags. Inspect the gears for wear, shearing or missing teeth. Allow the brake cleaner to dry before moving on.

Place a new cover gasket on the differential and reinstall the cover. Install the ten bolts and torque them to 28 foot-pounds.

Clean the drain plug on the front of the differential thoroughly. Remove the plug with a 3/8-inch drive extension. A 1/2-inch to 3/8-inch adapter fit onto a 1/2-inch ratchet may be necessary for greater leverage.

Fill the differential with 80w-90 gear oil. Monitor the oil level by looking inside the fill hole with a flashlight. Stop filling when the oil reaches the bottom of the hole and reinstall the plug.

Lower the truck from the jack stands. Dispose of the old oil in accordance with local procedures.

Tips

  • Do not use carburetor cleaner in lieu of brake cleaner. Brake cleaner does not leave residue, which is harmful to the differential.
  • There are no grease zerks in the rear end or on the U-joint, therefore no chassis greasing is necessary for the rear end service.

Warning

  • Clean up any spills immediately.

Items you will need

References

About the Author

Justin Chacos is a professional mechanic with experience on all vehicle types, from cars to boats to airplanes. He has been writing since 2006 and has been published in multiple maintenance manuals and journals. He holds a Master of Science from the University of Arkansas.

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