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Rear Differential Fluid Replacement
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Pelican Technical Article:

Rear Differential Fluid Replacement

Nick Czerula


1 hour1 hr






14mm, Allen bit, drain pain, oil quart container pump, floor jack, jack stands, wheel chocks, safety glasses, torque wrench

Applicable Models:

BMW 525i/xi Sedan (2004-07)
BMW 528i xDrive Sedan (2009-10)
BMW 528i/xi Sedan (2008-10)
BMW 530i/xi Sedan (2004-07)
BMW 530xi Wagon (2006-07)
BMW 535i xDrive Sedan/Wagon (2009-10)
BMW 535i/xi Sedan (2008-10)
BMW 535xi Wagon (2008)
BMW 545i Sedan (2004-05)
BMW 550i Sedan (2006-10)

Parts Required:

Differential oil, differential drain plug

Hot Tip:

Drive car for short distance to warm oil

Performance Gain:

Extend differential life

Complementary Modification:

Replace drain plugs

The rear driveshaft transfers the rotation of the transmission (or transfer case) output shaft to the input shaft of the rear differential. Inside the differential the axis of rotation is turned 90 degrees. Using specially designed planetary gears, the differential also splits the power in order to accommodate cornering: the two rear wheels must be allowed to rotate at different speeds in a turn. The output flanges of the differential connect to the drive axles, which power the rear wheels.

The oil in your rear differential is considered good for the lifetime of your E60 by BMW. This does not mean you shouldn't service it. When a vehicle manufacturer refers to a component as lifetime, the time period is usually 100,000 miles. So your differential oil lifetime is 100,000 miles. What does this mean when it comes to servicing? The oil in the differential lubricates the bearings and gears that drive the wheels of your E60. You want these items to last, and with routine maintenance, they will. I suggest replacing your differential fluid every four years regardless of mileage. It's a good idea to check the fluid every time you change your oil and top it up if necessary. The rear differential holds about 1 to 1.5 liters of oil. Have a little more on hand in case you spill it. When it comes to choosing the right fluid for your differential, BMW recommends using a synthetic gear oil (SAF-XO). Give our parts specialists a call to help determine which gear oil is right for your vehicle.

Keep in mind that when your car was serviced before, parts may have been replaced with different size fasteners used in the replacement. The sizes of the nuts and bolts we give may be different from what you have, so be prepared with different size sockets and wrenches.

Protect your eyes, hands and body from fluids, dust and debris while working on your vehicle. If you're working with the electrical system, disconnect the battery before beginning. Always catch fluids in appropriate containers and properly dispose of any fluid waste. Recycle parts, packaging and fluids when possible. Do not work on your vehicle if you feel the task is beyond your ability.

Vehicle models change and evolve, as they grow older, so the vehicle shown in our illustrations may vary slightly from yours. If something seems different, let us know and share your info to help other users. Do you have questions or want to add to the article? Leave a comment below. When leaving a comment, please leave your vehicle information.

Drive the vehicle for about two to three minutes to warm the differential oil.

Lift and support the front and the rear of the vehicle. See our tech article on vehicle jacking. You want the differential to be level when checking the oil level. You will also need to wear safety glasses while working under your car.

This photo shows a leaking rear differential, covered in oil (green arrow).
Figure 1

This photo shows a leaking rear differential, covered in oil (green arrow). The rear diff on E60 models can leak from a few places: the axle seals, the input flange seal and the rear cover. When looking for a leak, follow the oil to the clean spot (yellow arrow). This usually indicates the source of the leak. In the case of my subject vehicle, it is the rear cover. See our tech article on resealing your rear differential.

To check your rear differential fluid level, using a 14mm or Allen bit, remove the oil fill plug (green arrow).
Figure 2

To check your rear differential fluid level, using a 14mm or Allen bit, remove the oil fill plug (green arrow). E60 models have cooling fins on the diff, which makes access to the fill plug difficult. The plug is also quite close to the subframe (inset). I use a long 14mm Allen bit to access the plug. The fluid should be just at the bottom edge of the fill plug-hole. Top the fluid up if needed. It is also a good idea to be sure the fill plug will come out before removing the drain plug. If the fill plug is stuck and you drain the fluid, it leaves you with an immobile vehicle until the fill plug can be extracted. To replace the fluid, use a 14mm Allen bit and remove the oil fill plug (green arrow).

Next, using a 14mm Allen bit, remove the differential oil drain plug (green arrow).
Figure 3

Next, using a 14mm Allen bit, remove the differential oil drain plug (green arrow). Drain the oil into a suitable container (yellow arrow). The container should have a two-liter capacity. Once the oil has completely drained, reinstall the drain plug with a new gasket and torque to 60 Nm (44 ft-lb)

Pump oil into the fill plug hole (green arrow) until it runs out.
Figure 4

Pump oil into the fill plug hole (green arrow) until it runs out. Allow the oil to stop dripping or come to a slow drip (inset). Then reinstall the fill plug and torque to 60 Nm (44 ft-lb). Once done, take the vehicle for a short ride and check the rear differential for leaks.

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Comments and Suggestions:
Jon Comments: I've got a leak at the input flange seal pinion seal on the rear diff. Is replacing this seal the same process as the axle seals, with the seal tool?

September 8, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It is similar. Other than removing the flange from the diff. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
steli Comments: what shop do u recomand near 02673
May 23, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: check for a local shop. All of the members are great. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Jim Comments: I'm under my '09 528i. There is no drain plug for the differential. A fill plug, yes. No drain plug. I'm investigation a rear end moan. Am I blind?
April 9, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No, you may have to suck it out with a pump. Some models don't have drain plugs. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Bobby76 Comments: Can you please link article for resealing read differential?
August 2, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: - Nick at Pelican Parts  

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Page last updated: Mon 10/24/2016 02:22:03 AM