Ford F-150: How to Replace Rear Differential

The differential is a key component of the F-150s, F-250s, or any other truck's driveline. They take a lot of abuse and are generally pretty rugged. If you've got the time, tools, and confidence, you can swap it out yourself.

By Pizzaman711 - November 7, 2014

This article applies to the Ford F-150 (2004-2014) and F-250, F-350 Super Duty (2005-2014).

The rear differential is located within the rear axle and is the final step for power to reach the rear wheels. Most vehicles will come with an open differential in the rear which allows for one wheel to spin completely independently of the other. However, for off-roading purposes a locker or limited slip differential may be more beneficial.

Tools Needed

  • 8mm socket
  • 13mm socket
  • 3/8" socket
  • Other various sockets (I recommend keeping a full set on hand)
  • Proper size shim driver
  • Breaker bar
  • Putty knife
  • Silicon sealant
  • Two jack stands
  • Floor Jack
  • Tire iron
  • Four wheel chocks
  • Drain Pain
  • New differential oil

Step 1 - Remove the rear wheels

This is probably the easiest step in those whole process, so there is no need to go into too much detail on it.

  1. Park on flat, level ground
  2. Set the emergency brake and put the truck in neutral
  3. Chock front wheels on both sides of the wheel
  4. Using tire iron, loosen rear lug nuts
  5. Raise vehicle with floor jack and position the jack stand under the rear axle
  6. Remove lug nuts and the remove the wheel
  7. Lower vehicle onto jack stands

Pro Tip

NEVER work under a vehicle that is not supported by a jack stand.

Step 2 - Prepare the rear differential

  1. If applicable, disconnect the electronic locking differential connector and remove the bolt holding the mount onto the differential (usually an 8 or 10mm bolt). It'll be the only connector on the differential. You'll only have to worry about this on 2009 to 2014 model year trucks.
  2. Position drain pan under the differential
  3. Using the 13mm socket, remove all bolts from the differential cover, see Figure 1.
  4. Using the putty knife, carefully pry off the differential cover. Take care not to gouge or chip it.
  5. Let the differential finish draining out, while you move onto the next step
  • Figure 1. Rear Differential Cover.
  • Figure 2. Differential Cover Removed.

Step 3 - Remove rotors

  1. Using the 10mm socket, remove the two bolts holding the calipers onto the rotors (see Figure 3)
  2. Pull the rotors off, if they are stuck you can hit the face of them with a hammer to break them free
Figure 3. Remove the two bolts holding the brake caliper bracket to the wheel hub. The arrow points to the upper bolt you will have to remove. There is one beneath it as well.

Step 4 - Remove axles

  1. Rotate the pinion flange to get to the pinion shaft retaining bolt (see Figure 5)
  2. Using the 3/8" socket and your breaker bar (if needed), remove the bolt
  3. You can now remove the pinion shaft
  4. On both sides of the truck, push in the wheel flanges to reveal the c-clips and then remove the c-clips (see Figure 6)
  5. With the c-clips removed, you can know slide the axle shafts out of the way (pull them out of the axle housing partially, just enough to disengage them from the gears)
  • Figure 5. Pinion shaft retaining bolt.
  • Figure 6. Left-hand side C-clip highlighted.

Step 5 - Remove the rear differential

  1. Remove two bearing cap bolts on each side of the differential, then remove the bearing caps (see Figure 7)
  2. Using a pry bar with a wooden block in between the bar and housing, pry out the rear differential carefully
Figure 7. Bearing caps.

Step 6 - Install new differential

This part takes the most patience as any misalignment can destroy both the new differential and your axles.

  1. Position the new differential in the housing
  2. If applicable, feed the electronic locking differential cable out of the back of the housing and secure it using the bolt you removed earlier
  3. Install the differential bearing shim on the left hand side, if your new differential did not come with one you will need to reuse the one from your original. See Figure 8.
  4. Seat the bearing cap on the left side with pressure, and then loosely install the two bearing cap bolts
  5. Install the bearing shim on the right hand side
  6. Using your shim driver, make sure both bearing shims are properly seated
  7. Install bearing cap on the right hand side
  8. Hand tighten the bearing cap bolts on both sides all the way and then torque to 77 ft-lbs.

At this point you will need to rotate the differential to make sure it spins freely, if it doesn't you will need to start over and make sure everything is seated properly. If it spins freely you will now need to adjust the ring and pinion backlash, refer to your owners manual for the proper specifications.

Figure 8. Differential bearing shim.

Step 7 - Install other removed parts

For everything else, install is the reverse of removal.

  • Make sure to seat the axle shafts properly before trying to tighten them down.
  • Carefully scrape old sealant off the the differential cover, then apply a 1/8" bead all the way around before re-installing. Be sure to tighten in a crisscross pattern.
  • Refer to your owner's manual for the proper amount and type of differential oil and then refill the rear differential

When you go for the first test drive, be sure to go slow and listen for any out of the ordinary noises, this can be a sign that something didn't go correctly during the install.

Featured Video: Rear Differential Gear Swap

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