Going to change the differential oil in my '98 Dakota, 2wd, 3.9L auto.
Best to try to suction it out or take the cover off? If take the
cover off, is there enough clearance to pry it loosed over a standard
oil collection pan (one of those plastics with a hard top) or does it
need to be lifted? Best tool to break the Differential cover loose
without doing damage?
It's best to take the cover off. That way you can get a look inside, and
check things out. You'll need some RTV to re-seal it.
Sure - though it might be better to use a catch pan with an open top - the
gear oil's going to dump out pretty much all at once, and the drain pans
that just have the center drain hole might not drain quickly enough to
prevent the gear oil from overflowing. Depending on clearance, you may also
want to drop the spare tire.
A gasket scraper... there'll be at least one spot where the flat part of
the carrier extends beyond the lip of the cover, where you can slide the
gasket scraper between the two. A trick is to leave the top two bolts of
the cover in place, just loose (very loose) - that'll prevent the cover from
falling when you break the RTV seal.
Once drained, clean the cover and carrier mating surface with some brake
cleaner, and run a nice 1/8" bead of RTV around the perimeter of the cover,
going to the inside of the bolt holes. Slap the cover back in place (try to
get it aligned the first time - don't want to be squishing the RTV back and
forth too much), and torque the bolts to 25 ft.lbs. in a criss-cross
pattern. Let it set up a bit, then re-fill with gear oil, and friction
modifier if you have a limited slip.
On some rear axles you can remove a bottom bolt on the cover to drain it.
Never owned a Dakota so I can't say about them. I like to remove the cover
just so I can look for signs of problems. Like metal in the bottom:(
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